Addressing climate change: from science to culture

Check out this thought-provoking post on the New York Times environmental blog about how best to hammer home the evident need for society to act on climate change:

It may seem far-fetched to compare the resistance to action on climate change to the slow progress toward the abolition of slavery or the recognition of the fatal effects of smoking, but a University of Michigan researcher says in a new paper that it will take just such a tectonic shift in public attitudes for society to begin to accept the reality of global warming and do something about it.

Andrew J. Hoffman, who holds joint appointments at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment, says that there has been too much focus on the scientific and economic aspects of a warming climate and too little on the social and cultural side of the problem.

“To properly address climate change, we must change the way we structure our organizations and the way we think as individuals,” he said.

“It requires a shift in our values to reflect what scientists have been telling us for years,” he added. “The certainty of climate change must shift from that of being a ‘scientific fact’ to that of being a ‘social fact.’ ”

Professor Hoffman likened the widespread skepticism about the reality of climate change to the gradual acceptance of the link between smoking and lung cancer and other diseases. It was only when the public accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus on the dangers of tobacco use did policy tools like the banning of indoor smoking become socially and politically possible, he said….

What do you think? Is it best to stay the course, and just keep pointing out sound scientific evidence of the existence of climate change? Or should environmental advocates look for different, more culturally-focused solutions. And if so, what ideas do you have? Might Iowa have a unique set of solutions?


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