ASTK15491U SEMINAR: Climate Science & Politics

Volume 2017/2018

Elective course in the specialization "International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies"

The course is open to all master students


Climate science has long been in the center of political debates over mitigation policies and politics. But what does it mean when climate science is informing politics? Should scientists play a role in public discussions on climate change, and can science and politics meaningfully be separated from one another? 
These are some of the questions being explored in this course.

This course explores the general issues of science, politics, knowledge and expertise in the context of climate change. The objective of the course is to engage students with the latest theories, frameworks, approaches and methods for addressing critical questions of science based policymaking. Although science is important to the political response to climate change, the relationship is not clear. The course will explore this relationship and consider if climate science contributes and  supports political agency and collaborative action on the climate agenda. 

The course provides introductory understanding of the relationships between climate science and politics and of the critical - and contested - role of scientific knowledge and expertise in political decision-making processes. The course gives a brief understanding of the physical science behind the official IPCC recommendations,  and introduces several broad theoretical approaches from the academic field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) enabling students to discuss how science and politics are intertwined. The course will address key questions of how climate experts and scientific advisors are influencing policymaking processes. It will discuss the debates of science based policymaking in different political contexts and explore the underlying reasons why climate science plays different roles in different political cultures.

Course outline

  1. Climate Change: Understanding the physical basis
  2. Perspectives from Science and Technology Studies 
  3. Dealing with risk and uncertainty in science and politics 
  4. The role of scientists and experts in politics
  5. International scientific knowledge and climate change: Taking a closer look at the IPCC
  6. The case of geo-engineering techniques 
  7. Student seminar: Summing up and student paper presentations 


Learning Outcome

On completion of this course, students should be able to:


  • Describe how climate science informs and influences policymaking
  • Understand and reflect on the major debates over climate science and policymaking found in the academic literature, reports, policy documents and the media



  • Discuss how climate science and climate politics are intertwined in political decision-making processes
  • Adopt and defend different theoretical positions drawing upon the literature presented during the course



  • Apply theoretical knowledge of science based policymaking to specific relevant cases and be able to make informed and analytical evaluations of science based policies


Preliminary reading list (900-1200 pages):


Bjurstrom A, Polk M (2011a) Climate change and interdisciplinarity: a co-citation analysis of IPCC Third Assessment Report. Scientometrics, vol. 87, pp. 525–550


Callon, M., Lascoumes, P., Barthe, Y., (2009) Acting in an Uncertain World: An Essay on Technical Democracy, trans. G Burchell. Boston: MIT Press


Collins, Harry M.; Evans, Robert (2007). Rethinking Expertise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press


Demeritt, D. (2001). The construction of global warming and the politics of science. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 91(2), 307-337.


Forsyth T., (2012) Politicizing Environmental Science Does Not Mean Denying Climate Science Nor Endorsing It Without Question, Global Environmental Politics, vol. 12(2), pp.



Funtowicz, S. O., and J. R. Ravetz (1993). Science for the Post-Normal Age, Futures, vol. 25(7), pp. 739–755.


Hulme (2012).  Climate change: Climate engineering through stratospheric aerosol injection, Progress in Physical Geography, vol. 36(5), pp. 694-705.


Hulme, M. (2009) Why we disagree about climate change: understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity Cambridge University Press, Cambridge


Machin, A. (2013) Negotiating climate change: radical democracy and the illusion of consensus Zed Books, London


IPCC (2014): Climate  Change  2014  Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the  Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Jasanoff et al. eds. (1995) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, (London: Sage)


Jasanoff S (2007) Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press

Wynne, Brian (1992): ’Misunderstood Misunderstanding: Social Identities and Public Uptake of Science’. Public Understanding of Science 1: 281-304.


Latour, B (2004) Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern. Critical Inquiry, 30


Markusson N., Ginn F., Ghaleigh N.S., and V. Scott (2014). In case of emergency press here’: framing geoengineering as a response to dangerous climate change†, WIREs Climate Change, vol. 5, pp. 281-290.


Pielke, RA (2005), Misdefining "climate change": consequences for science and action. Environ. Sci. Policy, vol. 8(6), pp, 548-561


Rudiak-Gould,P. (2013) ‘We have seen it with our own eyes’: why we disagree about climate change visibility Weather, Climate & Society 5(2), 120-132



Sarewitz D (2011): Does climate change knowledge really matter? WIREs Climate Change, vol. 2(4), pp. 475-481


Skoglund A and T. Jensen (2013). The Professionalization of Ethics in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – from Servant of Science to Ethical Master?, Sustainable Development, vol. 21, pp. 122–130


Slovic, P. (1999). ”Trust, emotion, sex, politics, and science: Surveying the risk-assessment battlefield”, Risk analysis, vol. 19(4), pp. 689–701.


Tol R (2011) Regulating knowledge monopolies: the case of the IPCC. Climate Change, vol. 108(4), pp. 827–839.

- A bachelor degree in social science
- Interest and/or knowledge of climate politics
The seminar consists of seven 4-hour seminar sessions with focus on active learning through student participation and case study work. The course combines lectures and seminar style discussions in small groups. One or two lectures will be conducted by practitioners working in the interface between science and politics. This will give the students a practical understanding of the issues discussed during the course.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Passed/Not passed