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Miller, Clark. 1999. "Framing Climate Impacts: The Dynamics of Societal Processes." Draft Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) Discussion Paper. Cambridge, MA: Environment and Natural Resources Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


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Harvard University’s Global Environmental Assessment (GEA) Project has as one of its principal goals eventual improvements in assessment performance. To accomplish this, GEA has sought to explore a deeper understanding of where assessments fit into broad patterns of societal policymaking. GEA has argued that conventional depictions of assessments as documents that provide information to policymakers are incomplete. Instead, GEA research has emphasized the practices of assessment — e.g., the articulation and accreditation of knowledge claims, the inclusion and exclusion of participants, domains of inquiry, and policy options, and the distribution of decisionmaking authority within the assessment—that contribute to or detract from the credibility of assessments among far-flung publics. Proposals for improved assessment performance that recognize the importance of the practical activities by which particular knowledge claims are produced, GEA research has suggested, may be better able to reflect and integrate the diverse social and cultural standards against which assessments are evaluated in the course of societal policymaking. In this essay, I explore one set of broad societal processes in which assessments play a part (albeit frequently a different part from one society to the next): namely, the processes by which communities achieve (at least temporarily) stable frames of meaning about environmental risks. I summarize four models of such framing processes that social scientists have offered in recent years: storytelling, modeling, canonization, and normalization. A deeper understanding of these processes, I contend, will establish an important background against which to begin to evaluate contemporary assessment practices. In writing this essay, I have drawn on a series of conversations that took place among the members of the working group on impact assessment during the 1998 GEA summer workshop.

Subsequent History

· Revised version published in the Environmental Values journal (Abstract)
New Citation: Miller, Clark A. 2000. "The Dynamics of Framing Environmental Values and Policy: Four Models of Societal Processes." Environmental Values 9: 211-233.
· Edited related volume published by MIT Press (Abstract)
New Citation: Miller, Clark, and Paul N. Edwards, eds. 2001. Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance. Cambridge: MIT Press.


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