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

Mahony, Martin; Hulme, Mike


Martin Mahony

Mike Hulme


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.


Mahony, M., & Hulme, M. (in press). Modelling and the nation: institutionalising climate prediction in the UK, 1988–92. Minerva,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 29, 2016
Online Publication Date Jul 4, 2016
Deposit Date Jul 8, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 8, 2016
Journal Minerva
Print ISSN 0026-4695
Electronic ISSN 1573-1871
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Climate Change; Models; Science and Policy; Environmental Politics; Civic Epistemology
Public URL
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art%3A10.1007%2Fs11024-016-9302-0.pdf (525 Kb)

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