Summary: DEFINING AND EXPERIENCING DANGEROUS CLIMATE CHANGE
An Editorial Essay
SURAJE DESSAI1, W. NEIL ADGER1, 2, MIKE HULME1, JOHN TURNPENNY1,
JONATHAN KÖHLER1, 3 and RACHEL WARREN1
1Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences,
University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, U.K.
2Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE),
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, U.K.
3Department of Applied Economics, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue,
Cambridge CB3 9DE, U.K.
Abstract. Understanding what constitutes dangerous climate change is of critical importance for
future concerted action (Schneider, 2001, 2002). To date separate scientific and policy discourses
have proceeded with competing and somewhat arbitrary definitions of danger based on a variety
of assumptions and assessments generally undertaken by `experts'. We argue that it is not possible
to make progress on defining dangerous climate change, or in developing sustainable responses to
this global problem, without recognising the central role played by social or individual perceptions
of danger. There are therefore at least two contrasting perspectives on dangerous climate change,
what we term `external' and `internal' definitions of risk. External definitions are usually based
on scientific risk analysis, performed by experts, of system characteristics of the physical or social