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Building international epistemic authority: The case of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Kari De Pryck, University of Geneva

Tue 26 February 2019

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produces regular assessment of the state of the knowledge on climate change, is a controversial object of study. While it has become a model of expertise for some (the IPBES was established following a call for an IPCC for biodiversity), others have been more critical of its work (as illustrated in the debate that followed Climategate and the errors found in its Fourth Assessment Report). In this talk, I discuss the construction of the authority of the IPCC in situations of controversy and its institutionalisation unprecedented among the global environmental assessments. First, I draw on a historical ethnography of the governance of the IPCC to discuss the strategies that allowed the organisation to survive in the context of increased scrutiny. Second, I discuss the role of consensus in the construction of the epistemic authority of the organisation. I conclude with a reflexion on the deliberative and reflective features of the IPCC.

About the speaker

Kari De Pryck just obtained her PhD from the University of Geneva, Switzerland and Sciences Po Paris, France, under the supervision of Géraldine Pflieger and Bruno Latour. She has a background in International Relations and has been introduced to Science and Technology Studies during her stay at the médialab at Sciences Po Paris (2013-2015). She is currently a teaching assistant at the Global Studies Institute in Geneva where she teaches seminars in the field of international relations and controversy mapping.

In her thesis (Expertise under Controversy: the case of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)), she investigated the epistemic and institutional transformation of the organisation in situations of controversy using quali-quantitative methods. She is interested in the politics of expert knowledge in international institutions and environmental science-policy interfaces more generally.

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