GCC Distinguished Lecture Series

Andrew Hoffman, Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan

How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate


Andrew Hoffman, the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise for University of Michigan and author, visited Virginia Tech on Friday, March 22, 2019.

Hoffman gave a 3:30 p.m. distinguished lecture titled “How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate” at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg. The lecture was followed by a question and answer session and book signing.

The event was coordinated by the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech, with funding from the Fralin Life Science Institute and the Virginia Tech Graduate School, and was free and open to the public.

Dr. Andrew Hoffman

Hoffman applies organizational behavioral models and theories to assess the cultural and institutional aspects behind environmental issues, including climate change. His work also addresses how environmental issues evolve socially, politically and managerially. Hoffman has published 14 books and more than 100 articles and book chapters on these topics, which have been translated into five languages. His 2015 book, How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate, garnered international media attention.

Hoffman’s work has resulted in a long list of honors, including the Aspen Institute’s Faculty Pioneer Award, the Maggie Award, an Aldo Leopold Fellowship, the Rachel Carson Book Prize, and the Klegerman Award.

In this lecture, Hoffman discussed the sociology and psychology of why people reject climate change and how to address this issue. He offers suggestions for building trust and effectively communicating despite opposing viewpoints, arguing that culture is the barrier to acting on climate change.

“The current public and political debate over climate change in this country is not about carbon dioxide or climate models,” Hoffman said in a lecture at Yale University. “It’s about conflicting world views among people who feel their values are being threatened. We need to understand where they’re coming from.”

Top media outlets such as The New York Times, Scientific American, National Geographic, Atlantic, and National Public Radio have featured Hoffman’s work. He has also served on several prestigious research committees, including a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee.

Hoffman’s visit represents the sixth lecture in a public Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech. The lecture series brings some of the world’s leading scholars to the Blacksburg community to discuss critical environmental and societal issues in an open forum.

“Dr. Hoffman is a dynamic speaker with a strong interdisciplinary perspective on environmental issues.  His work has transformed the way we think about the critical leadership role of businesses in environmental sustainability, and on the way culture shapes the discussion around environmental issues.  We are extremely fortunate to have him join us in Blacksburg to discuss how factors other than scientific data, such as norms, values, and communication, influence people’s perceptions and beliefs about climate change,” said William Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech and professor of fish and wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.