Center for Science and Technology Policy Research
Maxwell T. Boykoff is an Associate Professor in the Center for Science and Technology Policy, which is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He teaches in the Environmental Studies program and is Adjunct faculty in the Geography Department. In addition, Max is a Senior Visiting Research Associate in the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.
He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California-Santa Cruz and Bachelor of Sciences in Psychology from The Ohio State University. Max has ongoing interests in climate adaptation, cultural politics and environmental governance, science-policy interactions, and political economy and the environment, and he has experience working in North America, Central America, South Asia and Europe.
Max’s research and creative work has two primary focal areas. One focus is on the ‘cultural politics of climate change’ which refers to how the attitudes, intentions, beliefs and behaviors of individuals and groups shape (and are shaped by) the perceived spectrum of possible action in the context of climate change. A second focus is on the transformations of carbon-based economies and societies, with a particular emphasis on the interface of science and practical action, including policies. Through many connected projects and collaborations, his research commitments have been fueled by interests in how climate science and policy find meaning in people’s everyday lives, as well as how this, in turn, feeds back into science-policy decision-making.
Cultural Politics of Climate Change
This strand of work focuses on the cultural politics of climate change has two components: (a) media coverage of climate change, and (b) the relationship of cultural values and norms with policy and politics. There are numerous projects that have emerged from this area of Max’s research program.
Media Coverage of Climate Change
Over the past decade, Max has published many peer-reviewed papers and book chapters addressing this subject. However, the monograph ‘Who Speaks for the Climate? Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change’ (2011, Cambridge University Press) provided a novel and cohesive book-length narrative on issues of media and climate change while also bridging between academic considerations and real world developments. As such, this book has helpeds students, academic researchers and interested members of the public make sense of media reporting on climate change as it explores 'who speaks for climate' and what effects this may have on the spectrum of possible responses to contemporary climate challenges. As another example, originally with colleague Maria Mansfield (University of Oxford) and now with colleague Ami Nacu-Schmidt (University of Colorado) Max Boykoff has developed methods to monitor media coverage of climate change at the international and various national scales (updated monthly).
The relationship of cultural values and norms with policy and politics
This component of work has sought to critically analyze the role of various actors and organizations shaping political and cultural dimensions of climate science and policy discussions in the public arena. An example of this is a project examining outlier perspectives in climate discussions often called climate ‘contrarians’, from which Max has published two peer-reviewed papers to date (in American Behavioral Scientist, and Celebrity Studies [co-authored with Shawn Olson]). As another example of work in this area is a project (and 2009 peer-reviewed paper in Geoforum, co-authored with Michael K. Goodman) interrogating the role of celebrities – an increasingly important community of non-state ‘actors’ – shaping climate discussions in the public arena.
Transformations of carbon-based industry and society
This strand of research focuses on aspects of the transformations of carbon-based industry and society. This engagement has taken many forms. Among them was a project that interrogated the framing concept of ‘climate stabilization’. Co-authored with Prof David Frame (Victoria University of Wellington) and Prof Sam Randalls (University College London), the 2010 paper in Global Environmental Change was entitled, ‘Discursive stability meets climate instability: A critical exploration of the concept of ‘climate stabilization’ in contemporary climate policy’. This strand of research has also linked to ongoing research projects on
community-based adaptation questions with experiential learning as it relates to transformations of carbon-based activities (with collaborators Pablo Suarez, Bettina Koelle and Janot Mendler de Suarez.
To date, Max has contributed to more than sixty publications (from peer-reviewed journal articles, books and reports to reviews and commentaries). These have included articles in Geoforum, Global Environmental Change, Transactions of the Institute of British Geography, Political Geography, Public Understanding of Science, Environmental Research Letters, and Climatic Change. He has also written commentaries for the Washington Post, Nature Reports Climate Change, the Guardian (London) and Nieman Reports.
Weaving these interests together, Max worked on five edited books in recent years:
- Culture, Politics and Climate Change: How information shapes our common future (2014, Routledge/Earthscan), co-edited with Deserai Crow (University of Colorado)
- Successful adaptation to climate change: Linking science and policy in a rapidly changing world (2013, Routledge) co-edited with Susanne Moser (Stanford University)
- The New Carbon Economy: Constitution, Governance and Contestation (2012, Wiley-Blackwell), co-edited with Peter Newell (University of Sussex) and Emily Boyd (University of Reading)
- The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey (2009, Routledge/Europa)
- Contentious Geographies: Environmental Knowledge, Meaning and Scale (2008, Ashgate Publishing) co-edited with Dr. Michael K. Goodman (University of Reading) and Dr. Kyle Evered (Michigan State University).
Max's research has been mentioned in a range of outlets such as Science, Nature, Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, Forbes, Columbia Journalism Review, the Los Angeles Times, BBC Worldservice and (US) National Public Radio. He has also appeared on CNN International and France24 television.
Related to these research and creative works, Max has delivered presentations in a variety of venues such as the University of Copenhagen Sustainability series lectures (2013), The Securitization of Water Discourse meeting at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2012), the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2011) the Association of Japanese Environmental Journalists in Tokyo (2010), the Global Media Forum for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Germany (2009), the 2009 G8+5 Environment Ministers meeting in Siracusa, Italy, side events at the UN Conference of Parties meetings to the UNFCCC (Poland 2008, and Mexico 2010), and the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Congress.
Max integrates these research and creative works with ongoing commitments to mentorship, teaching and service.
Max Boykoff’s graduate students (through the International Collective on Environment, Culture and Politics) have been working on projects such as transboundary movements and governance of e-waste, particularly between India and the USA, social acceptability of renewable energy development in the US American West, and climate science-policy engagement among members of US Congress. His students have earned awards such as the following:
- Lucy McAllister: 2013 CIRES Graduate Research Fellowship
- Marisa McNatt: 2013 Heinrick Boell Foundation Climate Media Fellow
- Kanmani Venkateswaran: 2013 CU-Boulder – Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship (Zambia)
- Xi Wang: 2013 Albert E. Smith Emerging Scholar Award from the Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS)
- Shawn Olson: 2012 Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS) research award
- Amy Meyer: 2013 Jacob Van Ek Scholar Award, CU-Boulder
An example of this integration is the Inside the Greenhouse (ITG) public engagement project (with Prof Beth Osnes (Department of Theater and Dance) and Prof Rebecca Safran (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department)). This ITG project fosters a deliberative space for CU-Boulder students to experiment with creative climate communications and builds capacity for more systematic, capable and effective environmental communication strategies. Through the development and experimentation with creative modes to communication, we treat interactions in this ‘greenhouse’ as a living laboratory, an intentional place for growing new ideas and evaluating possibilities to confront climate change through a range of mitigation and adaptation strategies. There are three components to the ITG project: (1) a two-course series offered at CU-Boulder, (2) twice-a-year public events, and (3) a 22-minute television program.
Since arriving at CU-Boulder in 2009, Max has taught the following courses:
- ENVS 1000 – Introduction to Environmental Studies
- ENVS 3100 – Inside the Greenhouse (with Prof Beth Osnes)
- ENVS 3521 – Climate Politics and Policy
- ENVS 4800 – Culture, Politics and Climate Change
- ENVS 5100/GEOG 5100 – Climate Politics and Science-Policy
- ENVS 5720/PSCI 7026 – Problem Orientation
- ENVS 5909 – Doing Political Ecology
Max was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He is proud to be a Badger.
Fischhendler, I., D. Boymel, and M. T. Boykoff, 2016. How Competing Securitized Discourses over Land Appropriation Are Constructed: The Promotion of Solar Energy in the Israeli Desert. Environmental Communication 10 (2) 147-168.
Fischhendler, I., G. Cohen-Blankshtain, Y. Shuali, and M. T. Boykoff, 2015. Communicating mega-projects in the face of uncertainties: Israeli mass media treatment of the Dead Sea Water Canal. Public Understanding of Science 24 (7) 794-810, doi: 10.1177/0963662513512440, October.
Boykoff, M. T. and M. K. Goodman, 2015. Science (and Policy) Friction: How Mass Media Shape US American Climate Discourses. Cultural Dynamics of Climate Change and the Environment in North America , Ed. B. Sommer189-205, BRILL, July.
Boykoff, M. T., 2015. Consensus and contrarianism on climate change: How the USA case informs dynamics elsewhere. Mètode, April.
Boykoff, M. T., 2015. Leveraging Media, Social Sciences, Humanities in Climate Change Debate. Daily Camera , Published May 3.
Gold, A.U., D.J. Oonk, L. Smith, M.T. Boykoff, B. Osnes, and S.B. Sullivan, 2015. Lens on Climate Change: Making Climate Meaningful Through Student-Produced Videos. Journal of Geography 1-12, doi: 10.1080/00221341.2015.1013974, March 24.
Boyd, E., A. Ghosh, and M. T. Boykoff, 2015. Climate Change Adaptation in Mumbai, India. The Urban Climate Challenge: Rethinking the Role of Cities in the Global Climate Regime , Ed. C. Johnson, N. Toly, and H. Schroeder, Routledge, March 24.
O’Neill, S., H. T. P. Williams, T. Kurz, B. Wiersma, and M. Boykoff, 2015. Dominant frames in legacy and social media coverage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Nature Climate Change 5 380-385, doi: 10.1038/nclimate2535, Published March 25.
M. T. Boykoff, M. M. McNatt, and M. K. Goodman, 2015. Communicating in the anthropocene: The cultural politics of climate change news coverage around the world. The Routledge Handbook of Environment and Communication , Ed. A. Hansen and R. Cox, Routledge Press, March 2015.
Fischhendler, I., D. Boymel, and M. T. Boykoff, 2014. How Competing Securitized Discourses over Land Appropriation Are Constructed: The Promotion of Solar Energy in the Israeli Desert. Environmental Communication, doi: 10.1080/17524032.2014.979214, Published November 17.
Anderegg, W.R.L., E.S. Callaway, M.T. Boykoff, G. Yohe, and T.L. Root, 2014. Awareness of Both Type I and II Errors in Climate Science and Assessment. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00115.1, Published October.
Suarez, P., J. Mendler de Suarez, B. Koelle, and M. Boykoff, 2014. Serious Fun: Scaling Up Community Based Adaptation through Experiential Learning. Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change , Ed. E. L. F. Schipper, J. Ayers, H. Reid, S. Huq, and A. Rahman136-151, Routledge, isbn: 978-0-415-62370-4, Published April 2014.
Bailey, A., L. Giangola, and M. T. Boykoff, 2014. How Grammatical Choice Shapes Media Representations of Climate (Un)certainty. Environmental Communication 8 (2) 197-215, doi: 10.1080/17524032.2014.906481, Published May 2014.
Crow, D. A. and M. T. Boykoff, 2014. Culture, Politics and Climate Change: How Information Shapes our Common Future. 252 pp., Routledge, isbn: 0415661498, Published March.
Boykoff, M. T., 2014. Media discourse on the climate slowdown. Nature Climate Change, Vol. 4, pp. 156-158, Published March.
Boykoff, M. T. and S. K. Olson, 2013. ‘Wise contrarians’: A keystone species in contemporary climate science, politics and policy. Celebrity Studies 4 (3) 276-291, doi: 10.1080/19392397.2013.831618, Published October 25.
Boykoff, M. T., A. Ghosh, and K. Venkateswaran, 2013. Media Coverage of Discourse on Adaptation: Competing Visions of 'Success' in the Indian Context. Successful Adaptation to Climate Change, Ed. S. Moser and M. Boykoff, 237-252, Routledge, isbn: 978-0-415-52500-8, Published May 2013.
Moser, S. C. and M. T. Boykoff, 2013. Climate Change and Adaptation Success: The Scope of the Challenge. Successful Adaptation to Climate Change, Ed. S. Moser and M. Boykoff, 1-33, Routledge, isbn: 978-0-415-52500-8, Published May 2013.
Boykoff, M. T. and T. Yulsman, 2013. Political economy, media, and climate change: Sinews of modern life. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, doi: 10.1002/wcc.233, Published June 2013.
A Note for Prospective Graduate Students
I will be on sabbatical 2015-2016 so I will not be accepting new graduate students for Fall 2015.
If you are considering applying to the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado and would like to work with me, please send an email with these three attachments:
- A C.V.
- A statement describing your research interests
- A description of why you’d like to enroll in the Environmental Studies program, and work in my research group
I prefer to discuss research interests with potential graduate students in person, by telephone or Skype before making decisions. So please contact me as soon as you decide that you would like to apply.