Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Maxwell T. Boykoff

Research Interests

Maxwell Boykoff is the Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, which is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. He also is an Associate Professor 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 cultural politics and environmental governance, science and environmental communications, science-policy interactions, political economy and the environment, and climate adaptation He has experience working in North America, Central America, South Asia, Oceania and Europe, and is a co-author and editor of seven books and edited volumes, along with over fifty articles and book chapters. 

Max’s research and creative work has developed primarily in two arenas:

  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.

Max integrates these research and creative works with ongoing commitments to mentorship, teaching and service. He supervises postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students through the International Collective on Environment, Culture and Politics. See Max’s ‘current/former students’ page for more about their research and current positions. 

Max was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He is proud to be a Badger.


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.

Current Courses

Additional Readings


Books

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Culture, Politics and Climate Change
Edited by Deserai A. Crow and Maxwell T. Boykoff

March 2014

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Successful Adaptation to Climate Change
Edited by Susanne Moser and Maxwell Boykoff

Routledge
May 2013

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The New Carbon Economy: Constitution, Governance, and Contestation
Edited by Peter Newell, Maxwell Boykoff, and Emily Boyd

Wiley-Blackwell
January 2012

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Who Speaks for Climate? Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change
by Maxwell Boykoff

Cambridge University Press
September 2011

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The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey
Edited by Maxwell Boykoff
November 2009
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Contentious Geographies: Environmental Knowledge, Meaning, Scale
Edited by Michael K. Goodman, Maxwell T. Boykoff, and Kyle T. Evered
May 2008

 

Current Research

My research and creative work center on two themes. One is the ‘cultural politics of science, policy, and the environment,’ 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 environmental challenges such as climate change. A second is the transformations of carbon-based economies and societies, with a particular emphasis on the interface of science, sustainability, and practical action, including policies. Through many connected projects and collaborations, my research commitments involve questions of 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. Together, my work has sought to critically analyze the role of various actors and organizations shaping political and cultural dimensions of environmental science and policy discussions in the public arena. 
 
For example:
  • Through the Media and Climate Change Observatory, colleagues and I monitor media coverage of climate change at various scales, updated monthly. We have established and maintain appraisals of 82 sources across 40 countries around the world and monitor country-level coverage in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition, through collaborations with Rogelio Fernandez-Reyes in Spain, and Midori Aoyagi-Usui and Shoko Yamaguchi in Japan, we maintain country-level counts there as well. As offshoots from this work, we work with many partners (e.g., Lancet Countdown on climate change and health issues) and we have produced a number of related reports and journal articles.
  • With colleagues Beth Osnes (Theater Department) and Rebecca Safran (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department) we run a multi-faceted project called ‘Inside the Greenhouse’. This project works to deepen our understanding of how issues associated with climate change are/can be communicated, by creating artifacts through interactive theatre, film, fine art, performance art, television programming, and appraising as well as extracting effective methods for multimodal climate communication. We also seek to build competence and confidence in the students with whom we work. The project effectively fosters a deliberative space for CU Boulder students to experiment with creative climate communications and build capacity for more systematic, capable and effective environmental communication strategies. As part of this project we teach numerous courses and produce seasonal events and various research outputs.

Projects

ICECaPs
ICECaps: International Collective on Environment, Culture & Politics Founded in 2012 at the University of Colorado Boulder, the International Collective on Environment, Culture and Politics is a research group that examines some of today’s most pressing environmental issues. ICE CaPs members and affiliates cross disciplines to apply a wide range of theories and perspectives to study issues at the human-environment interface. We work across scales from the individual to the global. Read more ...

 

Inside the Greenhouse
Inside the Greenhouse Max Boykoff and Beth Osnes of the Theater Department at University of Colorado Boulder are working to deepen our understanding of how issues associated with climate change are/can be communicated, by creating artifacts through interactive theatre, film, fine art, performance art, television programming, and appraising as well as extracting effective methods for multimodal climate communication. Read more ...

 

Media Coverage of Climate Change
Media Coverage of Climate Change/Global Warming Monthly updated figure tracking newspaper coverage of climate change or global warming in 50 newspapers across 20 countries and 6 continents. Max Boykoff (University of Colorado) and Maria Mansfield (University of Exeter) continue to track newspaper coverage of climate change or global warming in 50 newspapers across 20 countries and 6 continents. They update this figure on a monthly basis as a resource for journalists, researchers, and others who may be interested in tracking these trends. Max Boykoff also has a book coming out with Cambridge University Press in September 2011 titled Who Speaks for Climate? Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change. Read more ...

 

Red Cross
Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program This program seeks to improve climate change communication and adaptation decision-making in response to climate variability and change within the humanitarian sector. It connects humanitarian practitioners from the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre [RC/RC CC] an affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies [IFRC] with science-policy graduate student researchers at the University of Colorado. Read more ...

 


A Note for Prospective Graduate Students

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:

  1. A C.V.
  2. A description of why you’d like to enroll in the Environmental Studies program, and work in my research group
  3. A statement about how your research interests may relate to one of these two research projects (where I am currently interested in advising students):


Max Boykoff in southern Zambia as part of the CSTPR and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre collaboration, working on climate adaptation and resilience. Photo: Wisford Mudenda

Max Boykoff speaking at side event at the United Nations Conference of Parties meeting on climate change (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Gregg Walker

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