The technocratic character of the IPCC has
tended to center the debate on technological solutions, especially renewable
energy. I'm not against technocracy; in fact I think it's absolutely necessary,
more now than ever. So long as the subject is breaking our addiction to fossil
fuels, I think the technocratic approach is really the right one, and the IPCC
has played a major role in promoting that.
agricultural practices, meat-based diets, and deforestation are at least
equally important causes of climate change. In many respects, those are much
harder problems than energy, where real and successful solutions are well
along. Mike Hulme's great book Why We Disagree about Climate Change points
to the deep connections between climate and culture, from religion and housing
to clothing and food.
techno-solutionism barely touches the holistic kinds of social change that
would really be needed for drastic emissions reductions. Naomi Klein's This
Changes Everything does a better job of sketching those solutions than
the IPCC, but as Oliver points out, her vision – like those of many others
searching for ways to move us off the path of self-destruction we are currently
walking – would require revolutionary and extremely widespread social change of
a kind that seems depressingly unlikely at present.
dilemma is clear. Scientists’ greatest asset is the high degree of trust
invested in them by the public, at least in much of the developed world. To
participate effectively in building climate solutions, they must maintain that.
Yet this trust depends on the perception that science seeks truth, not power.
To the degree that scientists advocate particular solutions over others, they
may be seen as partisans. The challenge for scientists is to retain what Roger
Pielke Jr. calls the “honest broker” position: proposing as many solution paths
as they can find, evaluating their effects from a neutral point of view, while
never advocating any particular path over others.