Rethinking the boundaries of environmental expertise and the importance of lay knowledge

Picture of environmental researchers in a meeting

Scientific expertise is a core component of environmental discourse and one that is used to establish as well as scrutinize claims about climate change. Environmental scientific expertise has been important for setting climate change on the global policy agenda. However, it has also been contested in some regards. There is still a gap between what needs to be done to combat the climate crisis and what is actually being done. Should science step up and advocate what actions need to be taken for the environment?

In a book chapter featured in the Handbook of Critical Environmental Politics, Rolf Lidskog and Monika Berg, both affiliated with CESSS, brings up different accounts on how to narrow this gap by reconsidering what expert environmental knowledge should comprise. They do this by discussing the meaning and implications of environmental expertise in light of the debate that questions science as the stand-alone authority of knowledge.

The chapter begins by exploring what currently is conceived as environmental expertise and challenges to this notion. What defines an expert, and which societal actors fall under this definition? Lidskog and Berg further discuss whether there is a need for expertise to comprise more than scientific knowledge, such as layperson knowledge or local expertise, and what outcomes this might entail for evaluating someone’s position of expertise. In summary, the authors discuss the need to re-draw the boundaries between experts and non-experts when considering what constitutes expert environmental knowledge and what does not, and they discuss the implications of a broader knowledge inclusion for environmental discourse.

In addition to Lidskog and Berg’s chapter, the Handbook of Critical Environmental Politics features contributions from over 60 international scholars and provides a comprehensive and up-to-date view of the field of global environmental politics. Read more about the book using this link.

Lidskog, R., & Berg, M. (2022). Expertise, lay/local knowledge and the environment. In, pp. 257-269 in L. Pellizzoni, E. Leonardi, & V. Asara (Eds), Handbook of Critical Environmental Politics (pp. 257–269). Edward Elgar. Read the full article here.

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