Making Sense of Climate Change: How to Avoid the Next Big Flood

50 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2011

See all articles by Gail Whiteman

Gail Whiteman

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Business and Society Management

Date Written: April 1, 2011

Abstract

Over the last two decades, management studies on sustainability have grown considerably, including a recent surge of research on climate change. However, environmental problems have not been resolved, and most of the top management journals remain focused on the firm, not the system. This presents both a paradox and an opportunity. The year 2010 was the hottest year on record, making it the warmest decade since 1880. In certain places (like Australia and the Arctic), the impacts of climate change are already apparent. In the future, as CO2 continues to rise, we can expect more extreme events like floods, droughts, fires, and melting ice caps. This has profound implications for the way we manage and organize our societies. Before we can manage something, we have to make sense of the situation. In a complex environment, people need to pay attention to subtle cues, overcome barriers, and collectively develop ‘sensemaking’ across organizations. If people do not pay sufficient attention, they will encounter a ‘predictable surprise’ – a crisis situation that could be avoided but isn’t because of existing social and economic structures. This lecture considers how to make better sense of climate change. Professor Whiteman argues that it essential for managers and academics to take a more systemic approach and collaborate with the natural sciences and local people. She ends with management lessons for the 21st Century.

Keywords: climate change, ecological sensemaking, extreme event, management lessons, sustainability

JEL Classification: F23, M14, M

Suggested Citation

Whiteman, Gail, Making Sense of Climate Change: How to Avoid the Next Big Flood (April 1, 2011). ERIM Report Series Reference No. EIA-2011-045-ORG, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1806114

Gail Whiteman (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Business and Society Management ( email )

RSM Erasmus University
3000 DR Rotterdam
Netherlands

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