This is shown by the science journalist Annika E. Nilsson in her dissertation at The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studiesat Linköping University in Sweden.
“Our knowledge of the environment and how it affects us is key to how we should deal with changes. That’s why we also need to look into the conditions for creating useful knowledge,” she says.
Earlier research has emphasized how research can affect political decisions in the environmental field. Annika E. Nilsson has turned that question around and shown that political cooperation is key to our scientific knowledge about the environment. During the Cold War, there was no coordination of environmental work in the Arctic, and even after such climate work had gotten under way it was given low priority, since it was seen as a global issue. The breakthrough for a coordinated analysis of climate changes in the Arctic came about only when global and region interests were joined.
The dissertation is based on a study of the first full-scale analysis of how climate changes will impact different regions: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). Annika E. Nilsson shows that regional political cooperation allowed new players to have a say, above all the Arctic indigenous peoples. It also reinforced the role of the Arctic as a wake-up call for the environment.
On the other hand, the regional political negotiations were marked by the same conflicts of interest that characterized global climate negotiations. Here the dissertation shows how the choice of scale for the discussion of an environmental issue has political dimensions that also have consequences for the knowledge society acquires. Climate changes are often seen as a global issue, while the regional analysis of the Arctic also brought out local perspectives in which various factors affect the vulnerability of society. Here, too, she shows how the norms for international cooperation can play a crucial role in determining what knowledge will be included in a coordinated analysis.
“The findings raise questions about how the forms of environmental politics can contribute to our attaining enhanced knowledge when the decision base is still scant, for example when it comes to adaptation. One of the great challenges will be to link together global and local perspectives,” she says.