Climate change is most often framed as a global issue that has to be managed at the global level through international agreements. The climate system is seen as a truly global phenomenon that cannot be understood using only site-specific knowledge. Because emissions of greenhouse gases mix well in Earth's atmosphere, claims are often made that it does not matter where they come from. The logic has, therefore, been that climate change should be managed through a global convention. With such a framing, the question of fit between the governance system and the problem at hand could be neatly wrapped up as a case of perfect fit between the spatial scale of the problem, as seen through the eyes of natural science, and the governance solution. However, my review of the historical developments of climate science provided in Chapter 4 of this dissertation shows that the global scale should not be accepted as an unchallenged given. Rather, it is a framing that has historically gained power because it co-developed with conscious efforts, on behalf of the United States in particular, to internationalize science in the post-World War II era. It has also gained power by its co-evolution with the growth of international governance within the framework of the United Nations. For climate science, the creation of the WMO in 1950 and its subsequent initiatives to create global observation networks and promote research important for global-scale modeling is a critical example. The global view is further reinforced with visions of "Only One Earth" for the international environmental governance, starting at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm 1972. Thus, the development of modern climate change research should be seen not only as the result of internal scientific drivers but also as a consequence of a shift in the spatial scale preference within the international political landscape - from a focus on the nation state to an increasing emphasis on global governance, especially concerning issues related to the environment.
There is no doubt that the global framing has been productive in the sense of increasing our understanding of the climate system. Without it, the IPCC would hardly have been able to say with such confidence that the global climate is changing and that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are an important part of the explanation.3 But politically it has been challenged, especially by the global South with arguments about the historical debt of the global North and requests for equity. These challenges are by now recognized and embedded in phrases in the UNFCCC such as "common but differentiated responsibilities."4 More recently, the global framing is also being challenged from below by an increasing number of local and regional initiatives to limit
3 IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers.
4 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, preamble, articles 3 and 4.
emissions that are not immediately dependent on international agreements.5 Moreover, the global framing of climate change is being challenged by increasing recognition that knowledge production that focuses only on global scale processes is not sufficient for addressing how society should adapt to climate change. There are, for example, major ongoing efforts to scale down global climate models in order to be able to provide better resolution for national studies of impacts and needs for adaptation. The two latter challenges are not in opposition to a global scale preference, but nevertheless represent an ongoing shift in focus in climate science and governance. The launching of the ACIA in 2000 can be seen as an expression of this shift and one which highlights a need to better understand regional processes in the Arctic. But the shift in scale preference actually goes further than this in the ACIA. The analyses in Chapter 6 of this dissertation show that the global framing is also starting to be challenged by knowledge traditions that have the local scale in focus. They often emphasize that climate change is only one of many interacting factors that will determine vulnerability and society's capacity to adapt.
Now the question of fit becomes much more multidimensional. There is no one right answer in deciding the spatial scale of the system that needs to be assessed, or what level is optimal for political governance. It could range from the local community level to the national and international levels in discussing both adaptation and mitigation. It becomes easier to recognize that preferences for certain spatial scales are a joint product of social and biogeophysical processes, which creates a window for analyzing the politics of scale.6 A number of new questions can be asked: Who has power to decide the spatial scale preference? What implications do different scale choices have for what knowledge is considered legitimate? How does it affect responsibility for an issue? How do regimes give various actors a power base from which to highlight their spatial scale preferences?
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