Issues related to climate change and clean energy continue to grab headlines and shape political debates in the United States, but are solutions in the form of climate policy getting any closer to becoming reality? A research team from the University of Maryland has received $450,000 from the MacArthur Foundation to take a closer look at how climate policy networks are evolving at both state and federal levels and how these networks are interacting with each other.
The project is led by Dana R. Fisher, PhD, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland. Fisher is joined by five UMD sociology graduate assistants and two consultants from other universities.
As part of their analyses, the research team will assess the degree to which information and discussion about climate issues are stymied by echo chambers – closed loops wherein the same messages are repeated over and over to similarly minded policy actors – rather than expanding the conversation and “climate constituency.”
“Our project will ultimately map out what clusters are forming around particular climate-related issues, what explains the formation of these clusters and how they are related,” said Fisher. “We will also compare how actors engaged in climate decision-making present themselves publicly to how they see themselves, or what we call the differences between ideological and policy networks.”
The methodology the team is using builds on Fisher’s previous research funded by the National Science Foundation that involves data collected from public documents and from policy actors engaged in debates around climate and clean energy issues at the federal and state levels.
The researchers will be focusing on state-level activities in Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, as well as developments at the federal level. Their project is slated to last one year.