Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Climate Change
About the Project
In the spring of 2011 the research community Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Climate Change received funding from PIIRS. The three-year interdisciplinary community was led in its first year by Robert O. Keohane, professor of international affairs in Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs .
The research community examines issues of uncertainty with respect to global climate change and other international environmental problems and aims to improve the capacity to discuss and weigh related policy prescriptions. Through multiple lenses, the research community will draw on the expertise of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory to work on real cases. The laboratory, located on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus, is one of the world's leading climate modeling centers. Sixteen Princeton faculty members from several disciplines compose the community’s core group:
- Climate scientists provide an understanding of the kinds of scientific uncertainties that arise.
- Historians contribute perspective on how uncertainty has been handled in the past regarding fields in which public policy depends in part on scientific knowledge.
- Specialists on international relations analyze the politics of climate change within global institutions, while regional specialists examine case studies of societies that have been more or less successful in adopting policy measures aimed at addressing the effects of climate change.
- Other social scientists investigate how uncertainty in scientists’ work on climate and other international environmental issues is understood by various audiences, ranging from high-level nonscientist policymakers to the general public.
- Ethicists question how policymakers concerned with ethics make decisions in light of uncertainty. What are the moral and political principles in play? What constitutes responsible communication of underlying science and policy rationale? What institutional designs facilitate such communication?
As a PIIRS research community, the group receives up to $750,000 over three years to support research, course development, and conferences. The Research Community will be very active in 2012-13 with seven meetings planned for the fall, all of which are listed below. The Research Community will include six visiting research scholars and two visiting research collaborators, as well as the fifteen Princeton faculty who are involved. See their profiles, below.
For more information contact Jayne Bialkowski, program manager.
Marc Fleurbaey is Robert E. Kuenne Professor of Economics and Humanistic Studies. He is the author of Fairness, Responsibility, and Welfare (2008), a coauthor of A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare (with François Maniquet, 2011), and the coeditor of several books, including Justice, Political Liberalism, and Utilitarianism: Themes from Harsanyi and Rawls (with Maurice Salles and John Weymark, 2008).Fleurbaey's research on normative and public economics and theories of distributive justice focuses on the analysis of equality of opportunity and responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism and on seeking solutions to famous impossibilities of social choice theory. Ph. D. Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
Robert O. Keohane is a professor of international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His work focuses on the role played by multilateral institutions in world politics. He is the author or coauthor of numerous publications including, most recently, Power and Interdependence (2011), After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (2005), and Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World (2002). He has served as the editor of the journal International Organization and as the president of the International Studies Association and the American Political Science Association. Ph.D. Harvard University.
Melissa Lane is a professor of politics and director of the Program in Values and Public Life. Her interests include ancient Greek political thought and its modern reception as well as a broad range of topics in the history of political thought and in normative theory and public ethics. Her works include Eco-Republic (with Peter Lang, 2011); the introduction to Plato's Republic (Penguin Classics, 2007); Plato's Progeny: How Plato and Socrates Still Captivate the Modern Mind (2001); and Method and Politics in Plato's Statesman (1998). Lane’s projects have focused on ancient ethics as a resource for thinking about sustainability, on the idea of the legislator in the history of political thought, security, compensation, authority, and accountability, and on the political theory of international migration and of the role of corporations. Ph.D. University of Cambridge.
Michael Oppenheimer is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs and director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His research interests include science and policy of the atmosphere, particularly climate change and its impacts. Much of his research aims to understand the potential for dangerous outcomes of increasing levels of greenhouse gases by exploring the effects of global warming on ecosystems such as coral reefs, on the ice sheets and sea level, and on patterns of human migration. He also studies the process of scientific learning and scientific assessments and their role in problems of global change. Ph.D. University of Chicago.
Stephen Pacala is Fredrick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Director of the Princeton Environmental Institute. His interests include the processes that govern ecological communities, the interplay between community and ecosystem-level processes, and the interactions between the global biosphere and climate. Pacala’s research involves all aspects of the global carbon cycle; currently he is focusing on a new model for the terrestrial biosphere. Ph.D. Stanford University.
Harold Shapiro is president emeritus of Princeton University, and professor of economics and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His research interests include bioethics, econometrics, science policy, and the evolution of postsecondary education. Shapiro’s published work includes A Larger Sense of Purpose: Higher Education and Society (2005) ; Belmont Revisited, Ethical Principles for Research with Human Subjects (2005); and Universities and Their Leadership (1998) . Ph.D. Princeton University.
Robert Socolow is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. His current research focuses on global carbon management and fossil-carbon sequestration. Under the Carbon Mitigation Initiative , a 15-year (2000–15) research project supported by BP and the (for the first eight years) Ford Motor Company, Princeton has launched new, coordinated research in environmental science, energy technology, geological engineering, and public policy. Ph. D. Harvard University
Charles Beitz is the Edward S. Sanford Professor of Politics and director of the University Center for Human Values. His philosophical and teaching interests focus on international political theory, democratic theory, the theory of human rights, and legal theory. Beitz’s book, The Idea of Human Rights, was published in 2009. Other publications include Political Theory and International Relations (1999) and Political Equality: An Essay in Democratic Theory (1990) as well as articles on a variety of topics in political philosophy. His current work includes projects on the philosophy of human rights and the theory of intellectual property. Ph.D. Princeton University.
Daniela Campello is an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Her research interests include the international and comparative political economy of developing countries. Her current book project is on the politics of finance in the developing world. Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles.
Lars Hedin is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the Princeton Environmental Institute and director of the Program in Environmental Studies. His research centers on ecosystem analysis with emphasis on the emergence and maintenance of geographically broad patterns in cycling of nutrients and greenhouse trace gases. His current interests include broad controls on nutrient cycles in temperate and tropical forests, emergence of macroscopic properties, and biophysical controls on soil-atmosphere exchange of the greenhouse gas methane. Ph.D. Yale University.
Simon Levin is George M. Moffett Professor of Biology and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Levin’s current interests are in the parallels between ecological systems and financial and economic systems, particularly with regard to what makes them collapse and to the evolution and development of structure and organization, and in the management of public goods and common-pool resources. His ecological research is concerned with the evolution of diversification, the mechanisms sustaining biological diversity in natural systems, the implications for ecosystem structure and functioning, and the dynamics of infectious diseases. He has also been involved in issues of sustainable development with emphasis on the linkages between environmental and socioeconomic systems. Ph.D. University of Maryland.
Stephen Macedo is the Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values. He writes and teaches on political theory, ethics, public policy, and law, with a focus on liberalism, democracy and citizenship, diversity and civic education, religion and politics, and the family and sexuality. His current research concerns immigration and social justice, constitutional democracy in the U.S., and democracy and international institutions. Among Macedo’s numerous publications, his coauthored books include American Constitutional Interpretation (2008), and Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation, and What We Can Do About It (2005). Ph.D. Princeton University.
Denise Mauzerall is a professor in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She directs the Ph.D. program in the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program at the Woodrow Wilson School. The objective of Mauzerall’s research is to utilize science to inform the development of far-sighted air quality policy that considers the impact of air pollution on health, agriculture and climate change. Ph.D. Harvard University.
Helen Milner is B. C. Forbes Professor of Public Affairs; professor of politics and international affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; and director of the Center for Globalization and Governance. Her interests include the political economy of trade policy, the interaction of domestic and international politics, globalization, foreign aid, and international trade and environmental policy. Milner’s current research focuses on two-level games, international trade, relations between developed and developing countries, the diffusion of the Internet, the politics of foreign aid, and the impact of trade on environmental policy. Ph.D. Harvard University.
Daniel Osherson is Henry R. Luce Professor of Information Technology, Consciousness, and Culture, and a professor of psychology. His research focuses on the neurophysiology of human reasoning, notably, deductive and inductive inference. Osherson’s recent experiments bear on the neural mechanisms underlying the ability to combine elementary concepts into the meanings expressed by language. Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania.
Peter Singer is the Ira W. Decamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values and, at the University of Melbourne, laureate professor in the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. He is the founding president of the International Association of Bioethics, and with Helga Kuhse, founding coeditor of the journal Bioethics. A prolific author and coauthor whose work has been translated into 20 languages, Singer became well-known after the publication of Animal Liberation (1976). His recent books include The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (2009), The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter/The Ethics of What We Eat (2006), and One World (2002). Singer is also cofounder and president of The Great Ape Project, an international effort to obtain basic rights for chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
Keith Wailoo is the Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His research interests include public health; scientific and technological innovation in medical care; medical specialization; and the role of identity, gender, race, and ethnicity in studies on health and disease. He is currently working on a history of drugs, drug policies, and drug controversies, and completing a book on the history and politics of pain medicine in America. Wailoo’s most recent publications include How Cancer Crossed the Color Line (2011) and The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Disease (2006). Ph.D University of Pennsylvania.
David Wilcove is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His research focuses on developing innovative ways to protect biodiversity in North America, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and other regions—blending ecology and public policy. He is the author of numerous publications dealing with the conservation of biological diversity, endangered species, ornithology, island biogeography, and conservation policy. Ph.D. Princeton University.
Scott Barrett (Visiting Research Scholar, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; September 2012 – June 2013). Barrett is Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics at Columbia University, based in the School of International and Public Affairs. He is also chairman of the board of directors of the Beijer Institute. Barrett’s research focuses on global collective action in such areas as climate change, infectious diseases, and high seas fisheries. His books include, Why Cooperate? The Incentive to Supply Global Public Goods (2007) and Environment and Statecraft: The Strategy of Environmental Treaty-Making (2003). Ph.D. London School of Economics.
Felix Creutzig (Visiting Associate Research Scholar, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; October – November 2012 and March – April 2013). Creutzig is leader of the Sustainable Human Settlements and Infrastructures group in the Department of the Economics of Climate Change at Technical University Berlin. His research focuses on the determinants of transportation demand and the ecological implications of large-scale bioenergy. He is concerned with overly narrow systems boundaries and the dangers of excessive quantification. His book, Sustainable Low Carbon Transport, is forthcoming. Ph.D. Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
Milind Kandlikar (Visiting Research Scholar, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change/Reed Visiting Environmental Economist; September 2012 – June 2013). Kandlikar is a professor with the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. His work focuses on the intersection of technology innovation, human development, and the global environment. Kandlikar's current research examines the co-impacts of improved air quality and climate change mitigation from air pollution reductions, scientific capacity at the climate change science/policy interface in developing countries, and the risks and regulation of emerging bio and nanotechnologies. Other ongoing projects include the determinants of the diffusion of solar lighting systems in India, lifecycle energy impacts of information technologies, and the implications of India's use of Universal Identification technologies on the delivery of social services to the poor. He has also published extensively on the science and policy of climate change. Ph.D. Carnegie Mellon University.
Ezra Markowitz (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; September 2012 – June 2013). Markowitz’s research centers on the intersection of psychology, public policy, morality, human well-being, and environmental sustainability with a focus on the psychological factors that influence public engagement with climate change. His dissertation research examines the role of moral emotions in shaping individuals’ perceptions of responsibility toward future generations within the context of global climate change. Other projects include examinations of public perceptions of bioethical issues (e.g., stem cell research) and the role of affect in shaping charitable decision-making in the environmental domain, as well as an exploration of cross-national climate change threat perceptions using a hierarchical modeling framework. Ph.D. University of Oregon.
Johannes Urpelainen (Visiting Associate Research Scholar, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; September 2012 – June 2013). Urpelainen is an assistant professor of political science at Columbia University. His research focuses on international cooperation and institutions, with a particular focus on global environmental politics. He has published widely on the problems of enforcement and participation in international institutions. At Princeton, Urpelainen plans to initiate a research project that involves developing a theory of distributional conflict and collective action in a global context characterized by scientific uncertainty, applying the theory to efforts to address climate change, and using insights from theoretical and empirical analyses to develop policies and institutions designed for global climate cooperation. Ph.D. University of Michigan.
Elke Weber (Visiting Research Collaborator, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; November 2012). Weber is Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business, Earth Institute Professor, and a professor of psychology at Columbia University. She also founded and codirects two centers at Columbia, the Center for the Decision Sciences and the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Her areas of expertise include cognitive and affective processes in judgment and choice, cross-cultural issues in management, environmental decision making and policy, medical decision making, and risk management. Working at the intersection of psychology and economics, her focus is on behavioral models of judgment and decision making under risk and uncertainty. She has recently been investigating psychologically appropriate ways to measure and model individual and cultural differences in risk taking, specifically in risky financial situations and environmental issues. She is a lead author on risk management for Working Group III for the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Ph.D. Harvard University.
Gary Yohe(Visiting Research Collaborator, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; September 2012 – June 2013). Yohe is the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University. Most of his recent work has focused on developing and applying iterative risk-management techniques to the mitigation and adaptation/impacts sides of the climate issue. His current research includes visioning global equity and sustainability over the long term, expressing and communicating uncertainty in impacts and vulnerabilities, and evaluating the robustness of detection and attribution conclusions to inform a globally coherent climate fingerprint. Yohe is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and several books, and has been a contributor to media coverage of climate issues. Involved since the early 1990s with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, he served as a lead author for four different chapters in the Third Assessment Report (2001), as convening lead author for the last chapter of the contribution of Working Group II to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), and as a convening lead author of the detection and attribution chapter in the ongoing Fifth Assessment Report. Yohe was also a member of the core writing team for the Synthesis Report for the Fourth Assessment and continues in that role for the Fifth Assessment. In 2011 he was appointed as vice chair of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee for a three-year term, and he is coeditor, with Michael Oppenheimer, of the journal Climatic Change. Ph.D. Yale University.
Stéphane Zuber (Visiting Associate Research Scholar, Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty: Science, Institutions, and Ethics in the Politics of Global Change; January – June 2013). Zuber is an economist at Centre de Recherche Sens, É thique et Sociétié (CERSES) in Paris. He works on issues of intergenerational equity and climate policy with a focus on the problem of climate-related risks: how to design equitable climate policies in an uncertain world and how to deal with catastrophic and correlated risks. His current research, in collaboration with Marc Fleurbaey, is how to change standard ex ante evaluations of risk, taking into account fairness issues of intra- and intergenerational equity; a second project is on Harsayni’s theorem. His publications in English include, with G. B. Asheim, “Justifying Social Discounting: the Rank-Discounted Utilitarian Approach,” forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Theory. Ph.D. Toulouse School of Economics.
Workshops are open to the public. Contact Jayne Bialkowski for more information.
April 12-13, 2013
The Ethics of Risk and Climate Change
Friday, April 12: 8:30 a.m.-6:15 p.m.
Saturday, April 13: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
219 Aaron Burr Hall
About the workshop
Climate change generates risks for the population of the Earth, and climate policies seek to manage the risks but are also plagued with uncertain outcomes. This workshop will explore the ethical aspects of dealing with risk for the relevant actors of climate management: scientists, policymakers, economic agents, and citizens through papers presented by economists, philosophers, climate scientists, environmental economists, and political theorists. Discussants include policymakers in the area of climate change.
Marc Fleurbaey, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs and the University Center for Human Values; Melissa Lane, professor of politics; and Stéphane Zuber, Centre de Recherche Sens, Ethique et Societe
Meetings are open to all interested members of the Princeton Community, broadly defined. Contact Jayne Bialkowski for more information.
Wednesday, February 13
The Two Cultures in Environmental Studies
Kenneth Hiltner, University of California, Santa Barbara
10 Gyoyt Hall
Cosponsored with the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of English
Wednesday, February 20
Contending with Uncertainty: the Y2K Episode
John Koskinen, business adviser; former assistant to President Clinton and chair of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion
Commentator: Scott Barrett, Columbia University
Bowl 1, Robertson Hall
Wednesday, February 27
China and Climate Change Policy
Panel: Robert O. Keohane, professor of public and international affairs, WWS; Denise Mauzerall, professor of civil and environmental engineering and public and international affairs, WWS; and Zhu Tong, visiting research scholar, WWS, and 2012-13 Princeton Global Scholar, and director of the Center for Environment and Health and Cheung Kong Chair Professor in the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, both at Beijing University
Bowl 1, Robertson Hall
Cosponsored with the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program
Wednesday, March 6
On the Sensitivity of International Cooperation to Uncertainty about Climate Change
Scott Barrett, Columbia University
Commentator: Robert O. Keohane, professor of public and international affairs, WWS
Bowl 1, Robertson Hall
Wednesday, March 13
Climate Change Uncertainty in Development Projects
Stephane Hallegatte, World Bank
Commentator: Felix Creutzig, Berlin Technical University
Bowl 2, Robertson Hall
Wednesday, March 27
Communicating Uncertainty in the H1N1 Pandemic
Leslie Gerwin, associate director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs
Commentator: Robert O. Keohane, professor of public and international affairs, WWS
Bowl 1, Robertson Hall
Thursday, March 28
Political Inconsistency and Scientific Uncertainty: An Experimental Test
Dustin Tingley, Harvard University
Michael Tomz, Stanford University
Commentator: Johannes Urpelainen, Columbia University
Bowl 2, Robertson Hall
Wednesday, April 24
IPCC Report on Climate and Uncertainty
Howard Kunreuther, University of Pennsylvania, and Elke Weber, Columbia University
Commentator: Felix Creutzig, Technical University Berlin
Bowl 1, Robertson Hall
Wednesday, September 19
U.S. Public Views on Climate Change: Insights from Polling
Jon Krosnick, Stanford University
Commentator: Robert Socolow, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering
216 Aaron Burr Hall
Thursday, September 27
Climate Change, the IPCC, and International Policy Architecture
Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, John F. Kennedy School, Harvard University
Commentator: Robert Keohane, Professor of Public and International Affairs
016 Robertson Hall
Wednesday, October 10
Communicating "Uncertainty" to an Uncertain Public: Implications for the Moral Judgment System
Ezra Markowitz, postdoctoral research associate, PIIRS
Commentator: Melissa S. Lane, professor of politics
015 Robertson Hall
Wednesday, October 24
Hitting the Roof of Analytical Framework: Epistemological Uncertainty in Bioenergy Assessments
Felix Creutzig, visiting associate research scholar, PIIRS; Department of the Economics of Climate Change, Technical University Berlin
Commentator: Stephen W. Pacala, Frederick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Bowl 1 Robertson Hall
Wednesday, November 7
Perceptions of Scientific Dissent Undermine Public Support for Environmental Policy
Johannes Urpelainen, visiting associate research scholar, PIIRS; assistant professor of political science, Columbia University
Commentator: Scott Barrett, visiting research scholar, PIIRS; Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics, Columbia University
219 Aaron Burr Hall
Wednesday, November 28
Psychological Barriers to Understanding and Using Uncertainty
Elke Weber, visiting research collaborator, PIIRS; and Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business, Earth Institute Professor, and professor of psychology, Columbia University
Commentator: Johannes Urpelainen, visiting associate research scholar, PIIRS; assistant professor of political science, Columbia University
219 Aaron Burr Hall
Wednesday, December 12
Climate Uncertainty and Development: The Indian Conundrum
Milind Kandlikar, visiting research scholar, PIIRS/Reed Visiting Environmental Economist, Princeton Environmental Institute; associate professor. Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, and the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia
Commentator: Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
219 Aaron Burr Hall