Start date: 1/6/2009

Date of completion: 1/5/2014

Climate Change: Challenges for Science and Society

As in other environmental issues, science has been playing a major role in climate change, by detecting the problem, assessing its severity and impacts, predicting its future evolution, as well as working on solutions for it, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

As a global problem, much of the research and policy takes place in the international arena, through large scale research projects and intergovernmental negotiation forums (IPCC). However, since, on the one hand, this collective effort requires the involvement of national scientific systems and, on the other hand, local impacts demand specific responses, localised research does matter. National peculiarities regarding the political use of scientific advice and public engagement (both in science and in policy-making) also have a bearing on how this problem is dealt with.

Thus, this project aims to understand how science is tackling the challenge of climate change in Portugal, by:

– characterising the climate change research community (which researchers and institutions are involved; what research subjects are being studied; what is being researched in terms of assessment, mitigation or adaptation; which scientific disciplines are being mobilised; what sources of funding are supporting this research; what interdisciplinary, interinstitutional and international collaborations exist);

– analysing the connections between scientific advice and policy-making in what regards climate change (which experts are being called upon by local and national government to provide advice, what kind of studies are being done by government demand; whether tensions and controversies exist between experts and counter-experts);

– examining science and society relationships concerning climate change (how is scientific information being communicated to the public; what kind of public engagement with science is being promoted; whether societal issues and lay knowledge are being taken into consideration in scientific research).

The methodology of this research project will comprise several stages. The first step is to map out the community of climate change research in Portugal, by conducting a census of research projects, researchers, teams and researchers. Once the major actors have been identified, both in fundamental, applied and commissioned research, interviews will be carried out with project leaders, heads of research centres, doctoral students, local and national government officials in charge of commissioning research or scientific advice, national representatives in international bodies dealing with climate change (such as the IPCC).

This research project will then proceed to examine some case studies. From the list of ongoing research projects, a few will be selected, some concerning assessment, others mitigation, others still adaptation to climate change in Portugal. Some instances of climate change policy making with resort to scientific advice and public participation will also be selected for in-depth analysis.

These case studies will be analysed through a combination of methodologies and techniques: document analysis, interviews with stakeholders (scientists and engineers, local inhabitants, consumers/users of technological innovations, local and national government officials, NGOs, business representatives, architects), localised surveys, focus groups, and ethnographic observation.

Collaboration with teams from other countries in joint projects, for instance Spain and other Mediterranean countries that face similar challenges, is envisaged. This project will also strive to build cooperative ties with other scientific disciplines, including from the natural sciences.

It is expected that this research will contribute not just to the accumulation of scientific knowledge on this pressing issue, but also to improve public engagement with science and policy in dealing with climate change.



Associated Publications: 

Climate scientists and the public: interactions and knowledge exchanges

Environmental education technologies in a social void: the case of ‘Greendrive’

Alterações Climáticas: Desafios para a Ciência e a Sociedade

As Alterações Climáticas e a Opinião Pública: Portugal e a Europa em perspectiva

As Alterações Climáticas nos Media – Política, Ciência e Acontecimentos

Climate scientists and the public: interactions and knowledge exchanges

Multifarious Networks in Climate Change Research: scientists, policy makers and the public

Technologies for change: the case of clean driving