Climate change is now a familiar subject for most of the individuals living in the industrialized countries, and no doubt a subject of growing interest in the emergent countries such as China. It arises with increasing frequency in the discussion of current affairs, when there is a significant climatic event (tornado, flood, drought etc.), international negotiations on how to deal with global warming, or scientific discussions etc.
How has this theme lodged itself in public debate? Who are the actors in that debate and how much of a part do they play? André Lebeau has examined these questions, attempting to determine how this initially highly scientific subject has over time found a foothold in economic, political and media debate.
After a brief presentation of the various actors concerned, he makes a detailed analysis of the emergence of the debate within the scientific community, particularly through the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). He then shows how climate change has entered economic debate, further gaining in complexity because it is so difficult to envisage its impacts or the economic solutions to it over time-periods of the order of a century. He then stresses the contribution of the media which, while giving the phenomenon visibility and hence making it a subject of interest for public opinion and the political world, do not always distinguish between what is essential and what is merely secondary. Lastly, he clarifies the current role of public opinion and of political decision-makers with regard to climate change, stressing that the process of entry into the debate and of dealing politically with climate questions is a very slow one - perhaps too slow, given the scale of the responses required.