Kari Norgaard

Kari Marie Norgaard is a Professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, a post she has held since 2011. She is known for her research into climate change denial and the politics of global warming.

Research into social denial

To investigate the lack of response in Western societies to the implications of global warming, Norgaard collected ethnographic data and took interviews in a rural community in west Norway during the winter of 2000–2001 when unusually warm conditions damaged the skiing industry and prevented ice fishing. Both local and national media linked the problems to global warming, and while the public treated this as common knowledge, they failed to demand a political response or change their own fuel usage. She investigated described this form of denial on various levels. The conventional information deficit model explained opposition or indifference by assuming that the public are ill-informed or misinformed, but in Norway a well informed public showed declining interest in the issue. Her interviews revealed that their response to an apparently insuperable problem was comparable to the condition called psychic numbing. Adopting Eviatar Zerubavel's concept of socially organized denial, she saw this as a collective form of what Stanley Cohen had called implicatory denial.

She published her research in journals, changing the names of individuals and giving the fictional name of "Bygdaby" to the community.

The work was then developed into the book Living in Denial Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, published by the MIT Press in March 2011.

Responses to research

The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society published in August 2011 described the uniqueness of the research, and the relevance for people worldwide.

In a statement on 5 January 2012 announcing its decision on use of terms when discussing climate change denial, the National Center for Science Education highlighted Norgaard's concept of implicit denial as discussed in her book, which they said was getting increasing interest from academics investigating climate change controversy.

On 28 March 2012 Norgaard co-chaired a session of the "Planet Under Pressure Conference" in London, which a paper she had co-authored with Robert Brulle and Randolph Haluza-DeLay. Two days in advance, the University of Oregon issued a press release which opened by describing their message as "Resistance at individual and societal levels must be recognized before real action can be taken to effectively address threats facing the planet from human-caused contributions to climate change." Her work suggests a need to recognise climate denial and address it with dialogue. She returned from the conference to find that Rush Limbaugh had targeted the opening paragraph of the press release on his show, and at his urging several hundred individuals had sent her acrimonious emails. Time magazine described this as bullying, comparable to the verbal abuse addressed to climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.


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  • [ Understanding Climate Denial (presentation)]