CR 23:263-274 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/cr023263

Global warming versus ozone depletion: failure and success in North America

Sheldon Ungar*

Department of Sociology, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario M1C 1A4, Canada

ABSTRACT: The success of ozone depletion as a social problem is used to examine and understand the relative failure of global warming. Starting with the (aborted) Œhot crisis¹ of the Greenhouse summer of 1988, this paper tries to show why, despite dire scientific warning, advantages in claimsmaking, and the perceived emergence of strange weather, global warming consistently obtained lesser outcomes. Whereas global warming is a complex and uncertain scientific issue, the ozone hole was associated and resonated with easy-to-understand bridging metaphors derived from the popular culture. The latter problem not only gave rise to a hot crisis, but was also caught up in a cultural whirlwind‹a rapidly evolving and progressive sequence of dynamic and often surprising events that surge through a variety of public arenas with a strong conversational and practical presence. Effectively, ozone loss provided a sense of concrete risk with both strong emotional overtones and everyday relevance for talk and action. Global warming, in contrast, is not amenable to bridging metaphors and did not lend itself to a cultural whirlwind.


KEY WORDS: Climate change · Ozone hole · Hot crisis · Social construction


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