Beyond the Climate Elephant: From Climate Denial to Public Engagement

Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute




Climate change is significant in its size, scale, and scope as well as the degree of threat it poses to ecological systems and human society. Despite the extreme seriousness of global climate change, there has been meager public response in the way of social movement activity, behavioural changes or public pressure on governments within the wealthy industrialised nations to address climate change.

Climate change inaction and climate change denial are a serious issue, and indeed, a well-organised counter-movement has challenged the science on climate change, and thus the role of science as the basis for guiding public policy (literal denial). Alongside the serious threat to democracy posed by the phenomenon of “literal denial” is “implicatory denial” a phenomenon which occurs when people fail to integrate the facts about climate change that they believe to be true, in their decision-making, political activities, or sense of daily reality.

From a sociological standpoint, this brings up interesting questions on human social behaviour surrounding climate change. How and why do people who believe in climate change manage to ignore it? How can scientific information about climate change be communicated effectively? How can the seriousness of climate change be communicated at the social level? How can we inform the public about climate change in a way that empowers people to move away from climate denial to climate action?

This Sydney Ideas seminar features a keynote lecture by Kari Marie Norgaard and explores the issue of climate change denial and the societal attributes that may contribute to moving from denial to public engagement.

Chair: Professor Danielle Celermajer, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Sydney.

Associate Professor Kari Marie Norgaard, Sociology and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon.

Professor David Schlosberg, Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute.

This event is funded by the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre, as part of the POP-UP Research Lab grant ‘Anastasia: Communicating heat & climate vulnerability through performance’.

For more information, click here.