Society, Power and Climate Change: A social critique of public climate change receptivity in Ireland
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This project examines public receptivity to climate change in Ireland and how this receptivity is connected to the structure of Irish society and the translation of 'climate change' into that society. It provides a methodological framework for examining the social dimensions of climate change perceptions and responses built around the socio-cultural theories and methods of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. He viewed practices and power relations, associated with positions within society, as central to the formation of a 'practical apprehension' of the world for the occupants of those positions. This apprehension is made up of dispositions that, functioning predominantly at an unconscious level, guide our behaviour and how we classify issues and the actions of others, including those pertaining to climate change. More specifically my work looks at how different social conditions and power relations contribute to diversified climate change perceptions and responses between certain groups: namely teachers, environmental activists, farmers, businessmen and lower economic groups. My thesis also investigates how research participants contribute to their own climate change receptivity. The thesis demonstrates how inputting the social into research on climate change receptivity highlights the unequal access to choice that participants have towards engaging with climate change. It reveals a powerful connection between social distance from dominant culture and the quality of the receptiveness to the high-cultural and technical veneer of dominant depictions of climate change. The data collected points to the role in enhancing climate change engagement of higher expert literacy, socially empowered communities and moral framing and vice versa: the diminutive effect on engagement when these properties are absent. Moreover the dominant reformist approach is depicted here as disenfranchising the role of the general public, tending to individualise their possibilities for involvement. In recognising only their individualised consumer-related forms of decarbonisation reformism greatly limits opportunities for public involvement.