What do policy-makers do with scientific uncertainty? The incremental character of Swedish climate change policy-making.
Summary, in English
This article explores how policy-makers are managing scientific uncertainty in policy-making. This is done through a case study of the Swedish climate change policy process from 1975 to 2007, based on interviews and an extensive review of official publications and documents. The study shows that scientific uncertainty played a very marginal role in the development of Swedish climate politics. When faced with scientific uncertainty, policy-makers came to rely more on knowledge of what was politically possible to do, than on what was desirable from a scientific perspective. Thereby, policy-making became incremental in character. The article argues that in order to understand the dynamics involved, we need to pay attention to how scientific knowledge and uncertainty are translated from a scientific context into a political one. These framings, done by knowledge brokers, are crucial for the use of scientific knowledge in politics. Scientific uncertainty negatively impacts scientists' willingness to act as knowledge brokers and thereby the possibility of policy-makers to use knowledge. The article argues that despite the lessons from previous research, there seems to be a need for empirically grounded studies that highlight the limits of the rational paradigm captured in, for example, evidence-based decision-making.