Science backs the politically correct

DISCOURSES: SCIENCE AND OUTICS IN GLOBAL PVMONMENTAL COOPERATION Karen T Litfin Columbia University Press Price: $18

 
By Vinayak Rao
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

GOOD deal of attention has ently been given to scientific - ideas and information in emational relations literae - some of which looks scientific knowledge as a rce of foreign policy and international cooperation. e book in review makes a for understandiDg the portance of scientific knowledge as a political urce and an arena for international environmental otiations. The negotia ns and policies related to one layer depletion is cho low n as a case study to re mine the dominant theo elatical approaches to environmental treaty-making.

The study asserts that various approaches such as ctural realism or bureau cratic and interest group pol Pacs are inadequate in explaining the role of science in environmental politics. The epistemic community approach postulates the important role of individuals and other social agents who share their understanding of a given problem to introduce an issue into policy concerns.

The ozone case study demonstrates how the epistemic community approach offers only a partial picture of the policy process. The point of departure in Karen T Litfin's well documented study is in the argument that the power of competing branches of knowledge was the critical factor in negotiating the Montreal Protocol. The author calls it the discursive practices approach that sees knowledge and power as mutually interactive. Compared to the epistemic approach, issues of framing and interpretation are central to this approach.

Litfin goes on to describe the role of the major players - EPA in the USA, industry-related agencies in Britain, France and Japan, UNEP and the environmental NGOS such as the Friends of Earth con- cerned with t@e ozone issue. The central point being made is that the role of these agents was substantially related to the their ability to frame and manipulate information. After Montreal, environmental groups became more influential and they learned that influence flowed from the ability to define the issues in terms of scientific assessments. The author contends that when scientists do propose specific policy recommendations, their influence is due to their persuasive ability and their status as authoritative experts. She adds that persuasive ability is determined by the power of alternative discursive practices and not by institutional position.

To those interested in international relations the book is a valuable addition to the study of science, communication and negotiation process. It begins with an introduction to science in world politics which is very useful to the uninitiated. The chapter, 'The employment of knowledge in the Montreal Protocol Negotiations' is the mainstay of the book. Anyone interested in under- standing the complex issues involved in global environ- mental politics will find grist for the mill here.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :