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Title:The social bases of climate skepticism: Risk perception, ideology, and the creation of carbon publics
Author(s):Bohr, Jeremiah
Director of Research:Gille, Zsuzsa
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Marshall, Anna-Maria
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gille, Zsuzsa; Dill, Brian J.; Schulz, Markus
Department / Program:Sociology
Discipline:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):climate skepticism
climate change politics
climate change attitudes
environmental sociology
Abstract:This dissertation examines the politics of expertise in the United States through the case of climate skepticism. Growing consensus on the reality and drivers of global climate change within the scientific community coincides with an intense political polarization over climate change beliefs and support for policy responses in the United States. In this case, challenges to scientific authority are not reducible to informational deficits or levels of formal education. Utilizing multiple methods, this dissertation explores climate skepticism through the content analysis of literature produced by climate skeptics, formal statements made by politicians regarding climate change, and the analysis of public opinion on climate change risk. Climate skeptic organizations embed their opposition to climate policy within an ideological framework equating environmental regulation with attacks on free markets, refusing to accept scientific authority as a legitimate form of expertise regulating market activity. Likewise, conservative politicians equate hydrocarbon energy with the creation of wealth itself, strategically allowing them to oppose climate policies without having to deny the science of climate change. Relative to other environmental problems, political polarization characterizes the risk perception associated with climate change. Analyzing this further after controlling for the influence of race, gender, income, and political orientation, and individual’s attitudes about market regulation and economic inequality are closely correlated with their beliefs about the dangers posed by climate change. The connection between economic ideology and climate change beliefs can be understood by the fact that, unlike many types of environmental problems, mitigating the drivers of climate change requires an unprecedented regulation of carbon-based energy—the very building blocks of conventional capitalist development. Climate skepticism does not result from anti-scientific attitudes per se, but from normative values regarding the balance between state and market in negotiating collective risk mitigation versus organizational and consumer choice. This project helps contextualize climate change beliefs in the United States and explains why actors politicize some scientific controversies but not others along partisan and ideological lines.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/49808
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Jeremiah Bohr
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
2016-09-22
Date Deposited:2014-05


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