A Review Of The Book That Changed My Understanding Of The Climate Change Debate
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A Look Into The Book That Changed My Understanding Of The Climate Change Debate

Andrew Hoffman explained the debate from a perspective I never considered, but will now never forget.

A Look Into The Book That Changed My Understanding Of The Climate Change Debate

In his book "How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate", Andrew Hoffman examines the research work on why people have such polarized views on controversial issues, such as climate change. He explores why people either accept or reject climate change and the reasons behind their decisions. In addition, Hoffman analyzes climate change from a sociological perspective, which is a unique lens for an issue like climate change that is largely considered to be strictly scientific. His perspective within the book is a very beneficial one that can help people understand both the formation of their own views on climate change and those of others within the community. He presents quality information that has the ability to help someone looking to have an effective conversation about climate change with people who may have differing views.

Throughout the book Hoffman uses a thread of core ideas in order to examine the large disconnect between the contrasting views of the general public on the problem of climate change and the consensus of the scientific community on the same issue. One of the most important core ideas Hoffman holds is that climate change has been transformed into a rhetorical war in which there is a cynical use of fear, politics, distrust, and intolerance. Hoffman also writes the book under the premise that climate change is at its core a cultural issue. Since it is a cultural issue, Hoffman explains that there are two different groups that are examining the same science through opposing cultural lenses and are each seeing something very different as a result.

He also states that are four forms of distrust within the climate change debate that further complicate the issue. The first is the distrust of messengers because the current spokespeople for climate change are not representative of every group. For example, typically Democrats and scientists are the frequent voices of concern regarding climate change, which makes it harder for groups of Republicans to believe the message they're delivering. Second is the distrust of the process that created the message. This occurs because people have different expectations about what science can and should tell us. Third is the distrust of the message itself and this is caused by a belief in one of two theories. The Just World Theory allows people to justify rejection of climate change because according to this theory, the world is just, orderly, and stable. The Terror Management Theory allows people to avoid thinking about climate change because they also want to avoid thinking about their own mortality. The last form of distrust Hoffman outlines is the distrust of the solutions that come from the message. This form essentially boils down to people questioning whether or not we really share a collective responsibility for the global climate that would require the use of global cooperation to solve the problems. Hoffman details that these forms of distrust also slow our progression toward change.

In addition, he also states that the public understanding of climate change is created through the intentional and unintentional avoidance of information. Hoffman goes on to explain how people use both cognitive filters and motivated reasoning in order to interpret and validate scientific conclusions. People filter those conclusions through their own worldviews, which consist of knowledge, experience, and ideological preference. In addition, Hoffman also highlights that cultural cognition serves a large role. Throughout the book, Hoffman also emphasizes that more scientific reports are not the answer because they will not be able to change people's minds on their own. This is because when a belief in climate change is connected to a person's cultural identity, increased knowledge (scientific reports) tends to strengthen a person's position on the issue regardless of the position.

Another factor of climate change as a cultural issue occurs when the political economy creates an inertia for change. Economic and political interests are easily threatened by climate change, so people and groups within those areas adopt strategies to confuse and polarize the debate in order to protect their own interests. Later in the book, Hoffman defines climate change as the ultimate "commons problem" because every individual has an incentive to emit greenhouse gases to improve their standard of living and the cost of this is diffused among many (essentially entire global population).

Despite the academic writing style, the book was easy to read and clearly demonstrated both the complexity of climate change and the different lenses through which we can examine the issue. It provided me with a new perspective on the issue of climate change because I had not previously thought to examine it from a sociological perspective. In addition, it provided valuable information about why people hold the beliefs that they do. Also, Hoffman was able to provide me with new knowledge about how to realistically and intelligently engage others in the climate change debate so that I can move beyond simply discussing the science. The book was very well written and I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about involving themselves in the climate change debate.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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