Jessica O'Reilly, Indiana University; Chair: Michael Oppenheimer


Thursday, October 6, 2016, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


216 Aaron Burr Hall

Antarctic Climate Change: 
An Ethnographic Account of Governance, Expertise, and Extreme Nature

Jessica O'Reilly

Scientific research is the core reason that people go to the Antarctic, and scientific expertise plays a pivotal role in the international governance of the continent. Using over a decade of ethnographic research with Antarctic scientists and policy makers, this talk explores the relationship between extreme nature and extreme bureaucracy to analyze how Antarctic people consider the continent’s climate futures, in terms of logistics at camps and bases as well as in consideration of the global effects of changes to the Antarctic ice sheets. In the relationships between scientists and data, nature, and expertise, a system of governance emerges that is both technocratic and idealistic.

CHAIR: Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute; Director, Center for Science Technology and Environmental Policy.

I am an environmental anthropologist who studies how scientists and policy makers participate in environmental management, both in regards to the Antarctic environment and global climate change. I use participant observation and ethnographic interviews to examine how people and ideas in science and policy interact, how experts make decisions about matters of concern, and how relationships with the environment inform knowledge production. I have conducted research in Antarctica, New Zealand, at the Antarctic Treaty consultative meetings and at meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). My current project analyzes how assessors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change make decisions in the writing of their assessment reports, which form the core set of science advice to the UNFCCC.