Climate policy and the Paris Agreement: The green global leadership
The withdrawal of US from the Paris climate agreement in 2015 sheds light on a number of issues which are related to shifts in worldviews with respect to the role of science in policy and the boundaries between science and non-science, and the gap between ideology and rationality.
The Paris climate change commitments is shaping a new policy agenda to make a transition to sustainable innovation and renewable energy. The ecological footprints and velocity and scale of pollution, desertification, species extinction, and waste production are compounded to shape a new discourse for “sustainability-innovation” nexus.
The risks and threats of climate change require a macro- shift in economy and society to make a transition to a sustainable human civilisation.
Limited role of science in policymaking
The decline of an enlightened environmental discourse in the US seems to be attributed to the limited role of science in policy making. This raises the question of how to conceive the role of climate science in the policy arena? To answer this question, one needs to be mindful of the notion of technocracy which implies that extent science dominates policy making. On the other hand, the democratic process ensures that the voice of all stakeholders informs decision process.
Divergence between policy and science are manifested in a number of global issues including GMOs, nuclear energy, biofuels, stem cells and climate change. However, the key role of science is to help us understand the political goals, support legitimacy of judgement of policy makers in decision making, and provide scientific facts. It is imperative to highlight the key role of trans-science to bridge the gap between science and policy and to adopt incremental policy changes and constantly evaluate science policy to reach an optimal outcome.
In essence, to reconcile the boundaries between science and policy, two views strive to guide policy making; one view is the rationalist view of science which argues that science can explain the cause-effect. On the other hand, the positivist view argues that science offers the most feasible and best solution to societal problems ranging from poverty, water-energy-food security and climate change.
Scientific facts are contested in climate change debate
In global governance, the climate deal in 2015, was a result of a long and complex negotiation process of more than 190 nation-state actors. In a democratic process, a good decision is one on which participants can agree. Democratic decision making process presents a collective action, a social choice and a solution to the problem of risk and uncertainty. Consensus on climate Paris deal was attained with an innovative institutional framework of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).
In the climate change science, the challenge exists when one is confronted with skepticism of science and lack of trust in scientists. The state of US environmental policy discourse is characterised as follows; scientific facts are contested and IPCC consensus is challenged. This is a clear assault on reason and a serious decline of US global leadership in technological innovation.
One can imagine the value-added of utilising the power of ideas as a tool to influence policy making. This requires to reaffirm and frame a science policy narrative and causal stories of the relationship between carbon emissions and risks and threats to human health and food security as reflected in sea level rise, floods, droughts and fires.
It is disheartening to see the declined role of science and technology in shaping US policy outcomes. It is imperative to co-develop a new social contract to help demark the boundaries between science and policy. How global governance can cope with relativism, uncertainty, and contested boundaries between science and policy?
In sum, it is insightful to see inspiration form The Islamic value system that allocates more value and priority to protect life over economy. This is a simple answer to overcome the ecological amnesia and the blind spots in US environmental policy. The good news is that there are voices of US businesses, local governments, and emergence of Chinese and EU alliance to support the climate deal through investment in green technology and innovation.
Odeh Al-Jayyousi is the Professor and Head of Innovation And Technology Management at Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain.