Americans and climate change : understanding elite perceptions of the gap between science and action
- This dissertation explores why, given the widespread and longstanding assessment of scientific and other experts that climate change is an urgent problem requiring a large-scale policy remedy, such governmental action not transpired to date. It reports and interprets the diagnoses offered by 111 elite "informants" to explain this inaction and their judgments on what interventions might be designed and executed to produce action. The dissertation further evaluates their experientially derived, case-specific insights against social scientific findings on the question of what leads citizens, and their democratic institutions, to take effective action on some issues and not others. An intervening variable of particular interest in this research is that of public pressure, including elite understandings of its role and how it can be generated. Because climate change is an arena of robust scientific consensus, it provides a particularly useful test case of citizen and governmental competence. Informants included participant-observers from the following eight domains, each of whom describe how the incentives operating in their respective domain influence how scientific knowledge about climate change is defined, framed, communicated, propagated, absorbed, interpreted and translated into action or inaction: science; news media; religion & ethics; politics; entertainment & advertising; education; business & finance; environmentalists & civil society. Patterns and interactive effects cutting across the domains are also considered, including a revealed diffusion of responsibility that has created a vacuum of elite leadership on climate change. Given the time signature of risks associated with unabated climate change, the informants are shown to generally prefer interventions that are inherently faster to execute but not necessarily more effective in terms of producing durable attitude change or the intended inducement to action. The dissertation additionally finds that "real-world cues" -- broadly construed to include empirical observations of climate change impacts from the present and future-oriented information garnered through credible modeling -- remains a "sleeping giant" appropriate for greater use in persuasive strategies to promote climate change action. It also finds that the authoritative and "settled" nature of climate change science has created a temptation among informants to overvalue one-way, top-down communications efforts, rather than to mount civic engagement initiatives that emphasize peer-to-peer networking and group deliberation. The role of terminal values are also considered, including the lack of a terminal value associated with preservation of civilization against unabated climate change that is capable of competing with a value that has been advanced in opposition to policy action on climate change, that of economic freedom from government oppression in the form of environmental regulation nominally, but on a presumed slippery slope to confiscation of private property.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Abbasi, Daniel Rhame
|Stanford University, Department of Political Science.
|Krosnick, Jon A
|Krosnick, Jon A
|Fiorina, Morris P
|Fiorina, Morris P
|Statement of responsibility
|Daniel Rhame Abbasi.
|Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
|Ph.D. Stanford University 2011
- © 2011 by Daniel Rhame Abbasi
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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