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Max Boykoff

Readings from Max Boykoff


Maxwell T. Boykoff is assistant professor in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado Boulder. He teaches in the Environmental Studies Program and is Adjunct Faculty in the Geography Department. He has ongoing interests in climate adaptation, cultural politics and environmental governance, science-policy interactions, and political economy and the environment. His research has been mentioned in a range of outlets such as Science, Nature, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Grist, and Christian Science Monitor, among others.

BOOK: Who Speaks for the Climate? --
Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change

By Maxwell T. Boykoff ISBN: 9780521133050

Who Speaks for the Climate?(2011)
  • “Maxwell T. Boykoff’s penetrating research into how the media cover, and too often poorly cover,

what many consider to be ‘the story of the century’ reveals new insights into this ever-changing, and ever-concerning, field of social endeavour . . . [Over]time you’ll find this among your most seriously dog-eared resources on media, climate change, the clash of journalism and science cultures…and the way out of it all.” –Bud Ward, Editor, The Yale Forum on Climate Change The Media

From Al Gore to Fox News to the blogosphere, media coverage on climate change seems like an overwhelming maze—one loaded with contradictory messages. Is climate change simply an inevitable process, one of Earth’s natural cycles? Should individuals do more to stem global warming? Why do portrayals of climate change vary widely across the political spectrum? As these pressing questions persist, they demonstrate a curious paradox: The more coverage on climate change there is, the more confusion there seems to be.

Boykoff's "Who Speaks for the Climate?" makes sense of media reporting on climate change. In many ways, media representations of climate change play a powerful role in helping people interpret the many complexities related to climate science: They serve as an important link between people’s everyday lives and the ways in which the issue is discussed by scientists, policymakers, and public actors. Spanning mass media in all its forms—TV, radio, books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and more—Boykoff (an expert on climate adaptations and science-policy interactions) analyzes such media representations, and shows how they are shaped by a dynamic mix of influences: from journalistic norms to external, political, economic, cultural, and social factors.

Who Speaks for the Climate? published in 2011, comes at a time when confusion over climate change abounds. For example, take a look at the confusing usage of “climate change” versus “global warming” in mass media. In strict scientific terms, climate change is a broader term that accounts for changes in the Earth’s climate, while global warming specifically refers to the increase in the Earth’s temperature over time. However, throughout various media and across different countries, representations have often deployed these terms interchangeably or inconsistently, fueling further colloquial confusion. Examining all the players involved, from think tanks to NGOs to celebrities, Boykoff shows how such media portrayals impact not only public awareness and engagement, but also potential actions and policies.

“Connections between media information and policy decision-making attitudes, perspectives, intentions and behavioural change are far from straightforward,” Boykoff says. “Coverage certainly does not determine engagement; rather, it shapes possibilities for engagement.”