Modelling and the nation: Institutionalising climate prediction in the UK, 1988–92

Martin Mahony, Mike Hulme

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22 Citations (Scopus)
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How climate models came to gain and exercise epistemic authority has been a key concern of recent climate change historiography. Using newly released archival materials and recently conducted interviews with key actors, we reconstruct negotiations between UK climate scientists and policymakers which led to the opening of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in 1990. We historicize earlier arguments about the unique institutional culture of the Hadley Centre, and link this culture to broader characteristics of UK regulatory practice and environmental politics. A product of a particular time and place, the Hadley Centre was shaped not just by scientific ambition, but by a Conservative governmental preference for ‘sound science’ and high evidential standards in environmental policymaking. Civil servants sought a prediction programme which would appeal to such sensibilities, with transient and regional climate simulation techniques seemingly offering both scientific prestige and persuasive power. Beyond the national level, we also offer new insights into the early role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and an evolving international political context in the shaping of scientific practices and institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-470
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Civic epistemology
  • Climate change
  • Environmental politics
  • Models
  • Science and policy

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