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Max Boykoff Research AREAS

Max Boykoff's research has concentrated on interactions between state and non-state actors at the interface of environmental science, policy and practice. He has been working in two primary research areas:

  1. cultural politics of science, climate change and environmental issues = this refers to ways that attitudes, intentions, beliefs and behaviors of individuals and groups shape (and are shaped by) the perceived spectrum of possible action in the context of science-policy, climate change and environmental issues.
  2. transformations of carbon-based economies and societies (with emphasis on the interface of science and practical action) = this refers to decarbonization politics, policies and decision-making, with particular interest in how these activities find meaning in people’s everyday lives, as well as how they, in turn, feed back into science-policy decision-making.

As a few examples of his research in ‘cultural politics and climate change’:

  1. His most recent book is called Creative (Climate) Communications: Productive Pathways for Science, Policy and Society (released July 2019) with Cambridge University Press. Conversations about climate change at the science-policy interface and in our lives have been stuck for some time. This handbook integrates lessons from the social sciences and humanities to more effectively make connections through issues, people, and things that everyday citizens care about. Readers will come away with an enhanced understanding that there is no 'silver bullet' to communications about climate change; instead, a 'silver buckshot' approach is needed, where strategies effectively reach different audiences in different contexts. This tactic can then significantly improve efforts that seek meaningful, substantive, and sustained responses to contemporary climate challenges. It can also help to effectively recapture a common or middle ground on climate change in the public arena. Readers will come away with ideas on how to harness creativity to better understand what kinds of communications work where, when, why, and under what conditions in the twenty-first century.
  2. His 2011 book is called Who Speaks for Climate? Making sense of media reporting on climate change (released November 2011), with Cambridge University Press. This book works to make sense of how media representations of climate change influence the spectrum of possible responses to modern climate challenges. It is motivated by conditions in this 21st century where people rely more than ever upon media representations to help interpret and make sense of the many complexities relating to climate science and governance. Media representations – from news to entertainment – are powerful and important links between people’s everyday realities and experiences, and the ways in which these are discussed at a distance between science, policy and public actors. A dynamic mix of influences – from internal workings of mass media such as journalistic norms, institutional values and practices, to external political economic, cultural, and social factors – shape what becomes climate ‘news’ or ‘information’. Amid these spaces of meaning-making reside questions regarding who – through media visibility – translates climate science and governance, as well as how. 
  3. Max Boykoff and the MeCCO team monitors 96 sources (across newspapers, radio and TV) in 43 countries in seven different regions around the world. The MeCCO team then assembles the data by accessing archives through the Lexis Nexis, Proquest and Factiva databases via the University of Colorado libraries. To view the latest graph see 2004-2019 World Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change or Global Warming (updated monthly). Country level profiles have now expanded to include datasets and figures for Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, International Wire Services, Europe, Latin America, Radio, and US Television.


For two examples of his research on the ‘transformations of carbon-based economies and societies’:

  1. Max co-authored a 2010 Global Environmental Change article with Dr. David Frame (University of Oxford) and Dr. Sam Randalls (University College London). This article interrogated the institutionalization of the discourse of "climate stabilization" over the last three decades. Taking a historical perspective, they argue that while this discourse has been valuable in making climate science legible and useful to governance in the past, it is now limiting wider considerations for alternative mitigation efforts, through premature foreclosure around fixed international policies.
  2. He has increasingly worked on issues of climate adaptation and urban environments in the Indian context. With Dr. Emily Boyd (University of Reading), he has examined adaptation strategies associated with flood events in Mumbai, India. Such work links with some of Max’s past research that examined vulnerability and livelihood issues in relation to global climate change and extreme events in Honduras.