Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Knowledge and Environmental Policy

Knowledge and Environmental Policy: Re-Imagining the Boundaries of Science and Politics

William Ascher
Toddi Steelman
Robert Healy
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Knowledge and Environmental Policy
    Book Description:

    During the George W. Bush administration, politics and ideology routinely trumped scientific knowledge in making environmental policy. Data were falsified, reports were edited selectively, and scientists were censored. The Obama administration has pledged to restore science to the policy making process. And yet, as the authors of Knowledge and Environmental Policy point out, the problems in connecting scientific discovery to science-based policy are systemic. The process--currently structured in a futile effort to separate policy from science--is dysfunctional in many respects. William Ascher, Toddi Steelman, and Robert Healy analyze the dysfunction and offer recommendations for incorporating formal science and other important types of knowledge (including local knowledge and public sentiment) into the environmental policymaking process. The authors divide the knowledge process into three functions--generation, transmission, and use--and explore the key obstacles to incorporating knowledge into the making of environmental policy. Using case studies and integrating a broad literature on science, politics, and policy, they examine the ignorance or distortion of policy-relevant knowledge, the overemphasis of particular concerns and the neglect of others, and the marginalization of certain voices. The book's analysis will be valuable to scientists who want to make their work more accessible and useful to environmental policy and to policymakers who want their decisions to be informed by science but have had difficulty finding scientific knowledge that is useful or timely.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-28915-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael Kraft

    During the George W. Bush administration, White House policymakers on numerous occasions ignored or manipulated scientific data, and they were often criticized for doing so, particularly by environmentalists who were convinced that the science bolstered their own policy positions. The Bush administration often gave more weight to political beliefs and goals than the views of scientists, policy analysts, and other professionals, most notably in the case of climate change. In response to such decisions across a wide spectrum of issues, by 2004, more than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel Prize winners and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    William Ascher, Toddi Steelman and Robert Healy
  5. 1 Knowledge in the Environmental Policy Process
    (pp. 1-26)

    Nearly everyone concerned with making environmental policy believes that science should have a major role in it. Environmental policy typically deals either with the management of diverse natural systems or with the impact of pollution on the health of living organisms, especially humans. These questions seem clearly within the purview of a number of the physical, social, and biological sciences. Climatologists try to anticipate the nature and magnitude of global climate change; biologists and ecologists try to assess how these and other changes will affect plant and animal populations; toxicologists attempt to understand the potential consequences of the growing number...

  6. 2 The Generation of Policy-Relevant Environmental Knowledge
    (pp. 27-60)

    The generation of knowledge entails gathering, interpreting, theorizing, modeling, endorsing, and synthesizing information and insights. One—but not the only—purpose of knowledge generation is to make theory and data available as inputs to the decision-making process. It also includes developing analytical techniques such as monitoring and measuring approaches and evaluative assessment technologies. Many practices and methods exist to generate knowledge, including casual observation, fieldwork, interviews, content analysis, social surveys, qualitative and quantitative models, and public-involvement methodologies.

    Knowledge is created by individuals who are embedded in organizations and institutions that play important roles in how knowledge is transformed and legitimized.¹...

  7. 3 The Transmission and Use of Knowledge in the Environmental Policy Process
    (pp. 61-98)

    If knowledge is to have any influence on environmental policy, it must betransmittedfrom wherever it was generated or where it resides, and it must beusedas an input in decision making. The transmission may begin from numerous possible sources—the scientific literature, the minds of experts, or the hearts of people who support or oppose a given policy. It may be conveyed by an equally diverse set of channels—technical journal articles, popular media, congressional testimony, or word of mouth at the local coffee shop. The uses of knowledge are also varied, from bringing an issue onto...

  8. 4 How Knowledge Shapes the Environmental Policy Process
    (pp. 99-124)

    Knowledge is not only used in making environmental policy, but it can also change the policymaking process itself. As we have shown in chapters 2 and 3, the content of environmental knowledge impacts environmental decision making. For example, there is no doubt that the growth and dissemination of scientific knowledge about climate change and greenhouse gases has led to the Kyoto Protocol, ongoing international negotiations, and many other measures.¹ But the impacts of knowledge go far beyond their role as simply an input in policymaking. In this chapter, we show how the generation, transmission, and use of knowledge affects and...

  9. 5 The “Ecology” of Knowledge and the Environmental Policy Process
    (pp. 125-136)

    We can adopt the metaphor of ecology to understand the interplay of the generation, transmission, and use of knowledge as well as the broader impacts of these processes on the policymaking process itself. Each element of this complex system influences each other element. This chapter lays out the interconnections and assesses the opportunities for improving environmental decision making in light of the rigidity that might arise from the fact that these aspects are so intertwined.

    Four fundamental patterns can be found:

    The generation, transmission, and use of knowledge reinforce one another by elevating the standing of and demand for knowledge...

  10. 6 The Consequences of Knowledge Problems in the Environmental Policy Process
    (pp. 137-160)

    The problems with knowledge in the environmental policy process have very real consequences for the people who experience and are affected by them. The previous chapters were meant to be theoretical, although we cited many examples ranging from climate change to national-forest management to acid deposition. In this chapter, we lay out the many problems that can plague the role of knowledge in the environmental policy process and then illustrate how some of these problems are present in contemporary environmental decision-making settings. These cases are typical of various environmental problems that face society. One can choose almost any current environmental...

  11. 7 Insights and Recommendations
    (pp. 161-210)

    This concluding chapter begins by summarizing the insights we have gained from examining how knowledge is generated, transmitted, and used in the environmental policy process, and it ends with our recommendations for improving the process. The first half of the chapter accounts for why environmental decision making is plagued by a host of problems related to the knowledge processes, and the second half offers strategies for addressing these problems. We reimagine the role for knowledge in policy making, taking into account twenty-first-century realities and arguing for a more realistic appraisal of the limits of and capacity for inserting knowledge in...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 211-228)
  13. References
    (pp. 229-250)
  14. Index
    (pp. 251-260)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)