THE RISE AND (RELATIVE) DECLINE OF GLOBAL WARMING AS A SOCIAL PROBLEM

Authors

  • Sheldon Ungar

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Toronto-Scarborough Campus
      *Direct all correspondence to: Sheldon Ungar, Department of Social Science, Scarborough Campus, University of Toronto, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario, M1C 1A4.
    Search for more papers by this author

*Direct all correspondence to: Sheldon Ungar, Department of Social Science, Scarborough Campus, University of Toronto, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario, M1C 1A4.

Abstract

This article extends recent work on the public arenas approach to social problems (Hilgartner and Bosk 1988) by examining changes in audience receptiveness to claims-making activities. Scientists’ claims about global warming failed to attract much public attention until the extraordinary heat and drought of the “summer of '88” created a social scare. That is, environmental claims are most likely to be honored—and accelerate demands in the political arena—when they piggyback on dramatic real-world events. The dynamics of this social problem over time reveal that both demand attenuation and issue redirection processes have diminished global warming's standing as a “celebrity” social problem. Social scares hold potential importance for prospective social problems that revolve around new technologies.

Ancillary