Talking Past Each Other? Cultural Framing in the Climate Change Debate

By May 16, 2011Library

Erb Faculty Member, Andy Hoffman is featured in, Organization & Environment, Talking Past Each Other?  Cultural Framing of Skeptical and Convinced Logics in the Climate Change Debate

This article analyzes the extent to which two institutional logics around climate change—the
climate change “convinced” and the climate change “skeptical” logics—are truly competing or
talking past each other in a way that can be described as a logic schism. Drawing on the concept
of framing from social movement theory, it uses qualitative field observations from the largest
climate deniers conference in the United States and a data set of almost 800 op-eds from
major news outlets over a 2-year period to examine how convinced and skeptical arguments of
opposing logics employ frames and issue categories to make arguments about climate change.

This article finds that the two logics are engaging in different debates on similar issues with the
former focusing on solutions while the latter debates the definition of the problem. It concludes
that the debate appears to be reaching a level of polarization where one might begin to question
whether meaningful dialogue and problem solving has become unavailable to participants. The
implications of such a logic schism is a shift from an integrative debate focused on addressing
interests, to a distributive battle over concessionary agreements with each side pursuing its
goals by demonizing the other. Avoiding such an outcome requires the activation of, as yet,
dormant “broker” categories (technology, religion, and national security), the redefinition of
existing ones (science, economics, risk, ideology), and the engagement of effective “climate
brokers” to deliver them.

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