International collaboration has been a theme in climate data gathering and analysis. During the war years, it was hampered by geopolitical circumstances and relatively weak institutional structures at the international level. For example, both the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), and the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU) were non-governmental organizations. After World War II, the international scene changed. Powerful state interests favored the building of international regimes under the umbrella of the United Nations and around a number of specific issues, including meteorology and climate science as well as the environment more generally. Organizationally, the emerging global climate regime is now represented by entities such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The new scene mirrors changes in the structure of international society with the increasing attention to collaboration and regime-building. In this process, non-governmental scientific and professional organizations become embedded in the same networks as the intergovernmental regimes, see Figure 4.1. Examples are joint activities between ICSU and the WMO. States have emerged as increasingly important actors, while both planning for climate science and its societal use have become increasingly dependent on an international political context. This international context appeares to have increased climate science's potential to influence policy compared to the earlier developments, roughly before the Stockholm Conference in 1972, when this context was not in place. There is thus a co-evolution of climate knowledge production and political order that fits well with the concept of co-production of science and policy.
The historic perspectives provided in this chapter also highlight how today's global framing of climate change is a product of a combination of factors that include political dynamics from the Cold War, the rise of environmentalism in the 1960s, new technologies, and non-governmental international collaboration that facilitated the growth of a certain scientific understanding. In addition formal regimes play a role by mustering new resources (as in the case of structures for collaboration in the WMO). They also provide venues for state actors outside the North American or European spheres to voice their concerns, which has often been in opposition to the universalistic framing of issues in western science and policy (e.g. in the IPCC).
For the Arctic, a culture of international collaboration can be traced back to the First International Polar Year in 1881-84. For most of the 1900s, the sensitive military and geopolitical position of the region postponed the development of political cooperation and also put a hamper on the production of climate knowledge. The Arctic, thus, did not play a prominent role in the International Geophysical Year 1957/58, which was one starting point of forming the image of global climate change. Neither did the Arctic play a prominent role in the first reports from the IPCC, reports that played a critical role in developing the global climate policy regime. In fact, it took almost another 30 years until changes in the Soviet Union created opportunities for developing pan-Arctic scientific and political cooperation. This highlights the role of realist politics and state actors' strategic interests, as opposed to regimes, in shaping political order. Basic structures of international society such as core-periphery dynamics and sovereignty concerns have remained part of the picture and are still issues with potential to influence climate science and policy in the region.
Was this article helpful?