Sheila Jasanoff: Climate, Experience and Understanding
Prominent climate scientists have argued that the social sciences should figure prominently in future climate research.
From the Theory, Culture & Society article, "A New Climate for Society," by Sheila Jasanoff, professor of science and technology studies at Harvard:
Climate change ... is problematic because it tends to separate the epistemic from the normative, divorcing is from ought. Crudely put, it detaches global fact from local value, projecting a new, totalizing image of the world as it is, without regard for the layered investments that societies have made in worlds as they wish them to be. It therefore destabilizes knowledge at the same time as it seeks to stabilize it. To know climate change as science wishes it to be known, societies must let go of their familiar, comfortable modes of living with nature.
Climate change confronts us with facts that matter crucially to the universal human destiny but that have not passed through complex processes of social accreditation on a global scale. The institutions through which climate knowledge is produced and validated (most notably, the IPCC) have operated in largely uncharted territory, in accordance with no shared, pre-articulated commitments about the right ways to interpret or act upon nature. The resulting representations of the climate have become decoupled from most modern systems of experience and understanding. ...
[T]he interpretive social sciences have a very particular role to play in relation to climate change. It is to restore to public view, and offer a framework in which to think about, the human and the social in a climate that renders obsolete important prior categories of solidarity and experience. It is to make us more aware, less comfortable, and hence more reflective about how we intervene, in word or deed, in the changing order of things.
(See also: Sheila Jasanoff: Public Faith in Climate Science.)