Narrating Global Warming

Vortrag: Prof. Philip Smith (Department of Sociology, Yale University)
Moderation: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Helmut Staubmann (Institut für Soziologie, Universität Innsbruck)

Zeit: Dienstag, 10. März 2009, 19:30 Uhr
Ort: HS 2, SoWi, Universitätsstr. 15, 6020 Innsbruck


The talk makes use of a general model of clues, risks and narrative developed by the presenter to investigate the cultural history of global warming. Particular attention is given to its representation in the public sphere. We trace a rise from obscurity to moral authority and a pattern of risk amplification. The paper suggests sociological reasons for this outcome.

The triumph of global warming is only loosely coupled to new information or to scientific consensus. Key drivers are the cultural and institutional processes through which risks are represented and generic problems with the cross-sphere translation of scientific information. To make this argument is not the same as saying that the science is wrong and that global warming is a ‘myth’. Rather it is to say that a sociological perspective can increase the net level of societal reflexivity over risk evaluation and perception. Factoring this in might help publics and policy makers to ‘get the risk right’.


Philip Smith (Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 1993) researches in the areas of social and cultural theory, cultural sociology and criminology. Working mostly from a Durkheimian perspective, he is concerned with the role of symbolic codes, narratives, classifications, morality and rituals in social life and how these structure conflict, identity and action.

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