November-December 2009

Dear friends,

“Climate change” occupies center stage in intergovernmental talks and media coverage as the December 7-18 Copenhagen conference draws near. From the standpoint of the self-determination of individuals and nations, what can be said about this complex issue?

The great majority of the people have no means to verify the scientific validity of the consensual conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body that enjoys an effective monopoly over the “expertise” used by global governance in this domain.

While an emotional alignment on the “experts’ consensus” would be irrational and is not an option, living more soberly may be a path to rediscover our humanity. The global political and cultural shift to the “sustainability” paradigm of the last decades may have struck a fatal blow at consumerism, piercing a breach in the thick crust of western materialism. By and large, responsible stewardship of nature is now a dominant feature of the new ethic.

But this ethic is ambivalent, particularly about the human being’s relationship to nature, which the new global culture never calls “creation”, but “the Earth”, as if it were the origin and destiny of humanity. This ambivalence has far-reaching implications. For instance, global governance uses climate change to justify its population control policies, humanity being considered the main culprit of global warming. The new ethic also tends to draw its source from environmental and social problems: it is pessimistic at its roots.

The climate change debate has gained incredible momentum in the last twenty years. Hardly an issue then, it has now become, in the words of Ban Ki-moon, the “defining issue of our era”. In the shadow of this momentum, a number of critical concerns remain unaddressed openly: for example, the effective partnership between scientists and political decision-makers (global governance by experts); the dialectics of self interest versus common interest; the challenges of postmodern, participatory and consensus science; the fact the opposition does not have a voice at the IPCC. IIS report 286 tackles some of these themes.

In recent decades, the new “consensus culture” has also impacted the domain of science, which used to cherish its independence from politics and pressure groups. Within the context of our dialogue on “consensus”, we call for your thoughts on the relationship between consensus and science, on “consensus science”. We have received valuable contributions to our dialogue on consensus, but their length was prohibitive for publication. We therefore invite you to read our suggested rules for participation in our dialogue.