32 - Toward the social tipping point: creating a climate for change  pp. 491-516

Toward the social tipping point: creating a climate for change

By Susanne C. Moser and Lisa Dilling

Image View Previous Chapter Previous Chapter


Over the course of the project that culminated in this book, the landscape of climate change science, communication, and related societal responses has changed remarkably – both in the United States and elsewhere. Considering the entirety of what political scientists call the global warming “issue domain” (Jenkins-Smith and Sabatier 1999; Clark et al., 2006), we have witnessed considerable movement, including the growing number of actors involved, and shifts in their “goals, interests, beliefs, strategies, and resources; the institutions that enable and constrain interactions among those actors; the framings, discourse, and agenda related to the issue; and the existing policies and behaviors of relevant actors” (Clark et al., 2006).

In this concluding chapter, we have five goals. First, we reflect on where we are in the evolution of the climate change issue domain, and then develop a simple conceptual framework to integrate the many perspectives offered in preceding chapters on the role communication can play – in principle – in facilitating social change. Next we dispel a number of myths still prevalent among communicators and social change agents that we believe hinder change. Fourth, we extract larger lessons from the chapters that could improve climate change communication and advance the evolution of this issue domain. Finally, we suggest questions for future research and action steps. The collective experience represented in this volume suggests that these research directions and action steps can further support effective communication and responses to climate change in ways that help move all levels of society toward an environmentally, economically, and socially more sustainable future.

Adger, W. N. (2003). Social capital, collective action and adaptation to climate change. Economic Geography, 79, 4, 387–404.
Bagozzi, R. P. and Lee, K.-H. (2002). Multiple routes for social influence: The role of compliance, internalization, and social identity. Social Psychology Quarterly, 65, 3, 226–47.
Bak, H.-J. (2001). Education and public attitudes toward science: Implications for the “deficit model” of education and support for science and technology. Social Science Quarterly, 82, 4, 779–95.
Bamberg, S. (2003). How does environmental concern influence specific environmentally related behaviors? A new answer to an old question. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 21–32.
Blake, J. (1999). Overcoming the “value–action gap” in environmental policy: Tensions between national policy and local experience. Local Environment, 4, 3, 257–78.
Clark, W. C., Mitchell, R. B., and Cash, D. W. (2006). Evaluating the influence of global environmental assessments. In Global Environmental Assessments: Information and Influence, eds. Mitchell, R. B., Clark, W. C., Cash, D. W., and Dickson, N. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1–28.
Daniel, B., Schwier, R. A., and McCalla, G. (2003). Social capital in virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 29, 3. Available at: http://www.cjlt.ca/content/vol29.3/cjlt29-3_art7.html; accessed February 15, 2006.
Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Penguin.
Field, C. B., Raupach, M. R., and Victoria, R. (2004). The global carbon cycle: Integrating humans, climate and the natural world. In The Global Carbon Cycle: Integrating Humans, Climate and the Natural World, eds. Field, C. B. and Raupach, M. R., SCOPE Report #62. Washington, DC: Island Press, pp. 1–13.
French Jr., J. R. P. and Raven, B. H. (1959). The bases of social power. In Studies in Social Power, ed. Cartwright, D. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, pp. 150–67.
Gladwell, M. (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston and New York: Little, Brown and Co.
Gunderson, L. H. and Holling, C. S. (eds.) (2001). Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Gunderson, L. H., Holling, C. S., and Light, S. S. (eds.) (1995). Barriers and Bridges to the Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions. New York: Columbia University Press.
Harremoës, P., Gee, D., MacGarvin, M., Stirling, A., Keys, J., Wynne, B., and Guedes Vaz, S. (eds.) (2002). The Precautionary Principle in the 20th Century: Late Lessons from Early Warnings. London: Earthscan.
Jenkins-Smith, H. C. and Sabatier, P. A. (1999). The advocacy coalition framework: An assessment. In Theories of the Policy Process, ed. Sabatier, P. A. Boulder, CO: Westview, pp. 117–66.
Kahneman, D. (2003). Maps of bounded rationality: Psychology for behavioral economics. The American Economic Review, 93, 5, 1449–75.
Kates, R. W., Clark, W. C., Corell, R., et al. (2001). Sustainability science. Science, 292, 641–2.
Kemp, R. and Loorbach, D. (2003). Governance for sustainability through transition management. Paper presented at the Open Meeting of the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Research Community, Montreal, October 16–18.
Kemp, R. and Rotmans, J. (2004). Transitions Toward Sustainability. London, UK: Edward Elgar.
Lehtonen, M. (2004). The environmental–social interface of sustainable development: Capabilities, social capital, institutions. Ecological Economics, 49, 2, 199–214.
Lovelock, J. (2006). The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity. London: Allen Lane.
Michaelis, L. (2003). Sustainable consumption and greenhouse gas mitigation. Climate Policy, 3, S135–46.
Moser, S. C. (2005). Impacts assessments and policy responses to sea-level rise in three U.S. states: An exploration of human dimension uncertainties. Global Environmental Change, 15, 353–69.
Moser, S. C. (2007). In the long shadows of inaction: The quiet building of a climate protection movement in the United States. Global Environmental Politics, accepted for publication.
Moyer, B. with McAllister, J., Finley, M. L., and Soifer, S. (2001). Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.
National Research Council (NRC). (1999). Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Pelling, M. and High, C. (2005). Understanding adaptation: What can social capital offer assessments of adaptive capacity? Global Environmental Change, 15, 4, 308–19.
Raskin, P., Banuri, T., Gallopin, G. C., et al. (2002). Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of Times Ahead. A Report of the Global Scenario Group. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
Raven, B. H. (1993). The bases of power: Origins and recent developments. Journal of Social Issues, 49, 4, 227–51.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.
Rotmans, J., Kemp, R., and van Asselt, M. (2001). More evolution than revolution: Transition management in public policy. Foresight, 3, 15–31.
Schellnhuber, H. J., Cramer, W., Nakicenovic, N., Wigley, T., and Yohe, G. (2006). Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Available at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/internat/pdf/avoid-dangercc.pdf.
Schultz, P. W. (2002). Knowledge, information, and household recycling: Examining the knowledge-deficit model of behavior change. In New Tools for Environmental Protection: Education, Information, and Voluntary Measures, eds. Dietz, T. and Stern, P. C. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, pp. 67–82.
Schultz, P. W. and Zelezny, L. (2003). Reframing environmental messages to be congruent with American values. Research in Human Ecology, 10, 2, 126–36.
Smit, B., et al. (2001). Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity. In Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, ed. IPCC Working Group II. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 877–912.
Speth, J. G. (1992). The transition to a sustainable society. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, 89, 870–2.
Stokes, D. E. (1997). Pasteur's Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Sturgis, P. and Allum, N. (2004). Science in society: Re-evaluating the deficit model of public attitudes. Public Understanding of Science, 13, 55–74.
Tainter, J. A. (1988). The Collapse of Complex Societies. New Studies in Archeology, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Toth, F. L., et al. (2001). Decision-making frameworks. In Climate Change 2001: Mitigation, ed. IPCC Working Group III, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 601–88.
Yohe, G. (2001). Mitigative capacity – the mirror image of adaptive capacity on the emissions side. Climatic Change, 49, 247–62.