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Climate Change and SocietySociological Perspectives$
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Riley E. Dunlap and Robert J. Brulle

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199356102

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199356102.001.0001

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The Climate Change Divide in Social Theory

The Climate Change Divide in Social Theory

(p.333) 11 The Climate Change Divide in Social Theory
Climate Change and Society

Robert J. Antonio

Brett Clark

Oxford University Press

Major epistemic and substantive splits characterize social theories of climate change. The “realism–constructivism” debate raised questions about humanity’s embeddedness in the biosphere, relative autonomy from natural limits, and cultural construction capacities; sparked disagreements over climate science certainty and state-driven versus market-oriented strategies; and spurred exchanges regarding democracy and climate policy. Theorists have closed the gap, stressing the importance of both social construction and obdurate biophysical conditions. However, remaining differences condition the sharpest divide among social theorists over the normative priority and prudence of capitalism’s growth imperative and veracity of its sustainability. Disagreements persist regarding the urgency and scale of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the need to reduce economic growth and transform policy regimes that drive it. These divides generate productive tensions and conversation as long as the dynamic biophysical realities of climate change remain in sight.

Keywords:   natural limits, realism, constructivism, growth imperative, state-driven, market-driven, postexemptionalist

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