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How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate

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Table of Contents

Contents and Abstracts1A Cultural Schism chapter abstractChapter 1 presents an overview of the arguments in this book. It also presents data on the state of the scientific consensus on climate change, and contrasts that with data on the lack of a social consensus on the issue. 2Social Psychology and the Climate Change Debate chapter abstractChapter 2 explores the social science of how we make sense of complex scientific information, what we hear when these issues are raised and how to conceptualize the cultural schism before us. It also presents the sources of disagreement over climate change on four discrete elements of distrust - distrust of the messengers, distrust of the process that creates the message, distrust of the message itself and distrust of the solutions that come from the message 3Sources of Organized Resistance chapter abstractChapter 3 discusses the organized movements that seek to resist changes and the role of both mainstream and new social media in assisting them. Specifically, it outlines the two primary forms of structured resistance that emerge from threatened economic interests and threatened ideological interests. 4Bridging the Cultural Schism chapter abstractChapter 4 explains the social science of how cultures change and offers some suggested tactics and strategies for clarifying the public debate over climate change. It presents four categories of tactics that address the sources of resistance discussed in chapter 3 and mirror the four forms of distrust presented in chapter 2: The messenger is as important as the message, address the process by which the message was created, choose messages that are accessible, and present solutions that represent a commonly desired future. 5Historical Analogies for Climate Change chapter abstractChapter 5 presents two examples of historic culture changes that can teach us something about the cultural challenge we face on climate change. The first is the debate over cigarette smoking and cancer, highlighting the difference between a scientific consensus and a social consensus and the process that leads from one to the other. The second is the debate over the abolition of slavery, highlighting the magnitude of the cultural shift we now face and the multiple pathways for achieving it. 6The Full Scope chapter abstractChapter 6 concludes with a discussion of the importance of the full scope of the social change that climate change represents. Climate change is part of a large-scale shift that is taking place in human history. That larger shift is called the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch in which human activities have a significant impact on the Earth's ecosystems.

About the Author

Andrew J. Hoffman is Professor of Sustainable Enterprise and Director of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.


"This is a well-researched treatment of cultural dimensions of climate science and policy. Hoffman's ability to organize overlapping literatures into a cogent assessment of the current conditions makes for a wonderful book." -- Max Boykoff, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) * University of Colorado-Boulder * "One of the tallest orders of our day is to communicate effectively about global warming. Hoffman shows us how to talk about climate science and policy in ways that depolarize the debate and empower people to form their own opinions based on the scientific risks. This book is a valuable resource, and it comes at the right time." -- Ken Kimmell * President of the Union of Concerned Scientists and former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection * "Hoffman aggregates and analyzes social scientific data regarding reasons for disagreement, among the US public, about the veracity of the science of climate change. He asserts that public perception of the climate change debate is rooted in avoidance . . . An accessible, intelligent, comprehensive discussion of the impact of cultural values and political economies on the use and acceptance of scientific data and theories . . . Highly recommended." -- H. Doss * CHOICE * "Andrew is so right: 'It's about values, not science.' We learn values and their application from people we trust. So, in order to build trust, we must go to them with credible messengers and affirm their truth. This book offers a clear explanation of why this is so, and what do about it." * U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC4) (1993-1999; 2005-2011) * "I can certainly see [this book] being used by high school science teachers and teacher educators in science teacher preparation courses to help students understand the psychological and cultural aspects of the ongoing differences in people's views on climate change, and many other socially contentious issues. Concerned citizens and activists should also be able to mine many interesting and useful nuggets of information and advice from the book that can help them reach across the divide and build crosscutting alliances that are so critical for any meaningful progress to occur on climate change." -- Ajay Sharma * Science & Education * "Hoffman, [...], first lays out the psychological and social biases people bring to the climate discussion and then suggest techniques for making that conversation more productive . . . This slender, practical volume will aid anyone hoping to sway climate deniers - whether on Facebook, from a podium, or over a beer." -- Jake Abrahamson * Sierra Magazine * "Throughout the book, the author does an exceptional job of clearly summarizing what is a wealth of information, and presents it in a way that the reader can digest with ease by reading this book, the reader will become more aware of the social issues of accepting/rejecting climate change science and be better equipped when entering into dialogue with climate change deniers." -- Rebecca Rhead * Environmental Values * "Hoffman's book is a much-needed analysis of how humans process information-and how that messy mix of reason, emotion, and cultural influence shapes and reinforces our views on global climate change. Important reading for anyone who wants to influence public opinion and public policy on this crucial issue." -- Fred Krupp, President * Environmental Defense Fund * "Andrew Hoffman's central message is that more scientific information, while necessary, is insufficient to persuade those who dismiss the reality or seriousness of global warming. Summarizing multiple lines of research, he helps the reader understand the diversity of public responses to climate change and suggests promising ways forward. A very readable and helpful book!" -- Anthony Leiserowitz, Director * Yale Project on Climate Change Communication * "Climate change has become a culture war issue and Andrew Hoffman has pointed the way towards a ceasefire. In this compelling discussion, Hoffman offers intriguing, commonsense guidance on how people of all political stripes can move from mudslinging to real, constructive solutions." -- Eli Lehrer, President * The R Street Institute *

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