Award Date

5-1-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Environmental Science

First Committee Member

Robert Futrell

Second Committee Member

Helen Neill

Third Committee Member

Daniel Benyshek

Fourth Committee Member

William J. Smith Jr.

Fifth Committee Member

Thomas Piechota

Number of Pages

334

Abstract

This dissertation is an ethnographic case study of climate change Doubtfuls and Dismissives with the purpose of understanding their perceptions of water use and renewable energy in the context of a changing climate. I also investigate the information sources and messages they use to understand climate change and climate change solutions. The Global Warming's Six Americas project identifies climate change Doubtfuls and Dismissives as one third of the American public, and an active voice in US climate change policy (Maibach et al, 2009; Leiserowitz et al., 2014). Doubtfuls are people with skeptical attitudes towards anthropogenic climate change, while Dismissives deny any change is occurring. I conducted twenty-five interviews of Churchill County, Nevada residents, twenty-three of which reflected a Doubtful or Dismissive attitude towards climate change. The analysis focuses on three themes: 1) willingness to implement water conservation practices; 2) support for renewable energy developments and policies that encourage that development; and 3) information sources used to understand climate change and climate change solutions.

My informants perceive climate change as a natural, non-anthropogenic, non-threatening process, and therefore only plan for short-term drought mitigation. In fact, they fear losing existing water rights and supply if they implement water conservation practices. I also found that they support renewable energy in principle, but not in practice because they do not see monetary incentives and do not agree in government subsidies for the industry. In a departure from most research, they welcome development on local public lands, but only if the county accrues resources from those developments. My informants look to peer groups and trade associations for primary information about water, renewable energy, and climate change.

I use these findings to discuss points of possible connection between the scientific concerns about climate change effects, and the practical concerns of a population important to shaping climate change policy. I describe how science-based decision-making can engage this population using boundary organizations to co-produce knowledge focused on mutually beneficial policies and practices. In summary, I demonstrate that it is quite possible for Doubtfuls and Dismissives to support climate beneficial measures, even if they disagree that climate change is a problem, if they see other practical benefits to be gained.

Keywords

agricultural water policy; climate adaptation and mitigation; climate change solutions; Climatic changes; Communication in the environmental sciences; Energy policy; Renewable energy sources; Rural sociology; science communication; Sociology, rural; Water conservation; Water-supply, agricultural

Disciplines

Climate | Communication | Environmental Sciences

Language

English


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