Debate: University, Sustainability and Transition (EN)

The actions of the ‘klimaatspijbelaars’ gave rise to a public debate on
climate change and the way it should be addressed. In several ways, the
role of scientists was one of the topics under discussion. Some argued that
scientists should stick to communicating the facts and that we should
clearly separate science from politics. For others, the issue of climate
change blurred the line between science and politics. The responsibility of
scientists for them goes beyond merely ‘stating the facts’.

These facts have been around for a while now. The IPCC (Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change) was founded in 1988 and published its first
Assessment Report in 1990. Since then, it has kept publishing reports on
the existence of climate change and the expected consequences.
International climate summits have however been criticised as failing to
result in effective international policy. Does this discrepancy between the
urgency of the facts and the inertia of policy mean that scientists have
not stated the facts clearly enough? Should they be more clear in their
communication? Or does it indicate that there is a limit to the
effectiveness of ‘just stating the facts’ in order to change things?

The relation between politics and science is also implicated in the debate
on so-called ‘ecorealism’. According to ‘ecorealists’, the problem
cannot be solved by ‘costly’ or ‘unpopular’ measures, but only
through research, technology and innovation. This view is presented as a
‘rational’ or ‘realistic’ policy based on science. What is hidden
beneath it, however, is the (political) decision as to what research should
be deemed relevant. It also presupposes that the problem can be solved by a
‘more of the same’-formula, whereas questions can be asked about the
way scientific research is organised, the relation between universities and
industry, political decisions about what is deemed worthy of research, and
the circulation of knowledge and innovations developed at universities.


MOHAMED AL MARCHOHI is currently working for GO! as an energy and climate
policy advisor. In the past he worked for the Social-Economic Council of
Flanders (SERV), he also conducted research in the field of Energy- and
Environmental Economics at the University of Antwerp.
TOM COX is a civil engineer, he is currently working as a post-doctoral
researcher at the University of Antwerp, where he is affiliated to the
Ecosystem Management research group. He joined the recent
scientists4climate movement and has also been involved in other forms of
climate activism (e.g. GroeNoord).

ANNELEEN KENIS is an interdisciplinary geographer, with a background in
political/ human ecology, sustainable development and psychology. She’s
currently based at King's College London, and a post-doctoral researcher
for FWO-Vlaanderen.

CHLOÉ VERLINDEN is a Master student in Urban Studies (VUB-ULB), with a
background in political sciences and anthropology. She is an environmental
activist and currently a representative of Students for Climate VUB.


BARBARA VAN DYCK is a bioengineer and currently works at the STEPS-Centre &
the Science and Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex (UK). She has
been active in networks that deal with issues of food sovereignty and that
focus on the role of science in society.

Praktische informatie

Muntpunt, Literair salon (+1) Munt 1000 Brussel
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