In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Deborah Coen explores how human beings make sense of large-scale natural phenomena like climate change. What does it mean to “understand” climate change? Does it mean the same thing to concerned citizens as it does to natural scientists, or humanities scholars, or policymakers? Coen uses a brief history of climate science since the nineteenth century to explore these questions and to challenge the traditional dichotomy between scientific explanation and humanistic understanding.
Deborah R. Coen
Deborah R. Coen is professor of history at Yale University and chair of the Program in History of Science and Medicine. Her research and teaching bring together the history of science and the intellectual and cultural history of modern Europe. She has published widely on the history of the physical and earth sciences, including Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter (University of Chicago Press, 2013) and Vienna in the Age of Uncertainty: Science, Liberalism, and Private Life (University of Chicago Press, 2007). Her recent research considers how climate came to be studied in terms of the interaction of phenomena at multiple scales, from the planetary to the scales of agriculture and human health. Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale will be published by the University of Chicago Press in July 2018.