Advertisement

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 259–268 | Cite as

Climate change and extreme weather in the USA: discourse analysis and strategies for an emerging ‘public’

  • Adam Smith
  • Katie JenkinsEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper discusses how economic impacts of extreme weather events in the USA could, and are, leading to the creation of an ‘extreme weather public’ whose discourse has the opportunity to break the deadlock currently surrounding issues of State and Federal adaptation strategies. By taking an interdisciplinary perspective and combining literature on the formation of publics, the political and economic impacts of extreme weather, and popular discourse in the US climate debate, this paper demonstrates how extreme weather events can gather politically powerful and influential actors and how those actors might use their status to interact with current forms of climate change discourse. Special emphasis is paid to the ways in which a focus on the economic impacts of weather extremes could avoid many of the current ‘framing traps’ laid by climate ‘sceptics’ and move the debate towards more proactive adaptive action in the USA’ most vulnerable regions.

Keywords

Extreme weather Publics Public opinion Disaster losses Climate change Adaptation 

References

  1. Ackerman F (2007) Debating climate economics: the Stern review vs. its critics. A report to friends of the Earth–UK. Tufts University. http://ase.tufts.edu/gdae/pubs/rp/sterndebatereport.pdf. Accessed 28 Oct 2012
  2. Adger N, Arnell N, Tompkins E (2005) Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Glob Environ Chang 15:77–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akerlof K, Maibach EW, Fitzgerald D, Cedeno A, Neuman A (2013) Do people "personally experience" global warming, and if so how, and does it matter? Glob Environ Chang 23:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beniston M (2007) Linking extreme climate events and economic impacts: examples from the Swiss Alps. Energy Policy 35:5384–5392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borick C, Rabe B (2012a) Fall 2011 National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change. Issues in governance studies, vol 44. The Brookings Institution, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  6. Borick C, Rabe B (2012b) Weather or not? Examining the impact of meteorological conditions on public opinion regarding climate change. APSA 2012Meeting Paper. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2108207. Accessed 27 Feb 2013
  7. Brulle RJ, Carmichael J, Jenkins JC (2012) Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the US, 2002–2010. Clim Chang 114:169–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burby RJ (2006) Hurricane Katrina and the paradoxes of government disaster policy: bringing about wise governmental decisions for hazardous areas. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 604:171–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. C2ES (2012) State adaptation plans. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). http://www.c2es.org/us-states-regions/policy-maps/adaptation. Accessed 6 Nov 2012
  10. US Census Bureau (2010) 2006–2010 American community survey. US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/acs/www/. Accessed 9 Aug 2012
  11. Cutter SL, Finch C (2008) Temporal and spatial changes in social vulnerability to natural hazards. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105:2301–2306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cutter SL, Boruff BJ, Shirley WL (2003) Social vulnerability to environmental hazards. Soc Sci Q 84:243–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cutter SL, Barnes L, Berry M, Burton C, Evans E, Tate E, Webb J (2008) A place-based model for understanding community resilience to natural disasters. Glob Environ Chang 18:598–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dewey J (1927) The public and its problems. Henry Holt, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Easterling DR, Meehl GA, Parmesan C, Changnon S, Karl T, Mearns LO (2000) Climate extremes: observations, modeling and impacts. Science 289:2068–2074CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Egan PJ, Mullin M (2012) Turning personal experience into political attitudes: the effect of local weather on Americans' perceptions about global warming. The Journal of Politics 1:1–14Google Scholar
  17. Elsasser SW, Dunlap RE (2013) Leading voices in the Denier Choir: conservative columnists’ dismissal of global warming and denigration of climate science. American Behavioral Scientist. doi: 10.1177/0002764212469800
  18. FEMA (2012) The National Flood Insurance Program Community Status Book. Federal Emergency Management Agency. http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program/national-flood-insurance-program-community-status-book. Accessed 27 Feb 2013
  19. Gammon C (2012) Will Sandy change the climate change conversation? Scientific America. http://wwwscientificamericancom/articlecfm?id=will-sandy-change. Accessed 7 Nov 2012
  20. Howe PD, Markowitz EM, Lee TM, Ko CY, Leiserowitz A (2013) Global perceptions of local temperature change. Nature Climate Change 3:352–356. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1768 Google Scholar
  21. IPCC (2007a) Climate Change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  22. IPCC (2007b) Climate change 2007: mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  23. IPCC (2012) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Klein RJT, Schipper ELF, Dessai S (2005) Integrating mitigation and adaptation into climate and development policy: three research questions. Environmental Science & Policy 8:579–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Latour B (2005) From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or how to make things public. In: Latour B, Weibel P (eds) Making things public: atmospheres of democracy. MIT Press, London, pp 14–41Google Scholar
  26. Lazo JK, Lawson M, Larsen PH (2009) United States economic sensitivity to weather variability. Working Paper. National Center for Atmospheric Research–Societal Impacts Program, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  27. Leiserowitz A, Maibach E, Roser-Renouf C, Feinberg G, Howe P (2012) Extreme weather and climate change in the American mind. Yale Project on climate change communication. Yale University and George Mason, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  28. Lippmann W (1922) Public opinion. Free Press Paperbacks, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Lippmann W (1925) The phantom public. Transaction Publishers, New BrunswickGoogle Scholar
  30. McBean G (2004) Climate change and extreme weather: a basis for action. Nat Hazard 31:177–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McCright AM (2011) Political orientation moderates Americans' beliefs and concern about climate change. Clim Chang 104:243–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2003) Defeating Kyoto: the conservative movement's impact on U.S. climate change policy. Soc Probl 50:348–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2010) Anti-reflexivity: the American conservative movement’s success in undermining climate science and policy. Theory, Culture & Society 27:100–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011) The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public's views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociol Q 52:155–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Meehl GA, Zwiers F, Evans J, Knutson TR, Mearns LO, Whetton P (2000) Trends in extreme weather and climate events: issues related to modeling extremes in projections of future climate change. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 81:427–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moser SC (2011) Adaptation, mitigation, and their disharmonious discontents: An essay. Clim Chang 111:165–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Myers TA, Maibach EW, Roser-Renouf C, Akerlof K, Leiserowitz A (2013) The relationship between personal experience and belief in the reality of global warming. Nature Climate Change 3:343–347. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1754 Google Scholar
  38. NASA (2000) Lighting up the ecosphere. NASA. http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast15nov_1/. Accessed 7 Sept 2012
  39. Newman MEJ (2012) Maps of the 2012 US presidential election results. University of Michigan. http://www-personal.umich.edu/∼mejn/election/2012/. Accessed 8 Nov 2012
  40. NOAA (2012) A climatology of 1980–2003 extreme weather and climate events. NOAA. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/reports/billionz.html#narrative. Accessed 26 Apr 2012
  41. Otto FEL, Massey N, van Oldenborgh GJ, Jones RG, Allen MR (2012) Reconciling two approaches to attribution of the 2010 Russian heat wave. Geophys Res Lett 39:L04702Google Scholar
  42. Pall P, Aina T, Stone DA, Stott PA, Nozawa T, Hilberts AGJ, Lohmann D, Allen MR (2011) Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000. Nature 470:382–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pearce F (2013) Should polluting nations be liable for climate damages? Yale University.http://e360.yale.edu/feature/should_polluting_nations_be_liable_for_climate_damages/2609/. Accessed 27 Feb 2013
  44. Pielke R, Sarewitz D (2004) Bringing society back into the climate debate. Popul Environ 26:255–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Raval A (2012) NY losses from Sandy hit $42bn. The Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ee4d3ca2-37e7-11e2-b8d3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2DRTk1AWw. Accessed 26 Nov 2012
  46. Scruggs L, Benegal S (2012) Declining public concern about climate change: can we blame the great recession? Glob Environ Chang 22:505–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smith JB, Vogel JM, Cruce TL, Seidel S, Holsinger HA (2010) Adapting to climate change: a call for federal leadership. Pew Center on Global Climate Change, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  48. Speer P (2012) Climate change: insurers confirm growing risks, costs. Insurance Networking News. http://www.insurancenetworking.com/news/insurance-climate-change-risk-ceres-30007-1.html. Accessed 2 Mar 2012
  49. Spence A, Poortinga W, Butler C, Pidgeon NF (2011) Perceptions of climate change and willingness to save energy related to flood experience. Nature Climate Change 1:46–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sterman JD, Sweeney LB (2002) Cloudy skies: assessing public understanding of global warming. Syst Dyn Rev 18:207–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sunstein CR (2007) The world vs. the United States and China—the complex climate change incentives of the leading greenhouse gas emitters. UCLA L Rev 55:1675Google Scholar
  52. Swiss Re (2012) Strengthening society's resilience to climate change. Swiss Re. http://www.swissre.com/rethinking/Strengthening_societys_resilience_to_climate_change.html. Accessed 24 Sept 2012
  53. The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press (2009) On Obama's desk: economy, jobs trump all other policy priorities. The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  54. The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press (2011) More moderate republicans see evidence of warming: modest rise in number saying there is “solid evidence” of global warming. The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  55. The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press (2012) Social issues rank as lowest priorities: with voters focused on economy. Obama lead narrows. The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  56. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (2010) Progress report of the interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force: recommended actions in support of a national climate change. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/adaptation. Accessed 10 Apr 2012
  57. Tol RS, Verheyen R (2004) State responsibility and compensation for climate change damages—a legal and economic assessment. Energy Policy 32:1109–1130CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern California EdisonRosemeadUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations