I encourage you to listen to the conversation I had this week with Andrew Hoffman, Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan and director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, about the need to bring the social sciences more prominently into the public debate on climate change.We discussed the content of two recent papers—“Climate Science as Culture War” in the fall issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and “The Social and Psychological Foundations of Climate Change” in the July issue of Solutions—as well as “Are Academic Scholars ‘Lost to the Academy’?” published this winter for the Network for Business Sustainability.
Highlights of our conversation include:
Why the public debate around climate change is not about CO2 or climate models, but about underlying values that people feel are being threatened by accepting that climate change is real.
How a logic schism occurs when two sides are talking about two completely different issues caused by an ideological divide. (But at least compared to the abortion debate, the science can be definitive)
Social change is not a linear process, so it’s important to advantage of events that push the needle, such as making the link in conversations about the weird weather to how the environment is changing on a macro scale. Even so, it must be recognized that the pace of social change will not match the pace of environmental changes.
How social scientists, despite a lack of incentives, can bring messages into the public debate, but need to do this in a way that they’re not sacrificing their objectivity.
The importance of engaging broker frames—by making it an issue of national security, economic competitiveness, or religious morality, this can allow people to see that addressing climate change is consistent with their beliefs.