Climate Science: An Empirical Example of Post Normal Science (Bray and von Storch: 1999) addressed ‘the views regarding the certainty and uncertainty of climate science knowledge held by contemporary climate scientists. More precisely, it [addressed] the extension of this knowledge into the social and political realms as per the definition of post-normal science [Funtowicz and Ravetz (1992)]. ... [The] ... incompatibility between the state of knowledge and the calls for action suggest[ed] that, to some degree at least, scientific advice is a product of both scientific knowledge and normative judgment, suggesting a socio-scientific construction of the climate change issue.’
In the early discussions of climate science (not in climate science) climate science became characterized as post-normal science, science dealing with high risks, high uncertainty and competing values (Bray and von Storch, 1999; Elzinga 1997; Funtowicz and Ravetz 1990). The roles of scientists under such conditions often demanded comment well beyond the expertise of the climate scientist and, at times, well beyond the bounds of data, and these comments were often interpreted as 'facts'. These ‘facts’ seem to be coming home to roost.
Perhaps the natural evolution of post-normal science is to a division within the science, consisting on the one hand, of a reversion to ‘normal’ science, and on the other a transition to a situation in which moral entrepreneurship begins to infuse the objectivity of scientific thought (at both ends of the issue). This is not limited to any particular perspective but rather to the process of dissemination of scientific information excessively shaped by any moral persuasion. Where moral persuasion has an equal and opposite force there is the potential for stalemates in the application of ‘real’ science to arise, in short, elements of the scientific community do a disservice to the broader scientific community. Where one moral force prevails there is the tendency for hasty decisions with little time for reflection on competing claims. In the fan fare of public debate and name calling, the reality and efforts of ‘normal’ science are at risk of being ignored. This has led to the circus of the moment. Under such conditions normal science will likely quietly endure while, what we could call post-sensible science, runs the risk of finding itself veering of into an intellectual cul-de-sac.