Where are the social scientists to explain the global warming debate?

Amidst all of the political discussions regarding climate change and global warming, one social scientist suggests a sociological analysis of this public issue has been lacking:

But something is missing: academic explanations of why people flout reams of scientific conclusions, bristle at the notion of cutting carbon and regard climate change as a sneaky liberal plot.

“The social sciences are glaringly missing,” says Andrew Hoffman, an expert on the sociological aspects of environmental policies at the University of Michigan, for which he’s researching climate denial. “That leaves out critical questions about the cultural dimensions of both defining the problem and finding solutions.”

He provides unvarnished reasons for that. One concerns his colleagues’ dismissal of the conservative movement. They deny the deniers, he seems to say, by tending to “ignore the far right.” More broadly, social scientists — like sociologists, psychologists and communication researchers — are generally disengaged from public policy debates.

The story goes on to suggest that some research suggests that this debate may be similar to the debate over abortion: both sides attempt to frame the issue and then influence enough lawmakers to make their side heard. This seems like easy pickings for sociologists interested in social problems. Notwithstanding the science, how have both the supporters and skeptics’ movement been formed, framed, and publicized?

If this social scientist is correct, this means there are some real opportunities for sociologists to provide some overarching analysis of this important public debate.

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