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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bringing climate change down to earth : science and participation in Canadian and Australian climate change campaigns

  • Author(s): Padolsky, Miriam Elana
  • et al.

This dissertation examines Canadian and Australian climate change campaigns as cases of science in the public sphere. I pose three interconnected research questions. What is the role of science in climate change campaigns? How is the use of science affected by the type of campaign institution: government or non-government? How does the national policy environment, particularly Canada's ratification and Australia's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, affect the campaigns? In both Canada and Australia, I used methods of participant observation, interviews, and document analysis to analyze the campaigns of a government office and a non-government organization. I found that campaigners use natural and social science, along with technologies of quantification, to motivate the public to take action on climate change. Their uses of science and numbers represent different ways of framing the problem they are trying to solve; they also represent different ways of configuring the public's participation in the campaigns. Furthermore, I demonstrate that campaigners' uses of science and numbers are oriented not only towards their audiences but also towards the concerns of their own organizations, their government or non- government counterparts, and their national political leaders. Finally, campaigners' epistemological, institutional, and national considerations influence how they attribute responsibility for environmental protection. I argue that campaigners operate under different models of the relationship between individuals, non-government organizations, and governments; these models of responsibility affect the form and content of public participation. This study thus emphasizes the interconnections between ways of knowing, political actions, and forms of public participation. As such, this work contributes to the literatures on public understanding of science, science and politics, social movements, and studies of national and international environmental politics

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