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Climate Risk Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/crm
The role of place-based narratives of change in climate risk
, Scott Bremer
Artec Sustainability Research Center, University of Bremen, Germany
Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway
Culturalization of climate change
In this introduction, we situate the topic of this Special Issue on ‘narratives of change’ in the
scholarly literature about how we inform climate risk governance, including through climate
services. We argue that many places experience a persistent mismatch between predominantly
science-based and technical framings of climatic risk on the one hand, and the place-based un-
derstandings of climate extremes and responses of people living in these places on the other. We
introduce the case studies presented in this issue and highlight their common focus on ‘narratives
of change’ as one missing link in climate governance. Narratives of change address the past,
present and future of a speciﬁc place understood as a weather-world, adding a cultural dimension
to climate change experienced as a succession of weather and seasons. We focus on memories of
extreme weather events and how people coped with them, in order to improve climate gov-
ernance under future climatic change. We argue that attention to local narratives expands the
scope of issues covered by climate information and improves its integration into social and
cultural life. We oﬀer up seven lessons for why it is important to incorporate narratives in climate
governance and suggest some creative methods for doing so. Post-normal science, art-science
cooperation, and the inclusion of the humanities mark the diﬀerence that the individual con-
tributions make to the literature about climate governance and democratic decision-making.
1. Narratives and climate risk governance
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live”, the writer Joan Didion (2009, 11) famously stated. “We look for the sermon in the
suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of ﬁve. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple
choices”. What kind of stories do we tell about a changing climate, about extreme weather, rising sea level or changes in the seasons?
Which story is the most workable to locally make sense of a global phenomenon and its eﬀects?
In this special issue, we bring together place-based stories about climate change with scientiﬁc information. Climate change is
materializing locally in diﬀerent ways, both as a change of weather and a change of politics. Climate change already plays a role in
shifting governance and decision-making regimes in all of the places discussed in this special issue, yet none could claim to have made
their endangered communities ‘climate proof’. The articles in this issue argue for the inclusion of local narratives of change, alongside
climate science, for a broader and critical understanding of climate risk governance. Local narratives serve to improve knowledge of
the impacts of climatic change (the problem framing), introduce local ways of relating to and coping with these changes, and root
Received 28 September 2019; Received in revised form 25 February 2020; Accepted 1 March 2020
Corresponding author at: Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Parkveien 9, Postboks 7805, 5020
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (S. Bremer).
Climate Risk Management 28 (2020) 100221
Available online 03 March 2020
2212-0963/ © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license
climate governance in social life (Krauß, 2010a). Such narratives give meaning to abstract scientiﬁc information and are key to
understanding, making sense, of what it means to live in and with a changing climate. Thus, the articles in this issue contribute to a
cultural turn in climate risk governance and provide a basis for experimental and collaborative forms of place-based climate gov-
ernance; challenging dominant modes of technocratic risk governance. In doing so, we problematize the science-based notion of risk
as a legitimization for political action. The eﬀects of climate change are highly complex, and science cannot replace neither social
representations nor determine politics. Quite the contrary, in this special issue we want to provide insights into the cultural con-
struction of risk in order to bring climate governance into democracy.
2. Narratives of climate change, and changes of climate narrative
Much has been written about the global origins of ‘climate risk governance’ and how its discourse is transforming the ways we
relate to the climate in the places we live (see e.g. Jasanoﬀ, 2004). Projections of regional climates continue to improve through
downscaling global climate models, long term monitoring and empirical research, and there are important moves to tailor climate
science and services to be even more locally credible and legitimate (Bremer et al., 2019b). Global science and policy networks are
deploying powerful scientiﬁc narratives of climate change to take hold in our local communities; inﬁltrating institutions, invoked in
public decision-making and spatial planning, and inﬂuencing how we as individuals behave - how we eat, live or travel – and how we
know our climate (Bravo, 2009; Farbotko and Lazrus, 2012; Hulme, 2008; Miller, 2004).
But a (perceived) increasing vulnerability to climatic and other changes in many places clearly show the limits of these science-
based narratives and their top-down and technology-focused ‘risk management’ politics (Bremer et al., 2019b). Critically, these global
governance models enforce a strong normative imperative of averting ‘dangerous climate change’, but they fail to account for the
cultural speciﬁcity of places; the ways of living with the climate that make sense locally. Already in 2006, von Storch and Krauß
(2006) argued for an acknowledgment of the role of culture when it comes to deploying eﬀective forms of climate risk governance. In
the past decade, there was a constant ﬂow of studies that contributed to a long overdue cultural turn. The anthropologist Callison
(2014) marked this turning point with her monograph, “How climate change comes to matter: The communal life of facts”. At the
example of diﬀerent societal groups – scientists, journalists, evangelicals, or indigenous leaders – she shows that a cultural turn means
more than adding culture to the existing body of scientiﬁc knowledge about climate change. It means acknowledging the cultural
basis of all information about climate change, and the way scientiﬁc information is taken on and used in diﬀerent cultural practices.
The cultural turn with its focus on discourse and narratives shifts attention to the inherent and often hidden power strategies in
science-based climate risk governance. Indigenous climate change studies, about groups’ storied heritage, show the need for “in-
digenizing futures” (Whyte, 2017) and decolonizing the politics of adaptation and vulnerability (Cameron, 2012, Mahony and Hulme,
2016). The articles in this special issue build upon the work of these scholars and discuss the ways people are integrating climate
change into their daily lives and cultural practices, and how climate change “comes to matter” in municipal and regional politics,
including the incongruencies, misunderstandings and double-binds.
The literature on climate risk governance provides ample evidence of a mismatch between the management measures prescribed
by global experts and the actual actions taken by locals (Bremer et al., 2019a; Haque et al., 2017; Hooke and Pielke, 2000; Kirchhoﬀ
et al., 2013; Lorenz et al., 2016; van der Sluijs and Wardekker, 2015). One way to make climate governance more eﬀective, is for it to
be rooted in and inspired by local experience, knowledge and practices (Krauß, 2009, 2010a). Policy recommendations should have a
regard for the climatic micro-histories of speciﬁc regions, including the patterns of land use, of ownership or customary practices
(Olwig, 2019). Local narratives of change give an insight into the material-semiotic evolution of speciﬁc regions, their environmental
histories and, against this background, the eﬀects of current climate changes. Furthermore, many regions already have a troubled
history of several decades of climate politics, related to the implementation of the energy transition, adaptation of infrastructures and
public information. In these cases, it is less the lack of scientiﬁc information which makes climate measures ineﬀective than the
neglect of the actual life world. Climate change happens everywhere, but it does so in speciﬁc ways in each case.
Arguably, the mismatch between climate risk information and local action can be partly explained by a failure to account for the
ways communities experience actual climatic change, make sense of this change, and deal with the resulting changes. There are
increasing empirical studies of how communities appropriate climate governance discourse to their local places, and re-make it
around their diverse concerns, towards their own diverse ends (Bremer et al., 2019a; Ryghaug, 2011). In these places, there is a
change of climate narrative (Vanderlinden et al., 2020), and climate discourse takes a unique and often surprising shape. Scientiﬁc
calculations and models turn into stories and projections turn into imaginaries of the future. Climate stops being a pure matter of fact
and becomes part of the connected matters of concern that worry a community; from anxiety about dead whales with their guts full of
plastic bags (Bremer et al., 2020), to care for the dykes (Marschütz et al., 2020) or debates about the good life (Krauß, 2020).
Seen as such, climate risk governance better resembles a patchwork of connected activities, some of which are only tenuously
linked to the scientiﬁc deﬁnition of climate, and many of which do not follow from the global scientiﬁc narrative of climate. For
example, Bremer et al. (2020) present the NGO ‘Baærekraftige liv’ in Norway, whose climate adaptation program entails building
strong neighborhood democracy with a cadre of social activities, from repair cafes to public food gardens. Or engaged citizens on the
North Sea coast who simultaneously engage in campaigns to employ municipal climate managers, while worrying about the ex-
tinction of bees and supporting refugees stranded in their region (Krauß, 2020). Risk governance is invariably shaped by the way
climate risks are deﬁned, and it manifests itself in the ways we talk about climate. By focusing on technical, quantiﬁable deﬁnitions of
risk as the probability of deﬁned losses, this privileges scientiﬁc and professional knowledge systems and excludes other citizens from
the discussion, reducing them to subjects to educate. But in daily life and actual practice, the physical climate and the social climate,
the material and the semiotic nature of climate are inseparably intertwined. In everyday talk, in oﬃcial representations or historical
W. Krauß and S. Bremer Climate Risk Management 28 (2020) 100221
accounts, climate is already present. The task now is to link scientiﬁc information with these often hidden narratives in order to
enable participatory climate action (see Da Cunha et al., 2020; Wildschut and Zijp, 2020).
The various ethnographic case studies in this special issue discuss how climate change becomes a local matter of concern and
expands the scope of climate governance. They aim to better apprehend the interplay between global narratives of climate change and
local changes of climate narrative. The implication is that we are ‘curating’ climate information in places, and that more deliberate
attention to this ‘curation’ can explain why climate governance takes the form it does, and how it can be more eﬀective and legit-
imate. A focus on narratives gives insights into the culturalization of climate change. In so doing, the contributions address questions
like: Who is included in climate risk governance, and who is excluded? How can the encounter of diﬀerent forms of knowledge be
made productive? How do identities change when climate changes? How do new forms of co-development and collaborations be-
tween unlikely actors emerge, and what kinds of action are enabled? In this way, the articles in this special issue understand climate
‘culturally’ (Hulme, 2015; Rayner, 2016) and thus contribute to the current 'cultural turn’ in climate research
3. Narratives of change in time and place
All contributions to this special issue share a conceptual focus on narratives that voice communities’ concern for climatic and
other changes, such as historical stories about weather extremes, the role of weather for regional identity, seasonal weather ex-
pectations and related practices, regional adaptations of global climate discourse or new stories creatively made through colla-
boration between scientists and communities. Narratives are not a new subject in climate research (Bremer et al., 2017; Fløttum &
Gjerstad, 2017). Communication and media studies have discussed the narratives employed in framing climate change and how
better to communicate scientiﬁc studies to the public (Boykoﬀ, 2007; Wardekker et al., 2009); science studies has shifted focus on
issues like the use of metaphors in the production of scientiﬁc knowledge (Jasanoﬀ, 2010, Mayer, 2012), and anthropologists, human
geographers, linguists and others have studied the indigenous or local climate knowledge encapsulated in stories (Krupnik and Jolly
2002). Over time, these disciplines have established themselves in climate research, changing the research agenda and “giving rise to
a vibrant ﬁeld of (sometimes conﬂicting) methods and frameworks for making sense of the stories that invest meaning in social life”
(Marschütz et al., 2020).
Narratives are an emerging ﬁeld in interdisciplinary climate research, changing the ways we tell the story of climate change and
expanding the methodology of climate research. The rise of the Anthropocene as a new concept to frame global changes is one of the
prime examples. In science-based climate research, nature and culture, climate and society are still separated entities of research.
While the concept of the Anthropocene is still heavily disputed among geologists, in the humanities it is considered as challenging
“our intellectual dispositions” (Krauß 2015, 74), questioning the modern separation of nature and culture, and subsequently, of
science and society. In the Anthropocene, the focus is now on the entanglements of humans with the bio-, hydro-, atmo- and
geosphere, opening up a plethora of narrative elements to describe current changes in speciﬁc conﬁgurations of time and space. There
are diﬀerent time scales involved which go far beyond industrialization as the marker for the beginning of human induced climate
change. There is the longue durée of geological processes, of human land use, of the rise of civilizations and colonialism, to name just a
few, which deeply inﬂuence micro-climates and the global climate. These processes have local and regional histories, which all
inﬂuence the way people relate to their environment, how they construct their identities, how they shape and administer the
landscapes they inhabit. Thus, the Anthropocene serves as a narrative frame for the disturbing changes in the relation of people to
their environment and especially the weather. The eﬀects of climate change are entangled with the modes of industrial production, of
the ways of life and everyday experience. The calculation of the individual carbon footprint is an example of climate discourse in the
self-identiﬁcation of the human being in the neoliberal world. Every single person has to carry their share of the climate problem,
which is presented not as a political problem, but as an individual responsibility which can be measured, controlled and calculated.
In narrative theory, Mikhail Bakhtin (1981) introduced the concept of the ‘chronotope’, which marks in literature speciﬁc con-
ﬁgurations of time and space in which events are situated and become tellable. Chronotopes generate “stories through which a society
can explain itself” (Pratt 2017: 169). In the words of Mikhail Bakhtin (1981, 84), in the chronotope “(t)ime, as it were, thickens, takes
on ﬂesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsible to the movements of time, plot and history.” In
this issue, the articles of Krauß (2020), of Da Cunha et al. (2020) and of Baztan et al. (2020) make use of this concept in their case
studies at the North Sea, the Golfe du Morbihan or in Brest; using examples of historic monuments like ﬂood markers, architectural
constructions or historic pieces of art, they illustrate the speciﬁc entanglements of the inhabitants of these regions with their changing
The inclusion of narrative theory into interdisciplinary climate research comes with a set of methodologies, which all deserve a
certain amount of ethnographic scrutiny. It is necessary to listen to the narratives of the people, to study the popular representations
of a speciﬁc landscape, to read the historical accounts. Narratives have to be mapped, the speciﬁc conﬁgurations of time and space
that characterize regional narratives have to be identiﬁed, the material and semiotic changes have to analyzed (Krauß et al., 2019a,
2019b, 2019c). Following this set of guidelines, the contributors have emphasized diﬀerent features of narratives, and their relevance
for climate risk governance.
4. Lessons from narratives, for climate risk governance
One important feature of narratives is that they situate events in a certain place and a certain time, thus shifting attention from the
scientiﬁc abstraction of climate to the changes of weather and seasons as the materialization of climate change in discrete episodes.
Narratives give an insight into the weather worlds we are enmeshed in (Ingold, 2007), with Bauer and Bhan (2018, 21) arguing:
W. Krauß and S. Bremer Climate Risk Management 28 (2020) 100221
“Foregrounding weather makes human experience foundational to social research on climate change – a necessary step toward
understanding the politics, everyday practices, vulnerabilities, and discourses related to global warming and diﬀerentially imagined
futures.” Ryghaug (2011) similarly discuss weather experience as an important way people make sense of climate change, in order to
respond to climate risks. Horn (2007) shifts agency towards weather in her collection of Icelandic stories with the telling title
“Weather reports you”; Endﬁeld (2011) analyzes the relation between weather and identity in England and argues for “reculturing
and particularizing climate discourses”. It is a common concern of the contributors to this special issue, that narratives connect
climate to peoples’ daily experience of weather, to the formation of their identities and to their everyday practices and routines.
Another feature of narratives is their structure, often framed as a beginning-middle-end around a complication or drama. Related
to this structural analysis are the roles played by actors in the narratives, as hero or villain for instance (Fløttum and Gjerstad, 2017).
Bremer et al. (2020), show how the weather has always been an important setting in the stories Bergen told about itself, with
Bergensers the heroes who ‘weather through’. The identity of Friesians at the North Sea coast is based on the heroic ﬁght against the
murderous sea, the mythical ‘Blanke Hans’ (Krauß, 2020). But climate change is becoming the complication in these narratives, like
those about the deadly landslides in Bergen or rising sea level at the North Sea, opening up questions on who qualiﬁes as climate
heroes or villains. Structure is thus important for framing climate risks, with old risks like landslides or storm ﬂooding apparently
ampliﬁed by climate change (Bremer et al., 2019a). Narratives assign responsibility for risk governance; who is to be held ac-
countable and who is entitled for action.
A third feature of narratives is that they impart certain meanings or morals that motivate and legitimate local action. Stories
impose an interpretation of a situation, like climate change, which inspire a certain kind of response; be it practical or emotional
(Cronon, 1992). Narratives about extreme weather events and changes in seasons, about droughts, ﬂoods, or biodiversity loss give a
detailed insight into climate-related changes that are culturally meaningful. Von Storch and Krauß demonstrated at the example of
the Elbe river ﬂood 2002 in Germany and hurricane Katrina 2005 in the USA, that “culture contributes to the perception of climate
change” (von Storch and Krauß, 2006) and, of course, deeply inﬂuences climate risk governance. Several contributors in this issue
note the ways narratives have translated climate ideas and information into action, whether it be the Hatlestad Terrace landslide
narrative that changed local government policy in Bergen (Bremer et al., 2020), or the founding narrative of the Cooperative Uni-
versity of Amersfoort motivating citizen action (Wildschut and Zijp, 2020), or the stories of forced migration that build shared
identity and community in Kerourien (Baztan et al., 2020). In this way, narratives help explain why diﬀerent social groups respond
diﬀerently to climate risks in the same place.
Narratives can also be seen as material social and cultural artifacts (Bal, 1997). As a cultural mode of expressing and transmitting
our stories – in speech, artwork, theatre or text for instance – stories are framed by, and constitutive of, local cultural identity and
senses of place. Da Cunha et al. (2020), for instance, discuss the historical narratives tied to ancient artifacts like megaliths, as the
“building blocks of cultural identity” in Morbihan. Marschütz et al. (2020) show the prominence of historic narratives about the St
Elisabeth ﬂood, told in texts and maps for example, noting that “historic [narratives], embedded in local memory and identity, have a
surprisingly strong impact on how climate change is perceived and acted upon today”. On the other hand, contributors like Baztan
et al. (2020) and Da Cunha et al. (2020) highlight creative methods for culturally expressing new stories about climatic change and
governance responses, stating that through “art form-centred process[es] we used to embed community members’ values in salient
science narratives” (Baztan et al., 2020). These art-science co-operations range from theatre performances, to installing a ﬁctional
museum of the year 2100 in an old oyster farm.
A ﬁfth feature of narratives is their role as cognitive scripts for understanding complexity, in the context of climatic and other
rapid change (Bruner, 1991; Herman, 2003). To the extent that we use stories to order our thoughts, we can elicit people’s thoughts
on climate risk governance from the stories they tell (Lejano et al., 2013). In this way, a number of contributors (Baztan et al., 2020;
Da Cunha et al., 2020; Marschütz et al., 2020) talk about how they used interviews and workshops to elicit people’s tacit under-
standings and values around climate, as a precondition to decision-making for climate risk governance.
A sixth reason for narrative research was as a means of empowering marginalised groups for contributing to a public decision-
making process; “sharing [peoples] knowledge in a way that adheres to local cultural conventions, while critically challenging
entrenched power structures of whose knowledge counts” (Bremer et al., 2017; 671). In Dordrecht, for example (Marschütz et al.,
2020), this was a central concern, especially since they saw both similarities but also important diﬀerences between the narratives
told by the city municipality, and those told by residents in a vulnerable neighborhood. Similarly, Baztan et al. (2020) wanted to give
the marginalized residents of Kerourien a platform, on the occasion of the suburb’s 50th birthday, for voicing their aspirations for
their place; a place many have made home as a result of being forced to migrate from elsewhere.
A seventh feature of narratives highlighted in the contributions is that they are politically contested. Climate politics already have
a great inﬂuence on land use and everyday life (Krauß, 2020), as does climate science as a social actor (Bremer et al., 2017; Bremer
et al., 2020). In including local actors and in shifting perspective on the process, we actually understand climate as a trope which
people use in order to stabilize their relationships to the weather (Hulme, 2015). Climate change is as much a discursive disruption as
it is a material one, as seen in Rudiak-Gould’s (2013) work in the Paciﬁc region. In the encounter of local narratives and scientiﬁc
expertise, sometimes completely unexpected things happen that lead to a disruption of what we know about the adaptation of local
people to a changing climate (Vanderlinden et al., 2020). The contributions to this special issue have at least as much focus on the
divergences between local narratives (see e.g. Krauß, 2020; Marschütz et al., 2020), as on their similarities (Bremer et al., 2020):
divergences along spatial scales, where global meets local; divergences across institutions and social groups; divergences between the
past and future (Da Cunha et al., 2020) or divergences between social classes.
W. Krauß and S. Bremer Climate Risk Management 28 (2020) 100221
5. Diﬀerent places, diﬀerent narratives: the case studies
This special issue stems from research in or related to the ongoing ERA4CS research project CoCliServ – ‘Co-development of place-
based climate services of action’ (2017–2020). Six of the seven contributions result from research in this project. The goal of the
project is to experiment with new forms of collaboration between science and local communities to enable place-based actions in
response to climate change; to support adaptation with high quality knowledge. The locations are Dordrecht in the Netherlands, the
Wadden Sea in Germany, Bergen in Norway, Golfe du Morbihan and Brest in France, Amersfoort in the Netherlands, and, added for
the purpose of this special issue, several case studies in extreme landscapes in the Arctic and in Africa. The common thread is the
focus on the processes and procedures of the encounters between climate science and local perceptions. In most of the cases, there is
already a kind of climate governance. One of the triggers of climate governance are so-called climate services, which are mostly
organizations and research initiatives closely related to climate science. Climate services advise government administrations and
private enterprises, and they inform the public about the results of climate science. There are limits to a traditional one-way
knowledge transfer, which is mostly science-based and tends to ignore place-speciﬁc forms on knowledge.
In the Anthropocene, the boundaries between science and society are as blurred as those between nature and culture. People make
use of scientiﬁc projections which in turn shape their perceptions of climate and the weather, while scientists use narrative frames
from popular accounts like apocalyptical visions from the bible or Hollywood movies in making their own data meaningful (von
Storch and Krauß, 2013). Furthermore, science-based climate governance has to be brought into democracy. Change often comes
from unexpected sources, from indigenous groups of people and their place-based practices, from tinkerers or engaged citizens
(Krauß, 2010b). In the heat of the debate about climate change, science is easily used to end all other narratives, especially those of
skeptics, deniers or hesitant politicians. But as our case studies show, many people are concerned, and there is a myriad of local
initiatives going on. These voices have to be heard, the arguments included, and cooperation between science and communities to be
instilled, even at the risk of “contamination” (Tsing, 2015). Tsing understands contamination as the merging of discourses, between
disciplines or between science and public discourse, and she argues that it is important to take the risk of being contaminated. The
contributors to this issue talk about actively engaging and bringing these scientiﬁc and non-scientiﬁc narratives together in order to
co-develop place-based climate services for action.
In his article, Krauß (2020) slowly retraces how the term narrative gains meaning as a concept in an interdisciplinary project;
there is not a standard deﬁnition or methodology. This is also true for ﬁeld work: there is not a standard approach to gain access to
local narratives. His case study at the German North Sea coast values insights into the process and procedure over results and
information. This openness is reﬂected also in the article of Vanderlinden et al. (2020), which subsumes various encounters between
science and local knowledge and practices in diﬀerent places. The authors evoke a sense of wonder – which is a rarely used concept in
science – to describe the unexpected results from the encounters between these diﬀerent forms of knowledge. The case studies from
the Arctic and from Africa exemplify that narratives are not dead butterﬂies pinned on needles, ready for examination (Krauß, 2020);
quite the contrary, following them opens up the concept of place-based climate adaptation as a process and performance.
The article of Baztan et al. (2020) about a theater project with migrants living in Kerourien, Brest, gives clear evidence of
adaptation as performance. The history of this place and its architecture serve as a chronotope which enables people to tell their own
stories; the common project with a theater group turns narratives into performances. Engaging climate research with art means
intervening into places, communicating actively with its diverse and unstable populace, and in doing so, linking climate change with
Narratives are also in the center of the article of Da Cunha et al. (2020) about participatory action research at the Golfe du
Morbihan. The researchers explore chronotopes and narratives of the past, present and future to link stakeholders, NGOs and the
municipality in the quest for eﬀective forms of adaptation to changes in the coastal region. A special role is played by art and design
in appropriating climate science to the Golfe’s cultural frameworks; mediating science’s introduction to the on-going social, political
and cultural processes of adaptation planning.
Bremer et al. (2020) and Marschütz et al. (2020) trace in their respective case studies how cities actively engage with climate
change as a material challenge and exemplify how this engagement alters the process of self-identiﬁcation and perception of the
environment. Bergen is arguably becoming a “climate city”, as a shift from its traditional image as the “rainy city”, or “city of
weather”; climate science is already actively present as a mushrooming institution in public life. Bremer et al. (2020) show how
climate pervades many aspects of life and incites activities which are not directly related to a normative science-based understanding
of climate. Marschütz et al. (2020) shift focus on the social aspects of making a city climate-proof. Science is a concept which is
closely related to and embedded in administration and politics, and not everybody has equal access to these institutions. The case of
Dordrecht gives evidence of the often-neglected fact that adapting infrastructures to the challenges imposed by climate change means
intervening into the social fabric of the city. Who is included in this process, and who is excluded? In both case studies, citizen
participation and citizen science play an important role.
Citizen science, as a social practice, stands in the center of the article of Wildschut and Zijp (2020). They tell the story of the
independent university of Amersfoort, which is a constantly developing local hub of citizen science. At the example of a climate
project – “measure your own city” – they show citizen science as an activity which resembles science, but which acts on their own and
sometimes unpredictable terms. Based on their experience with numerous citizen science projects, they tell a narrative of how their
practices of autonomous citizen science have developed, as distinct from traditional approaches where citizens are simply data
collectors, or “science’s little helpers”. Activities of NGOs or citizen-science, the inclusion of art or the ups-and-downs of encounters
between science and local actors are prime examples for the inherent power of narratives of change. The focus on narratives sets a
process in motion, leads to unexpected collaborations and marks a cultural turn in climate governance. In the conclusion, Silvio
W. Krauß and S. Bremer Climate Risk Management 28 (2020) 100221
Funtowicz (2020) embeds these individual projects into a broader perspective and highlights the role of narratives for climate
governance. He argues that the sole focus on the techno-scientiﬁc nexus does not ﬁt the multidimensional nature of risk; the inclusion
of narratives opens up the governance-society nexus, new ways to link the local with the global and climate risk governance with
This special issue provides a multi-faceted discussion of how consideration of narratives of change is important for climate
-providing insights into the social construction of climate risk in diﬀerent places: local narratives and representations of climatic, social
and natural changes form the social basis for determining climate risk;
-showing the importance of climate history to climate projections: understanding communities’ history of climate and it impacts in a
place is important for thinking about how climate change may impact on them in the future;
-highlighting the role of values, customary practices, social and economic changes, environmental justice, and gender-issues: climate risks
are multi-facetted and transcend the boundaries between nature and culture and science and society;
-critically reﬂecting on how climate science and -policy is changing social order: communities are not only exposed to natural impacts of
climatic change, but also to the social impacts of a bold new global climate governance regime;
-demonstrating how climate science can be made more useable: linking climate science to local narratives of change can make the
science more meaningful for communities and better able to be acted on;
-giving accounts of creative methods of extending climate science through art and citizen science initiatives: ways of rethinking and
legitimizing climate science and how it can be integrated with climate governance and action;
-expanding the scope of science-based climate information: place-based climate governance is dialogic and rooted in culture; it implies
the risk of communication, needs extended peer review and a novel conception of science-based information and cultural symbols.
Done properly, including narratives into climate research gives new incentives for democratic climate governance; tying together
diverse sources of evidence that converge in a triangulation fashion to indicate and infer the ways people experience and respond to
climate impacts. Thus, the narrative approach is not just another instrument to enable translation of scientiﬁc data and to add local
forms of knowledge to the scientiﬁc one. Quite the contrary, the narrative approach challenges the exclusivity of the scientiﬁc
deﬁnition of the climate problem and opens up new ways of dealing with a changing climate. The solutions of a problem depend very
much on how the problem is deﬁned, as well as who is allowed to speak, to participate and to act.
Role of the funders
This research was ﬁnanced by the EU ERA4CS CoCliServ project, and Bremer also had support from the ERC ‘CALENDARS’ project
(804150). The funders had no involvement in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of
the manuscript; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing ﬁnancial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to
inﬂuence the work reported in this paper.
The authors, as co-editors of this special issue, want to thank all contributors for their honest, creative and interesting treatment of
narratives in climate research. This paper was written with the support of the ERA4CS research project CocliServ (Grant Agreement
274246) – ‘Co-development of place-based climate services of action’ (2017-2020). Scott Bremer would also like to acknowledge the
support of the ERC-funded ‘CALENDARS’ project (Grant Agreement 804150). Both authors want to thank the reviewers for their
insightful comments and suggestions.
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