Sociology of Climate Change Portal

Below are some links to what I perceive to be useful and important sociological work on climate change. The links connect to full pdf sources where possible, abstracts, google books, youtube links, etc. I have divided the work into various categories and added a few sentences on content. The number of links is small now but I will add to the links on a regular basis. If anyone has any recommendations or is aware of online sociology of climate change databases then please let me know.

To better understand our relationship to climate change the influential role of society has to be taken into account. This might seem obvious but in so much of the published research it is as if the related values, opinions, attitudes and behaviours simply just exist while the social origins are neglected. Much of the sociology of climate change is engaged in an important symbolic struggle to reconfigure the dominant symbolic order which supports this limited perspective (personally I favour an interdisciplinary approach, albeit cognizant of certain caveats). Often those engaged in the discipline aim  to elevate the recognition of social structures and the social unconscious (along with socio-technical and material relations) that have such a huge part in reproducing carbon heavy practices, perceptions and power relations. The role of these structures tends to be concealed by an order that atomises and subordinates society to individuals and the market economy, social practices to conscious calculative actions and socially complex beings to value-fixed entities.

Similar criticisms can be made of the science of climate change where the findings of scientists are treated as completely disinterested, floating in an asocial bubble above the biased masses. This is a ‘naive realism’ that exhibits little regard to how social practices, pre-existing categories, assumptions and power relations have accompanied the process of research. It is also the goal of sociologists to tackle this uncritical aspect of the interpretation of climate change science.

Useful Websites:

British Sociological Association Climate Change Study Group

Climate Change as a Complex Social Issue: Project in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham. Related Blog (Check out the tag cloud for climate change related)

COMPON: International research project website Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks with principle investigator sociologist Jeffrey Broadbent. A related blog

CONSENSUS: all Ireland sustainable consumption research project. Their blog

DEMAND (Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand): Interdisciplinary practice theory project on end use energy demand. It is co-directed by sociologist Elizabeth Shove. Their online writings

Energylandscapes: Blog by political ecologist Vanesa Castán Broto who makes good use of Pierre Bourdieu.

International Sociological Association Research Committee on Environment and Society Blog

The socio-cultural landscapes of global climate change: Ethnographic views from all over the world.

Easily Accessible & Effortless: climate change posts, news articles, video links, etc. by sociologists (or that are sociological):

Leonard, P (2012) Stop presenting sustainability as a Con: One substantialist reference to natural self interest aside, its on how workplace sustainability measures become cynically linked with cost, growth and efficiency. Post

McCright, A M (2014) Conservatives Mobilized Effectively to Deny Climate Change: New York Times

Norgaard, K M (2014) People Find Climate Change Too Hard to Think About: New York Times

Norgaard, K M (2013) Living in Denial Presentation: Link connects to a 36 mins talk on the subject matter of her book as referred to below. Video Link

Schor, J. Plenitude Economy: Short animation on alternative DIY, work sharing economy. Video  (Also an hour long Lecture Presentation)

Shove, E (2014) The history and future of room temperature: Shove, continuing her practice theory approach to the study of carbon-related behaviours, looks at the normalisation of room temperature to 22⁰C. Blog Post

Urry, J. Towards Pangaea: Offshoring is bad for society and planet earth: A TEDx talk on systematic off-shoring which also contributes massively to CO2 emissions. Youtube

Yearley, S (2010)Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity: Review of Hulme’s Why We Disagree… Times Higher Education

On the public’s appreciation of climate change and carbon-related responses:

Carfagna L B, Dubois E A, Fitzmaurice C, et al. (2014) An emerging eco-habitus: The reconfiguration of high cultural capital practices among ethical consumers: Compares quantitative survey data and 4 qualitative studies to show a relationship between ethical consumption and new forms of high cultural capital along with the emergence of an eco-habitus. Abstract

Laidley T (2013) Climate, class and culture: political issues as cultural signifiers in the US: Applies a Bourdieusian framework, to cover class-related climate change distinctions in American society, using the city of Boston as a case study. Findings include how interviewees with lowest levels of economic and cultural capital display penchant for proposing individual solutions like recycling. Abstract

Norgaard, Kari Mari (2011) Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life: A case study of a Norwegian town and how the community engage in practices of collective denial of potential climate change implications and their country’s high-carbon involvement. This portrayal of socially organised denial links Norway’s oil-based political economy and national identity to emotional and conversational norms and perspectival selectivity. It provides an explanation of why simple information campaigns are not enough. Google books

Wilk, R (2002) Consumption, human needs, and global environmental change: Reviews consumption theories, dividing them into three types: individual choice, social theories and cultural theories. Looks at the assumptions about human nature and causal philosophy of human behaviour that accompany these theories, along with their policy implications. Illustrates the role theory can play in distorting interpretations and advocates a more dynamic, heterodox and synthetic “theory of practice” to look at how “what were once luxuries (for example air conditioning) become necessities”. Full PDF

On the Media and the Public Debate on Climate Change:

McCright, A M (2007) Dealing with climate change contrarians: Provides overview of techniques and tactics employed by leading figures in the contrarian countermovement and offers advice on how to counter the movement in turn – includes calling for a more honest discussion where conflicting values of all sides are placed in the public eye (not to limit it to arguing over the science). PDF

How academics and policy-makers construct the public:

Shove, E (2010) Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change: Shove looks at the limited individualist perspective on human behaviour which dominates much of climate change research on the public. She identifies how these limited perspectives reinforce limitations in policy approaches. She advocates a practice theory approach instead for research and transition management for policy. Abstract,   2009 Guardian article

Webb, Janette (2012) Climate Change and Society: The Chimera of Behaviour Change Technologies: A critique on individualised interpretations of public understanding of climate change and individualised policies they encourage with little regard to social origins of the values they seek to stimulate into action. Also how the research constructs and limits the role of the public. Abstract

How socio-cultural relations rewrites the meaning of climate change:

Hulme, Mike (2009) Why we disagree about climate change: understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity: Former climate change scientist turned sociologist, Hulme illustrates how disagreement over climate change is multiplied through cultural and meaning systems, creating multiple variations on what it means to different people. Has important things to say about the subjective dimensions of economists’ costing and scientists predictive modelling of climate change. Google Books

Szerszynski, B and Urry, J (2010) Changing Climates: Introduction: Introduction to Theory, Culture & Society’s special edition on climate change. “Any description and prediction of climate change and its impacts is entangled with specific imaginaries of how society is, and how it ought to be; similarly, even the most apparently technical of suggested responses will carry with it certain ideas of society. Climate change is always already social; the social does not need to be added to it, just to be revealed.” Full PDF

On Climate Change Science:

Wynne, Brian (2010) Strange Weather, Again: Climate Science as Political Art: Wynne looks at some of the assumptions and power relations that underlie climate change science. The conservative approach of the IPCC supports a default message “that projected human-induced climate warming [is]… both gradual and manageable” (p 297). Full PDF

Climate Change Activism

Haluza-Delay R B. (2008) Learning in the Movement: Coordinating Habitus and Cognitive Praxis: analyzes the logic of practice of environmentally-active persons involved with environmental  organisations. The research is guided by Bourdieu’s sociological tools, and applies them to analysis  of a social movement, helping us to understand why social, and cultural change is so difficult.”  Social movements may offer conditions of “reflexivity and routinisation” to support “an  ecologically-oriented ‘logic of practice'”. Full HTML

Societal Power and Climate Change

Mccright, Aaron M. Dunlap, Riley E. (2010) Anti-reflexivity: The American Conservative Movement’s Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy: How a powerful “American conservative countermovement” have had enormous input into halting action on climate change during, and largely supported by, George W. Bush’s administration. Researchers use 2nd face of power framework. Full PDF

Organizational Carbon Practices, Discourses and General Receptivity

Leonard, P (2012) Changing Organizational Space: Green? Or Lean and Mean? Case study “research reveals that improvements made to the sustain­ability of the physical office may be undermined in discursive practice by the ambiva­lence and ambiguity which exists in managers’ conceptualizations. Thus, rather than the environmental agenda being established as a dominant discourse, it must constantly vie with other competing discourses for status and power”. Abstract

Political Economy and Climate Change Policy Perspectives

Knight, K.  Rosa, E A. and Schor, J B. (2012) Reducing Growth to Achieve Environmental Sustainability: The Role of Work Hours: A working paper which discusses the relationship of work hours, growth, well-being and sustainability. It provides a comparative study featuring 29 countries which shows how countries with shorter work hours tend to have lower ecological & carbon footprints & CO2 emissions. Full PDF




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