Cool Talk about a Hot Topic: The Ethics of Communicating about Climate Change
April 9-11, 2013
What's behind intractable disagreement and paralyzing stalemates about climate policy? Why do opinions about climate change vary so much and so fast? Who controls how such opinions are formed, and for what ends? Are news media improperly motivated by ratings rather than public interest? Has scientific discussion become wrongly politicized? Are political leaders culpably afraid to tackle unpopular and divisive issues? And are we as citizens and consumers acting unethically if we close our eyes and ears to long-term risks to our planet because of our pursuit of short-term economic gains?
These are not only empirical but also ethical questions. This symposium will explore how scientific climate change findings are reaching the public, how policy uncertainties are driven by the changes in mass and elite perceptions of climate problems, and most of all, the ethical question of how we should try to talk to one another about this urgent, but arguably overlooked and misunderstood, issue for our time. Has there been something wrong with past efforts to communicate about climate change and climate policy? If so, what's the remedy? Is there really no problem, or is there a communication problem, a political problem, a scientific problem – or an ethical problem? The Prindle Institute Symposium "Cool Talk about a Hot Topic: The Ethics of Communicating about Climate Change," coming in April 2013, will bring leading scholars with an interest in these questions together at DePauw.
Confirmed participants include: Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication; philosopher Steve Gardiner (The Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change); sociologist Kari Norgaard (Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life); geoscientist and climate change blogger Barry Bickmore; political scientist Sarah Pralle; and feminist philosopher Chris Cuomo (Feminism and Ecological Communities: An Ethic of Flourishing).
Anthony Leiserowitz, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon, is Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a Research Scientist at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He is a widely recognized expert on American and international public opinion on global warming, including public perception of climate change risks, support and opposition for climate policies, and willingness to make individual behavioral change. His research investigates the psychological, cultural, political, and geographic factors that drive public environmental perception and behavior. He has served as a consultant to the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University), the United Nations Development Program, the Gallup World Poll, the Global Roundtable on Climate Change at the Earth Institute (Columbia University), and the World Economic Forum.
Barry R. Bickmore, who holds a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at Brigham Young University, where he focuses his research on low temperature geochemistry and geoscience education. An active Mormon and Republican, he is the administrator for the blog “Climate Asylum” (formerly known as “Anti-Climate Change Extremism in Utah”) that examines and exposes the spread of climate change misinformation.
Kari Norgaard (Ph.D. Sociology, University of Oregon), is Associate Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at University of Oregon. She has published and taught in the areas of environmental sociology, gender and environment, race and environment, climate change, sociology of culture, social movements and sociology of emotions. Her current work focuses on the social organization of denial (especially regarding climate change) and environmental justice work with Native American Tribes on the Klamath River. Her book, Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, was published by MIT Press in 2011.
Stephen M. Gardiner earned a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a Ph.D. doctorate from Cornell University. He is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Program on Values in Society at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he specializes in ethics, political philosophy, and environmental ethics; he has also held visiting fellowships at Princeton University, Oxford University, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, and the University of Melbourne. Gardiner is the author of A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, published by Oxford University Press in 2011.
Sarah Pralle is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and Senior Research Associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Pralle, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, conducts research on U.S. public policy, environmental politics and policy, energy policy, and interest groups, with a recent focus on agenda setting and climate change. She also is the author of Branching Out, Digging In: Environmental Advocacy and Agenda Setting, published by Georgetown University Press in 2006.
Chris Cuomo holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In addition to being a professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, she is also an affiliate faculty member of the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program and the Institute for African-American Studies. She is the author of Feminism and Ecological Communities: An Ethic of Flourishing (Routledge) and The Philosopher Queen: Feminist Essays on War, Love & Knowledge (Rowman & Littlefield), which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and an American Philosophical Association Book Award. She is the co-editor of The Feminist Philosophy Reader (McGraw-Hill). Cuomo's research focuses on ethics, feminist philosophies, race, sexuality, environmental ethics and art. She is currently working on a project on indigenous knowledge concerning climate change in Northern Alaska.