Lara Heard

Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Christopher Toulouse, Ph.D.


The Nordic nations often rank among the most climate-prepared countries in the world, especially in regards to their rapid switch to renewable energy. In contrast, climate change legislation has faced an uphill battle in the United States, where environmentalists and activists meet with climate change denialism and widespread reluctance to change energy consumption habits. This thesis argues that the gap between American and Nordic adaptation arises in large part from difference in social capital. I n the United States, a recent decline in social trust and increase in individualism endanger adaptation efforts, creating a culture of consumerism and widespread reluctance to adapt. This decline in trust and collective action is encouraged by a polarized media, which provides a foothold for climate change denialism. Meanwhile, in the Nordic region, exceptional levels of social trust encourage collective action. Local populaces are well-informed by their media outlets, which are relatively unpolarized and are held to high standards by the citizenry and local governments. Wealth of social capital is the crucial ingredient to climate change adaptation in developed societies; although both the USA and the Nordic countries have the financial capacity and technological resources to go green, Nordic social cohesion has provided the public support necessary to implement climate policy.