To see or not to see – climate change and climate skepticism in Russian and US science

Modern science is global, and we expect the standards of scientific research to be same around the world. Yet, twenty environmental scientists from different nations have dissimilar views.

Dronin and Bychkova studied what  these Russian and American scientists see as key environmental issues. After a series of interviews with prominent researchers, they found that the ideas about key environmental issues differ between two nations. The greatest difference was found in the perception of two global issues—stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change. Results showed that the American interviewees were climate change supporters, and all Russian interviewees did not give that much importance to the climate issues. However, both groups express very different views not only regarding climate change, but with respect to all other environmental issues discussed.

The American scientists showed the high consistence in their views: all of them see the ‘ozone layer depletion’ and ‘climate change’ as the major natural issues of modernity. It is interesting that even those who had no research expertise in these topics share the idea. The Russian experts are very skeptical about the role of humans in climate change and ozone depletion based on observable science. They also question the importance attributed to these issues in the global environmental policies. However, all the Russian interviewees are ‘green’ environmentalists concerned about environmental preservation and conservation.

What is striking, the difference observed between American and Russian scientists is in no way attributes to whether they are skeptics or climate advocates. Oppositely, all scientists consider themselves as ‘green’. The authors suggest that this disagreement reflects differences in the scientific traditions as they evolved in Russia and the USA in the 20th century. American scholars historically have been following the progressive trends, and see mathematical prognoses and computer modelling as reliable ways to research. The skepticism of Russian scientists is likely to originate from the Soviet tradition of scientific naturalism. For naturalists, the world has nothing in its natural properties, and they seek only natural explanations, even if alternative (non-natural) ones makes more sense. It is followed by the delays in Russian (and Soviet) higher education and application of new technologies.

Original source: Dronin, N., & Bychkova, A. (2018). Perceptions of American and Russian environmental scientists of today’s key environmental issues: a comparative analysis. Environment, development and sustainability20(5), 2095-2105.


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