Using Historical Methods to Study Divisions over Climate Change

Alix Rule, New York University (NYU)

Americans divisions on climate change are widely regarded as a matter of concern, and today a large and growing social science literature concerns individuals climate related beliefs and attitudes. However, this literature's assumption remains unvalidated, namely that Americans positions on climate reflect their motives. When it comes to understanding climate divisions, sociologists claims to determine what motivates people by observing "how they act" have meant little. This paper argues that the problems sociologists face in studying climate motivation in the US today find parallels in historians attempts to impute motive at a contextual remove. It illustrates how a strategy developed by historical social scientists may be applied to the problem of the microfoundations of Americans climate divisions, namely, the analysis of the narrative structure of life stories. It draws on an original dataset of interviews with 130 individuals, conducted over 2018-2020.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 37. Climate Change and labor