Consultants and the business of climate services: implications of shifting from public to private science

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16 Citations (Scopus)


There has been a global trend away from delivering ‘climate information’ towards producing ‘climate services’ for decision-makers. The rationale for this shift is said to be the demand for timely and actionable climate knowledge, whilst the means of its delivery involves a shift from public good to more privatised forms of climate science. This paper identifies important implications of this shift to climate services by examining the role of consultants, drawing on an in-depth study of adaptation consultants in Australia. The role of consultants is instructive, not just because these private sector experts are engaged in climate services, but also because publicly funded climate science agencies are increasingly encouraged to behave as consulting firms do. Four imperatives of knowledge businesses—to be client-focussed, solutions-oriented, resource-efficient and self-replicating—are described. The paper argues that an emphasis on climate services shifts the incentives for climate science away from the public interest towards the ongoing pursuit of profit. There is a subsequent diversion of effort away from publicly accessible and transparent climate information to private knowledge for discrete clients. Climate services also emphasise knowledge for climate solutions as opposed to the politically charged identification of climate risks. The paper concludes with a warning that the trend towards climate services undermines the knowledge required for societies to adequately respond to the scale, speed and severity of climate change. At the heart of this issue is a climate services paradox: how to achieve customisation without exclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-26
Number of pages18
JournalClimatic Change
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

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