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SOCIAL SCIENCES/CLIMATE CHANGE: STRUCTURING THE SOURCES OF DISTRUST (Syd Ideas)

Professor Andy Hoffman, Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan Co-presented with the Sydney Business School and the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society

As the debate around climate change moves beyond carbon dioxide levels and climate models and is increasingly about values, culture, worldviews and ideology, can the social sciences, so disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology and political science, offer a clear and concise framework for understanding why people reject the scientific consensus? While physical scientists explore the mechanics and implications of anthropogenic climate change, social scientists explore the cultural reasons why people support or reject their scientific conclusions. What we find is that scientists do not hold the definitive final word in the public debate on this issue.

There is a constituency beyond scientific experts, and the processes by which this constituency understands and assesses the science of climate change goes far beyond its technical merits and a simple assessment of scientific models. Beliefs about God, the role of government, trust in the market, the value of nature and faith in science are just some of the deeply held beliefs, worldviews and values that social scientists can examine.

Image for Andy Hoffman lecture

Andy Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. Within this role, Andy also serves as Director of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.

Professor Hoffman has written extensively about corporate responses to climate change; how the interconnected networks of NGOs and corporations influence change processes; and the underlying cultural values that are engaged when these barriers are overcome. His research uses a sociological perspective to understand the cultural and institutional aspects of environmental issues for organizations. In particular, he focuses on the processes by which environmental issues both emerge and evolve as social, political and managerial issues.

He has published over a dozen books, which have been translated into five languages. His work has been covered in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Scientific American, Time, the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. He has served on research committees for the National Academies of Science, the Johnson Foundation, the Climate Group, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development and the Environmental Defense Fund.

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  • Philip R.

    Myles, well there is a bit to talk about at the cafe then!

    Regards,
    Phil.

    March 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is why it would be good to Meetup after the talks!

    March 23, 2013

  • Philip R.

    Myles, I am happy to be a watermelon! If not a badge of honour, then at least as a term of endearment! Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that the situation really is VERY serious - in my plane analogy are you seriously going to try and have a rational dialogue with the guy that thinks that the lord works in mysterious ways and not put your trust in the "extremist" pilot? Analogies have their limitations of course but we ARE running out of time and there is good reason to be pessimistic that the problems can be sorted out at all. Another thing, the problems aren't because of your pet caricatures, it is more to do with: "The greedy and powerful manipulating the ignorant and superstitious" (Copywrite Phil).

    March 22, 2013

  • Philip R.

    Andrea, I think they do matter - if one believes (as I do) that there is a very limited amount of time left for drastic action that might avert disaster - then there is no time for arguing about "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" . . An analogy I was thinking of when he talked about his distributions was the old jet plane analogy: There is a fanatic (the pilot) at one end of the plane's population who KNOWS he is right and can land the plane; there is also a fanatic at the other end who KNOWS that god will preserve them all and no intervention is required; and there is the rest of the plane's population who are mostly leaning towards the pilot's position but are forced into a long, drawn out discussion about who is right while the plane runs out of fuel . .

    March 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    His view on those matters doesn't really matter. He was offering reasons why people choose to remain ignorant on the face of what seems overwhelming evidence. Environmental stewardship is not on the radar for many and others actively demote its importance. Morally bankrupt in my view but I have a better understanding of the fears and cultural imperatives that underpin that. Knowledge of such root causes can inform a strategy of communication to those groups....

    March 22, 2013

  • Philip R.

    Andrea, Sure - I don't really have any issues with the thrust of what he was saying. He was, however, from a Business School and as a biologist, the standard capitalist growth model does not compute (indefinitely) - sooner or later we will have to adopt a paradigm of preserving biodiversity or perish as a species and this is real-world truth is not covered in the "science" of economics theories. I have some problems with having to placate people who are arguing from a position of ignorance or superstition. I also would have liked to have asked what his views were on controlling population and consumption etc.

    March 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Same sociology surely a our miners and coal burners?

    March 22, 2013

  • Philip R.

    Very good but somewhat US and business centric

    March 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Thoroughly enjoyed it.worth the effort getting there! What a great speaker. I loved his simple characterisations. His arguments relate well to moving the atheist agenda forward as well.

    March 22, 2013

  • Philip R.

    I was generally happy with the talk but had a few issues I would have liked to bring up in questions but not enough time of course.

    March 21, 2013

  • Darren

    It was an excellent presentation. I agree with Myles about the meeting up part. Hope to meet you all at the next one.

    March 21, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Can we have a meeting point this time?

    March 17, 2013

  • Philip R.

    Myles,

    Sadly, I think you are right. The stupid thing is, that with a very aggressive, effort (requiring a decent dose of enlightened self-interest), the cost of electricity could actually come down! Unfortunately that would mean that a lot of powerful people/ organisations would not make so much money out of the current arragnements . .

    March 11, 2013

  • Tim J.

    I'll be away in Melbourne at the time.

    February 19, 2013

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