Finding Common Ground in the Climate Change Debate

GE Colloquium in Sustainability Leadership

To effectively address climate change, advocates for action need to start listening to, and understanding, those who are skeptical of the science, according to author Andy Hoffman.

“The current public and political debate over climate change in this country is not about carbon dioxide or climate models,” Hoffman told students at the Yale School of Management on March 3. “It’s about conflicting world views among people who feel their values are being threatened. We need to understand where they’re coming from.”

A professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Hoffman spoke at Yale SOM as part of the GE Colloquium in Sustainability. He is the author of How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate (Stanford University Press).

Climate change represents a deep cultural shift in who we are as a species, how we view the environment, and the ways in which the two interact. As such, it challenges powerful economic, political and ideological interests, Hoffman said. He encouraged students not to simply challenge skeptics when interacting with them, but also listen to, establish trust, and try to find common ground with them.

“You need to hear the context of the conversation that they’re hearing,” Hoffman said. “Simply hitting people with data doesn’t always work; science has become highly politicized. What we need to do is reach people who are genuinely trying to understand this issue and bring some sort of resolution to this very partisan debate, and to do this, we’ve got to work together.”

About the Event

Please join us for a conversation with Andy Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, as he discusses his book How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate.

Though the scientific community largely agrees that climate change is underway, debates about this issue remain fiercely polarized. These conversations have become a rhetorical contest, one where opposing sides try to achieve victory through playing on fear, distrust, and intolerance. At its heart, this split no longer concerns carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, or climate modeling; rather, it is the product of contrasting, deeply entrenched worldviews. Synthesizing evidence from sociology, psychology, and political science, Andrew J. Hoffman lays bare the opposing cultural lenses through which science is interpreted. He then extracts lessons from major cultural shifts in the past to engender a better understanding of the problem and motivate the public to take action. How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate makes a powerful case for a more scientifically literate public, a more socially engaged scientific community, and a more thoughtful mode of public discourse.

This event is part of the GE Colloquium in Sustainability Leadership, a program of the Yale Center for Business and Environment, and supported by the GE Foundation, that brings business professionals and thought leaders to campus to help students understand the challenges of achieving sustainability, and to provide them with necessary skills to prepare for careers in this emerging sector.

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