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

  • Svenja KeeleEmail author
Original Paper


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.



I would like to acknowledge the receipt of an Australian Postgraduate Award that supported this research project, and the supervisory guidance from Professor Ruth Fincher and Associate Professor Lauren Rickards. This article has benefitted from generous readings by Dr. Sophie Webber, Dr. Sonia Graham, Dr. Sarah Rogers and Elissa Waters as well as three anonymous reviewers although all errors remain the author’s own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and the School of GeographyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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