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WIREs Clim Change
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Disruptive ideas: public intellectuals and their arguments for action on climate change

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In this paper, I analyze three distinct groups of prominent public intellectuals arguing for action on climate change. I detail how public intellectuals establish their authority, spread their ideas, and shape political discourse, analyzing the contrasting stories that they tell about the causes and solutions to climate change. ‘Ecological Activists’ like U.S. writer/activist Bill McKibben or Charles Sturt University (AU) philosopher Clive Hamilton argue that climate change is a symptom of a capitalist society that has dangerously exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. They are skeptical of technological or market‐based solutions to the problem, urging the need for a global movement that dramatically re‐organizes society. ‘Smart Growth Reformers’ like UK economist Nicholas Stern or former U.S. vice president Al Gore agree that climate change poses catastrophic risks but argue that those risks can be avoided if political leaders adopt the right market‐based mechanisms, enabling sustainable economic growth to continue. ‘Ecomodernists’ like The New York Times (U.S.) writer Andrew Revkin and Oxford University (UK) anthropologist Steve Rayner argue for recognizing the biases in how we have conventionally defined climate change as a social problem. Progress will be achieved not by relying on social protest or market‐based mechanisms, but by government investment in a diverse menu of policies that catalyze technological innovation, protect against climate impacts, and provide developing countries abundant, cleaner sources of energy. To conclude, I propose methods for building on my analysis and urge the need for forums that feature a diversity of voices, discourses, and ideas. WIREs Clim Change 2014, 5:809–823. doi: 10.1002/wcc.317

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Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Communication
The Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Knowledge and Practice

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