The social sciences and climate change: structuring the sources of distrust

Summary: Andy Hoffman is Professor at Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan. This presentation was a Sydney Ideas event held at the University of Sydney in March 2013. To find out more about the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society visit

In spite of widespread scientific consensus, physical scientists have not been able to seize the final word in the public debate on climate change. There is a constituency that understands and assesses the science of climate change far beyond its technical merits and scientific models. Beliefs about God, the role of government, trust in the market, the value of nature and faith in science are just some of the deeply held beliefs, worldviews and values that social scientists can examine to understand the current response to climate change. Professor Hoffman has written extensively about corporate responses to climate change; how the interconnected networks of NGOs and corporations influence change processes; and the underlying cultural values that are engaged when these barriers are overcome. His research uses a sociological perspective to understand the cultural and institutional aspects of environmental issues for organizations. He has published over a dozen books, which have been translated into five languages. His work has been covered in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Scientific American, Time, the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. He has served on research committees for the National Academies of Science, the Johnson Foundation, the Climate Group, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development and the Environmental Defense Fund.


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