Beyond the Climate Elephant: From Climate Denial to Public Engagement

Tuesday 28 November 2017 6.00 - 7.30pm

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Law School Foyer, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006



Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre and Sydney Ideas

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

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.

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

Associate Professor Kari 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

Susannah Compton, Deputy Program Director, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Professor Danielle Celermajer is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Her research stands at the interface of theories exploring the multi-dimensional nature of injustice and the practice of human rights. She recently completed a European Union funded multi-country project on the prevention of torture, focusing on everyday violence in the security sector. Her publications include Power, Judgment and Political Evil: Hannah Arendt’s Promise and Sins of the Nation and the Ritual of Apology, A Cultural History of Law in the Modern Age, and Poisoned Orchards (forthcoming). She is now moving in to work on the relational intra-space between human and non-human animals.

Associate Professor Kari Norgaard (B.S. Biology Humboldt State University 1992, M.A. Sociology Washington State University 1994, PhD Sociology, University of Oregon 2003) is Associate Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at University of Oregon. Dr. Norgaard trained as a postdoctoral fellow in an interdisciplinary IGERT Program on Invasive Species at University California Davis from 2003-2005 and from there joined the faculty as Assistant Professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA from 2005-2011. She joined the University of Oregon faculty in 2011. Over the past ten years Dr. Norgaard has published and taught in the areas of environmental sociology, gender and environment, race and environment, climate change, sociology of culture, social movements and sociology of emotions. 

Professor David Schlosberg is Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. His work focuses on contemporary environmental and environmental justice movements, environment and everyday life, and climate adaptation planning and policy. He is the author of Defining Environmental Justice (Oxford, 2007); co-author of Climate-Challenged Society (Oxford, 2013); and co-editor of both The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society (Oxford 2011), and The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory (Oxford 2016). His current book project is on sustainable materialism, or the environmentalism of everyday life.

Susannah Compton, is Deputy Program Director at Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Suzy leads Greenpeace’s campaigns, communications and investigations teams, working on fossil fuels, renewable energy, climate justice and biodiversity in the Australia Pacific region.