Category: Stacy VanDeveer

New PhD course: Climate change leadership – from science and technology to fair policies for climate and biodiversity protection

Klimatledarskap: från vetenskap och teknik till rättvis policy för att klara samhällsmål för klimat och biologisk mångfald (5hp)


Language of instruction: English
Course period: Spring 2024
Course structure: Campus teaching, Uppsala University


One year of doctoral studies when the course starts is recommended.


Upon completion of the course participants should be able to:

  • account for how knowledge about science and technology may be used in fair policy-making, for the roles of science-based advice, and the interactions between science and norms;
  • account for how science denial and various advocacy actors may influence research, researchers, the public understanding of science, and policy processes;
  • demonstrate familiarity with ways and means for scientists to shoulder leadership for mitigating and counteracting science denial in communication and science-based advise;
  • analyse and critically discuss political, economic and social instruments and their synergies and barriers for climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection;
  • analyse and critically discuss leadership, policy-making and policies for achieving public goals for at least climate change mitigation, biodiversity protection and chemicals management and resource use
Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash


The course promotes at least the examination goals A1 (by offering in-depth application of the course content in an essay linked to a theme of the doctoral project), B1 and B2 (critical assessment of emerging new and complex topics), B6 (societal development and the learning of peers), and C2 (the role of science in society).


Science and technology play a fundamental role for the achievement of the sustainable development goals, not least when it comes to environmental objectives linked to e.g. climate change, biodiversity loss and chemicals pollution. However, the role of science and technology in society, as well as various policies for fair transformation, are questioned from different viewpoints and knowledge always interacts with norms in complex societal processes. Senior scientists as well as PhD students often stand in the middle of this. They would consequently benefit from enhanced awareness of what science says about the science-policy landscape generally and in their specific fields, and from critical reflections and practice on how to manoeuvre in order to uphold scientific integrity while at the same time shouldering responsibility and leadership that foster sustainable development goals.

On this basis the course is organised around six workshops with lectures, seminars and practical exercises at campus focusing on the following themes, content, theories and practical skills:

  • I: Science, technology and justice: Expertise and justice in science and technology, sustainability science, STS; lecture and reading exercise, case study on bioenergy (2 days, 10 hours, March 5-6, outside of Uppsala with overnight stay*).
  • II: Science denial and how to counteract it: Environmental science denial; hallmarks of scientific leadership; environmental communication; media, and advocacy; deliberation and participation theories; case study: features of climate denial in Sweden practical exercise: PhD students in dialogues and debates; (2 days, 10 hours, March 19-20, Uppsala, on campus)
  • III: Fair transformations: Political theory and climate justice; norms in economic theory; social theories on risk and globalisation; case study: linkages between participants’ PhD projects and potential sustainable transformations. (1 day, 5 hours, April 11, Uppsala, on campus)
  • IV: Policies, decisions and institutions, Part I: Climate leadership and biodiversity protection – rapid local, national and global proliferation of strategies and policies for synergies that bridge climate mitigation, adaption and biodiversity protection. Part II: Policies, decisions and institutions: Sustainability and the resource nexus – challenges and interactions of e.g. minerals extraction and energy transformation, and the tensions between global SDGs and climate governance; case study: linkages between PhD projects and environmental policies. (4 days, 20 hours for Part I and II, April 16-17 and April 23-24, Uppsala, on campus )
  • V: Presentation of essays: Course participants will be examined through an essay that will link each participants’ doctoral project to a theme in the course. Presentation, opposition and group discussions. (2 days, 10 hours, May 21-22 outside of Uppsala with overnight stay*)

*board and loging costs on retreat days are covered

Students will invest additional time (ca 2 weeks worktime) for reading and preparation of cases and their essay and presentation.



The course is transdisciplinary and consists of six workshops (of which three are two day-gatherings), each comprising a combination of lectures and seminars with case scenarios in which the students will link knowledge to their own area of research to the course themes. Lectures are given and seminars are supervised by the new Uppsala University Zennström Professor in Climate Change Leadership, other senior lecturers and researchers at CCL and NRHU, and guest lecturers from other universities in Sweden and beyond (the latter online). Ample opportunities are provided for active student participation and critical reflection. Participation in seminars and lectures is compulsory.


Each student is assessed through a written essay.


Zennström Visiting Professor, Stacy VanDeveer,


Department of Earth Sciences


Associate Professor Mikael Karlsson,


Submit the application for admission to:
Submit the application not later than:  20 January 2024

Why is climate policy increasingly contested when we know so much more?

On 9 October professor Stacy VanDeveer held his inauguration lecture after being appointed as the 2023-24 Zennström visiting professor. Stacy VanDeveer is a professor and chair of the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security & Global Governance at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston.

Returning to his research roots

In front of more than hundred participants at Humanistiska teatern, among which were his husband and his mother, VanDeveer gave an overview of his research which has been devoted to questions of global environmental politics and the interfaces between science and policy. He has explored the roles of experts and power relationships in policymaking, US and EU environmental and energy politics, and processes and institutions of global environmental policymaking. The theme of his PhD dissertation was on the regional collaboration around the Baltic and Mediterranean Sea. With his appointment as 2023-24 Zennström visiting professor at Uppsala University, he has returned to Scandinavia, which was part of his initial research areas.

Stacy VanDeveer in front of the audience holding his presentation
Stacy VanDeveer introducing his past and present work
Screens showing VanDeveers lecture on climate policy
A hot topic that interested many – more than 120 people attended the lecture in the room and online

Why has better scientific knowledge not advanced climate policy more?

Even though the collaboration around the Baltic and Mediterranean Sea involved the affected governments, they were also driven by scientists in different capacities. A question he explored was whether scientific participation had any impact on policymaking. He found that the countries that had institutional capacity had the best opportunities to transform scientific, technical and environmental knowledge into policy action. Later he studied co-production processes of knowledge between scientists and policymakers.

On the role of experts, VanDeveer concluded that scientists have often not made themselves particularly useful in environmental policymaking. At the same time, there has been a notion that growing scientific consensus, together with more certainty and confidence, increasing awareness and knowledge among the public and policymakers, and visibility of the impacts of climate change, should translate into political action. However, this has not happened. The consequence is that we still have mediocre climate polices, which are now even rolled back in some countries, including Sweden.

Discursive power and climate change consequences empower climate leadership

So what makes for efficient climate leadership if not scientific facts and expert knowledge? One approach has been discursive power using a combination of scientific language and justification in social and economic arguments. While movements understood it was difficult to influence central governments, they begun to venue shop, identifying institutions or organisations willing to move ahead and lead by example. Knowledge has been institutionalized within institutions and companies, by employment of environmental experts. There have been attempts made to drive normative change overtime. The European Union is a leading example by having set high product standards that have had an impact on manufacturing norms even beyond Europe.

Another fact that promotes climate leadership is that climate issues are no longer a remote problem for those of us in the Global North. Consequences of climate change and are beginning to affect people’s lives at our door step. Furthermore, climate issues are increasingly linked up with other political issues and grievances.

Opponents of climate transition cause climate policy backlash

At the same time, opponents of climate transition have also learned from the success and failure of climate leadership and grievances, and understood how they can shape efficient counteractive measures. One way is to re-politicise the norms, arguing that environmental policies were not enacted for a good cause. They have chosen not to challenge policies in full and at a central level, but to turn down selected parts of such policies. Opponents have made attempts to delay policies, by claiming that they are not against climate policies, but that changes are happening too fast. The groups fighting back are powerful with both economic and media resources. In recent years, environmental policy backlashes have also occurred in many countries, such as Sweden and the United Kingdom. Even though citizens usually do not support attempts to roll back adopted climate polices, climate issues are generally not prioritized by the electorate. Immediate issues, such as crime, are often more concerning, and these types of grievances have been successfully exploited. With such examples, VanDeveer concluded that there will be no “magical moment” when the need for climate policy action will be broadly accepted and supported. The climate transition will accordingly be a constant struggle ridden by conflicts.

The entire event was recorded and can be watched here

Panel discussion on the progress of climate politics and the role of (political) science

The lecture of Stacy VanDeveer was followed by a panel discussion led by Mikael Karlsson, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change Leadership lecture. Participating in the panel was Naghmeh Nasiritousi, associate professor in political science, Johanna Sandahl, chairperson of the EEB (The European Environmental Bureau) and Charles Parker, professor in political science.

From left Mikael Karlsson, Naghmeh Nasiritousi, Johanna Sandahl and Charles Parker standing at the front of the room and discuss climate policy
Panel discussion. From left to right: Mikael Karlsson, Naghmeh Nasiritousi, Johanna Sandahl and Charles Parker

The panelists were invited to reflect and comment on the presentation. While agreeing with the statement that no magic moment will occur for the acceptance of climate policy, Parker stressed that we should also look at the cumulative effect of science. Increasing scientific evidence has paved the way for today’s international cooperation around climate change, whereas a transformation of policy is still needed for the solutions to come into play. With new and more radical movements growing stronger, the traditional environmental NGO sector is struggling to deal with the question of climate change. Sandahl advocated for co-production of knowledge, and not just looking at environmental science but also bringing in perspectives from political science and humanities. Zooming out, Nasiritousi compared the backlash of climate policy to a more general backlash of democracy. She pointed to a bias in the literature towards successful cases. Instead, we need to study the conflictual politics of climate change.

Audience with VanDeveer sitting at the front and taking notes
VanDeveer in the audience taking notes during the panel discussion

Urgency, solidarity and leading by example can drive change

Despite the growing body of knowledge on climate change and its solutions, there is a notion that progress is still slow. Parker made a point that the time scales of climate change and international relations do not match. Even though the conversation around climate change started 50 years ago, we did not get any proper international agreement before 2015. Yet, from a diplomatic perspective, this is rapid. The problem is that the system is blinking red, and we need to act now. A lack of solidarity in politics was pointed out by Sandahl as another explanatory factor, which she saw as counterproductive given that climate change is increasingly affecting people’s lives. Nasiritousi painted a global picture of climate politics as complex and polycentric, and she stressed the need for courageous countries to take the lead in climate leadership. The discussion briefly touched upon the role of (political) scientists and the impact and the expectations for the upcoming COP28.

VanDeveer surrounded by the panel commenting what he has head during the panel discussion
VanDeveer commented the panel discussion and the panel answered questions from the audience

Research interest in the effects of activism

During the open discussion, a broad range of questions were raised. The topic of adaptation was brought to the conversation, where a lack of climate leadership has been seen. VanDeveer argued that compared to mitigation, we have not been able to find ways to make money of adaption, which is hampering its implementation. One of the final questions that sparked interest across the entire panel was on activism. The panelists agreed that more research on the topic is needed, both in terms of understanding different arenas of activism but also to understand whether disruptive activism is helping or hurting climate policy.

After the presentation followed a mingle. Seasonal finger food was served, showcasing Scandinavian fall produce such as pumpkin and beetroot. Most of the audience stayed and continued the conversation with both panelists and the new Zennström professor, Stacy VanDeveer.

Mikael Karlsson and Stacy VanDeveer standing next to each other outside Humanistiska teatern
Mikael Karlsson and Stacy VanDeveer during the lunch mingle
Daniel Lindvall shaking hand with Michael Harding, VanDeveer's husband, and his mother standing to his right.
Daniel Lindvall, senior researcher at CCL (right) greeting Stacy’s family

Stacy VanDeveer new Zennström visiting professor in Climate Change Leadership

Stacy VanDeveer becomes Uppsala university’s sixth Zennström visiting professor in climate change leadership. The guest professorship is part of a ten year’s series of yearly alternating guest professorships that is financed by a donation from Zennström Philanthropies, founded by Uppsala university alumnus Niklas Zennström and his wife Catherine Zennström. The purpose with the Zennström visiting professorship is to contribute through state-of-the art research and teaching with new perspectives and solutions related to the global climate crisis.

Stacy VanDeveer is a professor and chair of the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security & Global Governance at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston, interim director for the Centre for Governance & Sustainability at UMass Boston. He will work 50% at the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University within the unit for Climate Change Leadership from September 2023 to August 2024.

VanDeveer’s research answers key questions of global environmental politics and the interface between science and policy. The resulting answers have left strong marks on scholarly and non-scholarly communities alike. This includes his work on the roles of experts in policymaking, EU environmental and energy politics, and processes and institutions of global environmental policymaking. Professor VanDeveer has also conducted community-engaged research on climate change policies in the US. He is frequently advising local, state and federal officials in the US on how to improve climate policy-making.

As recent events around the globe demonstrate, climate change is growing more dangerous. Our policies, and our local and national political leaders, must push forward to accelerate our commitments. If Sweden joins the ranks of the member states who want to go slower rather than lead, European and global climate action is likely to slow – or fail. I want to see a stronger climate leadership, that addresses problems in our lives and communities while, at the same time, reduces emissions and makes our communities more resilient and sustainable, says professor Stacy VanDeveer.

Stacy VanDeveer. Picture credit: Judith Lundberg-Felten

Stacy VanDeveer will participate in research, teaching and external collaboration as part of the growing research group in Climate Change Leadership, CCL, at Uppsala University.

The gap between climate goals and emissions is large and further research is needed on how to overcome barriers to climate mitigation in politics and society. Stacy VanDeveer has a unique international insight into how the climate issue and other environmental problems are governed. As visiting professor, Stacy VanDeveer will strengthen our research and support our communication about the opportunities arising when working to achieve society’s environmental goals in fair and effective ways, says Mikael Karlsson, head of the climate change leadership unit at Uppsala University and responsible for the recruitment of VanDeveer.

Read more about Stacy and his motivation and ambitions with the visiting professorship here. Take the opportunity to attend Stacy’s inaugural lecture on October 9th at 9am at Humanistiska teatern. More information about the programme and registration will follow.