Photograph of Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen

Dr Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen

Telephone : 01482 465349

e-mail :

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen is an environmental policy specialist with particular interests in science, energy and the environment as drivers of the politics of climate change policy in the UK, EU and at the UN. She edits the journal 'Energy & Environment', Multi-science

Born in Dresden I left East Germany in 1956 and eventually trained as a geographer in Adelaide, South Australia doing a first research degree in geomorphology. I also studied German literature and a bit of economics and geology. This prepared me for my later ‘non-disciplinary’ research career in policy analysis. Circumstance ensured that this focused on environmental politics and policy-formation in Germany, Britain, the EU and the World.

I have lived in England since 1969 and my two children probably feel most at home here. On my return to Europe I allowed my husband, a space physicist, to support me for a while I studied International Relations at the University of Sussex. Geography had become too quantified for my liking, I wanted to understand the political world, still engaged in Cold War battles but soon to turn rhetorically green from the top down. This came as a surprise, especially as this appeared to happen from within ‘America’, bastion of global capitalism. The ‘Limits to Growth’ debate had begun, the oil crises of the 1970s made many people expect the worst of and for humanity. I happened to be at the place where the limits to growth models were debunked.

Mature Student and Waldsterben
I next combined motherhood with doing a Ph.D., and the environment reasserted itself as I studied the law of the sea and the emerging international regime to control marine pollution. When my husband worked at a Max-Planck Institute in Munich (1981-1985), I joined the Institute for International Public Law at the University of Munich, working as part time research assistant and translator. People there were particularly interested in environmental issues at that time. I personally experienced not only the rise of the Green Party and the beginning of the acid rain debate but also, through several visits after our return to Brighton, the collapse of East Germany and all this implied for man, beast and nature.

UK Research Fellow and Policy Analyst
These experiences, combined with my academic background, to explain why I was asked in 1985 to join SPRU (now the Science and Technology Research Unit) at the University of Sussex to add the political dimension to an investigation of ‘acid rain’ and the West European energy sector. Germany was bringing potentially very costly pressures to bear on the UK via the EC. I studied air pollution, from the perspective of science, international politics, law, and above all, the domestic and international politics that linked energy technology and fuel policies increasingly to ‘the environment’.

Environment becomes fashionable and I turn sceptic
From experience rather than environmental management books I learnt that environmental issues are extremely complex and soon cease to be ‘environmental’ - except in the heads of environmentalists and some academics. The identification and attempted solution of ‘green’ problems require much knowledge, including geographical ‘ground truthing’. While at SPRU I wrote books relating to ‘acid rain’, where this issue almost seamlessly faded into ‘global warming’ as early as 1985 when the issue of flooding was raised in Germany and soon inside the EC as well. Current research continues following the geo-politics of this issue, with a growing inclination towards scepticism (and the solar hypothesis). Many of the motives of supporters of ‘green’ solutions and ideas are suspect and the political ignorance or naivetey of environmentalists are a concern to me. Given the nature of our society, the impacts of green policies tend to increase inequality and exclusion. I should like to see research in this area, but doubt that it will be funded. My approach to the teaching of environmental management is therefore analytical and ‘critical’, and my non-teaching time is spent as much on maintaining and promoting participation in policy debates as on writing academic papers and books.

Energy & Environment: a multi-disciplinary journal
While wanting and usually enjoying the experience of teaching, my interest in the policy debates about energy and environment links, where energy considerations may well ‘drive’ environmental concerns, are difficult to sustain by research under current university conditions. So I am editing the journal Energy & Environment to keep up with debates and developments and try to feed these back into teaching and the occasional paper. I began editing the journal in 1996. It is in its twelfth year of publication and now appears six times a year. The stance is critical of conventional wisdom and encourages natural scientists to inform engineers, economists and political scientists, and vice versa. The focus is on energy policy debates in relation to the numerous environmental ‘concerns’ that have surfaced in recent decades.  It is
dedicated to publishing peer-reviewed material from all academic disciplines and professional perspectives related to energy and environment. The journal encourages the air of controversies and publications from new authors working in developing countries.

The journal is published by the Multi-Science Publishing Company. It can be accessed, free to subscribers, through ; details from It is also available in the Main Library, Hull University and the Map Library in Geography Department.

Research and Travel
I have travelled widely during my research, to the USA, Brazil, Sweden, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, in connection with my interest in the politics of climate change. Past research included an ESRC GEC Phase 4 grant on

  • ‘The Functioning of the Global Environment Facility: a political analysis’. This is now completed, but some interest in the GEF and World Bank remain, assisted by Zoe Young, who is completing a doctoral dissertation on this subject.

In summer 2002 I completed a collaboration on a project for the UK Health and Safety Executive.

  • ‘ Societal Concerns in Risk Assessment’ with David Ball (Middlesex University), John Adams, (UCL), and Michael Thompson, (University of Bergen).

This work is now complete an can be consulted on the HSE webpage.

Most recently I visited Russia (The Institutue for Ecological Security and Prof. Kirill Kondratyev), Finland (University of Turku), the Netherlands and Berlin, giving the keynote address to the RMNO (Advisory Council for Research on Spatial Planning, Nature and the Environment) Annual Conference 'Disaster, failure or success'. I spoke on the drivers of climate change policy and reform of IPCC. In December 2002 I gave a paper to German Political Science Society on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme, asking 'Is Sustainability Science' a threat to humanity?'

I am a member of UNEP-UK (Stakeholder Forum) and of the Advisory Board of the UK pressure group 'Scientific Alliance'( ) which tries to strengthen the scientific dimension in environmental debates, and enjoy some collaboration with the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee. I would like to do research on the professional ethics, asking whether other academics are as concerned as I am about the funding of current research.

Recent refereed journal articles

  • 'Science, Equity and the War against Carbon'. 2003, Journal of Science, Technology and Human Values, 28,1, Winter 2003 pp.69-92.
  • 'Investing Against Climate Change: Why Failure Remains Possible', 2002, Environmental Politics, 11(3), pp.1-30.
  • ' The geo-politics of sustainable development: bureaucracies and politicians in search of the holy grail', Geoforum,33 (3), Summer 2002 pp.351-366.
  • Differentiation since Kyoto: An Exploration of Australian Climate Policy in Comparison to Europe/UK, Energy & Environment, 11 (3), 2000, p.343-353.
  • Who and what is driving climate change policy? Proceedings Russian Geographical Society, Vol.132, No.3, (due June 2000: translated into Russian by K.Ya.Kondrateyev)
  • ‘Climate Change and the World Bank: Opportunity for Global Governance? Energy & Environment, Vol.10, No.1, January 1999.
  • (with Zoe Young) Green Energy Facilitated? The Uncertain Future of the Global Environment Facility, Energy & Environment, 9,1, 1998.
  • ‘A winning coalition of advocacy: climate research, bureaucracy and ‘alternative’ fuels’, Energy Policy, Vol. 25, No. 4., pp.439-44, 1997.
  • ‘Political Pressures in the Formation of Scientific Consensus’, Energy & Environment, Vol.7, No.4, 1996 pp. 365-375; also in John Emsley (ed.), The Global Warming Debate, London 1996.
  • ‘Britain and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The impacts of scientific advice on global warming: Integrated policy analysis and the global dimension.’ Environmental Politics, Vol.4, No. 1, Spring 1995, pp.1-18.
  • ‘Britain and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The impacts of scientific advice on global warming Part II: The Domestic Story of the British Response to Climate Change, Environmental Politics, Vol.4, No.2, Summer 1995, pp.175-196.
  • ‘Reflections on scientific advice and EC transboundary pollution policy, Science and Public Policy, Vol. 22, no.3 June 1995, pp.195-203.
  • ‘The politics of European environmental policy’, Energy & Environment, Vol. 6, no.3, 1995, pp.169-195.
  • ‘Britain and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’, Environmental Management and Health, Vol. 6, No. 5, 1995, pp.14-25.
  • ‘Reflections on the Politics linking Science, Environment and Innovation’, Innovation, Vol.8, No.3, 1995 pp.275-287.
  • 'Global Climate Protection Policy: the limits of scientific advice - Part I.' Global Environmental Change, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1994, pp. 140-159.
  • 'Global Climate Protection Policy: the limits of scientific advice - Part II.' Global Environmental Change, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1994.
  • 'Politics and Environmental Management.' Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Vol. 37, No. 1, 1994.
  • (with J F Skea) ‘The Operation and Impact of the IPCC: Results of a Survey of Participants and Users’. STEEP discussion paper no. 16, SPRU, Brighton 1994.
  • 'A Scientific Agenda for Climate Policy?' Nature, Vol. 372, 1 December 1994.
  • ' Science Policy, the IPCC and the Climate Convention: the codification of a global research agenda.' Energy and Environment; Vol. 4, No. 4, 1993, pp. 362-408.
  • 'Ecological Restructuring or Environment Friendly Deindustrialisation: the fate of the East German energy sector and society since 1990.' Energy Policy, April 1993, pp. 355-373.
  • 'Environmentalism and Nuclear Power: Anglo-German Comparison', Energy and Environment, Vol 3, No 1, June 1992.
  • 'Taken to the Cleaners: The Fate of the East German Energy Sector since 1990', Environmental Politics, Vol. 1, No 2, Frank Cass, London, July 1992, pp .196-228.
  • 'Anglo-German Contrasts in Environmental Policy-Making and their Impacts in the Case of Acid Rain Abatement', International Environmental Affairs, Vol. 4, No 4, 1992.
  • 'Energy Policy and Public Opinion: The manipulation of environmental threats by vested interests in Britain and Germany', Energy Policy, Vol. 18, No 9, November 1990.

Books and Monographs

  • Book in preparation with Zoe Young, University of Hull, on Green Aid and the Global Environment Facility.
  • International Environmental Policy: Interests and the Failures of the Kyoto Process, with Aynsley Kellow, University of Hobart, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002.
  • The Politics of Vehicle Emission Reduction in Britain and Germany, with Helmut Weidner, Pinter/Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, London, 1995.
  • Acid Politics: Environmental and Energy Policies in Britain and Germany, with J F Skea, Belhaven Press, London/New York, p 296, 1991 (paperback April 1993).

Book chapters

  • ‘Epilogue’, final chapter (10) in Pim Martens & Jan Rotmans (eds.), 1999, Climate Change: An Integrated Approach. (Advances in Global Change Research), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, for , December, pp. 357-397.
  • ‘The British Story’ in: Kenneth Hanf and Arild Underdal (eds.), 1999, International Environmental Agreements and Domestic Politics: The Case of Acid Rain, Ashgate, Aldershot, pp. 279-312.
  • ‘Alternative dispute settlement and the environment: The British case’, 1998, in H. Weidner, Environmental Mediation Handbook , Sigma, Berlin, December.
  • ‘Environment-friendly deindustrialisation: impacts of unification on East Germany. 1998, in A. Tickle and I. Welsh (eds.) : Environment and Society in Eastern Europe, Longman, Harlow.
  • ‘Who is driving Climate Change Policy?’ In Julian Morris (ed.), 1998, Climate Change: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, The Institute of Economic Affairs, London.
  • Uncertainty in the Service of Science: Between Science Policy and the Politics of Power, 1997, in Gunnar Fermann, International Politics of Climate Change, Scandinavian University Press , Oslo.
  • ‘Science, power and policy.' In: Mark Imber and John Vogler (eds.), Global Environmental Change in International Relations; London: Routledge, 1996, pp. 171-195.
  • ‘Political pressure in the formation of scientific consensus’, in John Emsley (ed.), The Global Warming Debate, The Report of the European Science and Environment Forum, London, 1996.
  • ''The precautionary principle in Germany - enabling Government.' In: Timothy O'Riordan and John Cameron (eds.), 1994. Interpreting the Precautionary Principle; London: Cameron May. .

Site maintained by :  28th November 2003