Talking Past Each Other

hoffmanAbstract: This paper analyzes the extent to which two institutional logics around climate change – the climate “convinced” and climate “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 ethnographic observations from the largest climate deniers conference in the U.S. and a dataset of almost 800 op/eds from major news outlets over a two year period to examine how climate convinced and climate skeptical logics employ frames and issue categories to make arguments about climate change. This paper finds that the two logics are engaging in different debates 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 frames (technology, religion and national security) and the redefinition of existing ones (science, economics, risk, ideology).

Professor Andy Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan; a position that holds joint appointments at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources & Environment. Within this role, Andy also serves as Associate Director of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. Professor Hoffman’s research uses a sociological perspective to understand the cultural and institutional aspects of environmental issues for organizations. He has published eight books and over ninety articles and book chapters on these issues. He was chosen as a 2011 Aldo Leopold Leadership fellow and awarded the 2003 Faculty Pioneer/Rising Star award from the World Resources Institute and the Aspen Institute. His book, From Heresy to Dogma, was awarded the 2001 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science. Prior to academics, Andy worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency (Region 1), Metcalf & Eddy Environmental Consultants, T&T Construction & Design and the Amoco Corporation. Andy serves on advisory boards of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, TRIRIGA Software Solutions, Earth Portal, Center for Environmental Innovation, and Canopy Partnership, as well as the editorial board of Organization & Environment.