The Role of Culture in Understanding Climate Change

by Duane Nichols on November 22, 2015

What Makes Climate Deniers Tick?

How culture shapes the climate change debate

From an Article by Jake Aberhamson, Sierra Magazine, September/October 2015

No matter how many scientific papers point toward climate change, some people refuse to be convinced. A Pew Research Center poll in June found that Americans’ views on whether the planet is heating up have barely changed since 2006, despite growing scientific consensus and an increasing number of climate-related disasters.

The reason for that stasis, Andrew Hoffman argues in How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate, is that a person’s belief in climate change has little to do with an assessment of the science and everything to do with their preexisting values, social web, and worldview.

Climate skeptics are often focused on “protecting deeply held values they believe are under attack,” he writes. For stakeholders in dirty fuels or proponents of limited government, acceptance of climate change would require a dramatic reorientation of their values and sense of self, because dealing with the issue will likely involve the end of fossil fuels and greater regulatory powers for government. 

Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan, first lays out the psychological and social biases people bring to the climate discussion and then suggests techniques for making that conversation more productive. (A combination of empathy and clever framing is key.) This slender, practical volume will aid anyone hoping to sway climate deniers—whether on Facebook, from a podium, or over a beer.

 See also an excerpt from the book How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate

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