On the science and politics of climate change

photo of Mike HulmeMike Hulme, author of the splendid Why We Disagree about Climate Change, has written a very measured op-ed about the theft of his emails from the University of East Anglia and the relationship between science and politics in the climate change debate.

Fourcultures has previously written about:

  • Mike Hulme’s book, Why we Disagree about Climate Change
  • a critique of the idea that climate change deniers are necessarily acting in bad faith
  • the climate change debate as an exercise in four types of deviance
  • and quite a lot more on the social aspects of climate change.

Expanders, Restrainers, Managers and Shruggers

field of sunflowersJournalist George Monbiot has characterised the climate change debate as being not between conservatives and liberals, but between ‘expanders’ and ‘restrainers’. These categories make sense and you probably already have a good idea of who’s in which camp. People often get annoyed with the climate change warning team because they seem to want to restrain everything. And they’re frustrated by the climate change denial cheerleaders because they seem to see no limits to anything at all.

If you have been reading the Fourcultures website at all you’ll know that it makes sense to think of four, not merely two, cultural biases. In other words there’s more than just expanders and restrainers. You’ll also quickly spot that the two biases Monbiot misses out are ‘managers’ and ‘shruggers’.
The managers see expansion and restraint as equally dangerous to the establishment and their aim is to manage resources so that the established order is maintained. As long as the status quo prevails, there’s room for both expansion and restraint. For managers it is crucial that there is control over who gets to expand and who gets restrained. Most global governance attempts, including the Copenhagen climate talks, are dominated by this worldview, with the others shouting loudly at the margins (demonstrating), or talking confidentially behind closed doors (lobbying).
The shruggers are those who think it’s a joke that we can control any of this. In the midst of the great moment advertised by Monbiot, ‘the moment at which we turn and face ourselves’, they (we) are more interested in which team will win at sport, or whether some star’s been having an affair.

Expanders – Individualist (low grid, low group)
Restrainers – Egalitarian (low grid, high group)
Managers – Hierarchical (high grid, high group)
Shruggers – Fatalist (high grid, low group)