Category Archives: Climate change

Climate Change as Culture War

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugfaker/5847464425/in/photostream/
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugfaker/5847464425/in/photostream/

The social and political debate over climate change continues unabated, despite an ever worsening procession of extreme weather events and increasingly dire scientific climate projections (on track for a 4 degree warmer world).

While there is a significant over-estimation of the extent of climate change denial within society, those who reject the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change appear to have become even more strident, despite the overwhelming weight of climate science.

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The Power of the Visual

November 19th, 2012: Along the beach in the Rockaways, NY (Image: Jenna Pope)
November 19th, 2012: Along the beach in the Rockaways, NY (Image: Jenna Pope)

The complexity and pervasiveness of climate change sometimes make this a difficult subject to communicate. We are after all talking about the basic physics, chemistry and biology of our ecosystem and the way in which human activities are changing these in profound and fundamental ways; what some have termed a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene.

And yet, the physical and social implications of climate change are becoming daily more evident.  One of the most powerful ways in which this can be conveyed is through visual imagery. For instance a growing procession of extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy and its impact upon New York City have provided a multitude of powerful images of the micro realities of extreme weather and how even the centre of global capitalism is no match for a ‘climate on steroids‘.

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Global Business Responses to Climate Change: Where to Now?

Image: Flickr Dave Clarke
Image: Flickr Dave Clarke

The following is a short piece published in The Conversation which I wrote with Andy Hoffman, Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.

Despite the widespread scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change, ideological rhetoric dominates the global political discourse. This is preventing the development of clear policy frameworks that companies need for long-term investments. In spite of this, there are signs of progress at the international, national and corporate levels.

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The Physical Reality of Environmental Destruction

The other day I watched a powerful presentation by noted photographer Garth Lenz. Speaking at a TED event in Canada he outlined the appalling environmental destruction that is being unleashed by the tar sands industry.

I’ve been following the news coverage on Canada’s tar sands for some time now, given the huge implications of non-conventional fossil fuels for escalating greenhouse gas emissions and the ever worsening climate crisis. I’m also editing a forthcoming special issue of the journal Organization on climate change and future imaginings, which includes an excellent study of the discourses employed by companies in the Athabasca tar sands industry written by Jane Lê.

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The Moment Of Realisation

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulo2070/4206290259/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulo2070/4206290259/sizes/o/in/photostream/

One of the things I’ve noticed in researching organizational responses to climate change is how often in an interview the person I’m talking to (typically a sustainability manager or consultant) will relate a particular event or story which symbolized the moment ‘they got’ climate change.

In an article Daniel Nyberg and I recently wrote in Organization Studies, we explored how sustainability managers develop different identities in negotiating between conflicting discourses and their sense of self. In describing how these identities arise, moments of realisation played a key part in these personal narratives.

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Why So Emotional? The Emotionologies of Climate Change

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielito311/5847295876/
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielito311/5847295876/

In a previous post I pondered the question ‘why we get so emotional about climate change?

I suggested a key reason was because the implications of climate change affect us in so many fundamental ways:

  • our personal identities and roles (mother, father, journalist, politician);
  • the stories we tell ourselves and others about who we are (where I’ve come from, where I am, who I want to be);
  • our world views and ideologies (e.g. social democrat, small ‘l’ liberal, conservative, free-market libertarian).

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Our ‘Angry Summer’

Image: Dave Clarke
Image: Dave Clarke

In a post last week I discussed how extreme weather events can shape our awareness and understanding of climate change, and how climate change ‘loads the dice’ for more frequent and intense weather events.

This morning, the Climate Commission released a report with the apt title ‘The Angry Summer’. The report reviews the recent extreme weather we’ve been experiencing here in Australia. In fact this has been the hottest summer on record and the Climate Commission’s report highlights the numerous weather records that have been broken (123 in 90 days); temperatures, rainfall, floods, drought, bushfires, tornadoes and cyclones.

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Pricing Carbon in Australia: The On-going Political Drama

'Carbon tax' protest 2011 (Image: mugfaker)
‘Carbon tax’ protest 2011 (Image: mugfaker)

With the announcement that our next federal election will be on Saturday September 14 2013, there has been renewed commentary on the likelihood of a possible future federal Coalition government repealing the Clean Energy legislation.

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What I’m Working On

This short piece profiling my research appeared in the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine in February last year:
Image: Louise Kennerley
Image: Louise Kennerley

I’m leading a research project examining how Australian businesses are responding to climate change. We’re focusing on how corporations are changing in response to regulatory, reputational and physical risks. These adjustments include new products and services, the measurement and reduction of emissions, pricing of carbon risk in investments and developing green organisational cultures. These are fundamental shifts.

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Climate Change Abolitionists

Tim DeChristopher thanks his supporters outside the courthouse where he was found guilty of two felonies for disrupting a Utah BLM oil and gas lease auction in 2009.  (Image: Ed Kosmicki)
Tim DeChristopher thanks his supporters outside the courthouse where he was found guilty of two felonies for disrupting a Utah BLM oil and gas lease auction in 2009. (Image: Ed Kosmicki)

In the last few weeks there have been a number of commentaries on the shifting nature of climate change activism. These include:

  • the Sierra Club’s announcement that it will for the first time in its history engage in civil disobedience in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline;
  • an article in The Pheonix by Wen Stephenson profiling climate activist Tim DeChristopher and drawing parallels with the nineteenth century abolitionist movement against slavery; and
  • a recent piece by Andrew Winston in The Guardian pointing to the same theme of a new abolitionist movement around climate change action (you can nominate your favourite ‘climate change abolitionist’ here). 

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Leading US Business Scholar to Discuss the Social Implications of Climate Change

professor_andy_hoffman_thumb

This month the University of Sydney Business School and the United States Studies Centre will be hosting a visit by leading US business scholar, Professor Andrew Hoffman.

Andrew is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. Within this role, he also serves as Director of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.

Professor Hoffman has written extensively about corporate responses to climate change; how the interconnected networks of NGOs and corporations influence change processes; and the underlying cultural values that are engaged when these barriers are overcome. His research uses a sociological perspective to understand the cultural and institutional aspects of environmental issues for organizations.

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Getting in Touch with the Weather: Extreme Weather and Climate Change Awareness

Extreme Storm Manhattan, NYCSept 8th, 2012 which resulted in two tornados on the edge of NYC. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/redpilotmedia/7974214666/sizes/o/in/photostream/)
Extreme Storm Manhattan, NYC Sept 8th, 2012. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/redpilotmedia/7974214666/sizes/o/in/photostream/)

What is with the weather recently?

It seems like every news bulletin these days has a story about some ‘one in a hundred year’ storm, flood or fire – except they seem to be happening every second year!

While the media increasingly ignores climate change as a topic (even in the case of scientific evidence linking extreme weather events with climate change), there are good grounds for hypothesising that our personal experience of weather affects our awareness of climate change.

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Climate Change: An Emotional Business

Climate change stirs strong emotions in our work and personal lives (Image: iStockPhoto)
Climate change stirs strong emotions in our work and personal lives (Image: iStockPhoto)

Ever wondered why climate change stirs such strong emotions?

Despite the daily reminders of the politically partisan sub-text of much climate change discussion, this issue hit me up front and personal about a year ago.

I was at a friend’s BBQ in suburban Sydney on a sunny Saturday afternoon, when an acquaintance casually asked what I was working on. Without giving it much thought I replied ‘how businesses respond to climate change’… Stunned silence…A look of bemusement crossed my inquisitor’s face before her partner waded in with the retort, ‘You don’t believe that crap do you?’

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