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First, science generated without regard to questions about whose purposes it serves is not likely to persuade those who feel that their needs and interests were not heeded by the knowledge-makers. If the goal of research is felt to be politicized from the start, then skeptics will feel no compulsion to use the resultant knowledge to reorder the foundations of their social, political, and economic lives. As is well-known from context of patient noncompliance, the more radical the prescriptions for reordering lives, the less likely it is that people will unquestioningly follow the advice of science. Second, the science of how the climate works will not move societies to action in and of itself; one needs symmetrical attention to why societies trust, or do not trust, the makers and interpreters of that science. In short, the quantitative, aggregative approaches that have characterized mainstream climate research need to be supplemented by critical, interpretive work that traces the deep structures connecting people’s sense of justice with the ways in which the sciences have represented their world. And, third, knowing the climate system inside out in scientific terms will never be sufficient to illuminate what ideas of global social justice are abroad in the world, what histories gave rise to them, and how they link to people’s hopes and fears about the long-term future of their species and their Earth.


Jasanoff, Sheila. "Knowledge for a just climate." Climatic Change 169 (December 2021): 36.