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DOI: 10.1177/0002764213477097
2013 57: 691 originally published online 22 FebruaryAmerican Behavioral Scientist Riley E. Dunlap
Climate Change Skepticism and Denial : An Introduction
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American Behavioral Scientist
57(6) 691 –698
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DOI: 10.1177/0002764213477097
7ABS57610.1177/0002764213477097American Behavioral ScientistDunlap
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1Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
Corresponding Author:
Riley E. Dunlap, Department of Sociology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.
Climate Change Skepticism
and Denial: An Introduction
Riley E. Dunlap1
skepticism, denial, climate change, global warming
A quarter century ago James Hansen’s dramatic testimony to the U.S. Senate, in which
he stated that global warming had already begun, helped turn a little-known issue into
a widely recognized social problem (McCright & Dunlap, 2000). However, not only
has little progress been made in dealing with global warming in the ensuing years, but
it has become even more problematic as greenhouse gas emissions have continued to
rise—generating additional warming and risking increasingly negative impacts on
both social and natural systems (National Research Council, 2010).
The complex nature of human-caused or anthropogenic global warming (AGW)
and uncertainties in the risks it poses make it challenging for laypersons to understand
its causes, perceive its impacts, and take actions that might help alleviate future warm-
ing (Gifford, 2011; Norgaard, 2011; Pidgeon & Fischhoff, 2011; Weber, 2010).1 These
characteristics of AGW also make formulating and implementing measures that might
be effective in limiting the degree and impact of continued warming more difficult for
policy makers, leading to AGW being termed a “super-wicked problem” (Lazarus,
2009). This has contributed to the current situation in which there is a significant dis-
junction between the public’s views of AGW and those of the scientific community
(Weber & Stern, 2011) as well as policy stalemate (Pooley, 2010). Even though cli-
mate science has now firmly established that global warming is occurring, that human
activities contribute to this warming, and that current and future warming portend
negative impacts on both ecological and social systems (National Research Council,
2010), a significant portion of the American public remains ambivalent or uncon-
cerned (Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Hmielowski, 2012) and many policy
makers (especially in the United States) deny the necessity of taking steps to reduce
carbon emissions (Brownstein, 2010).
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692 American Behavioral Scientist 57(6)
It is not simply the complexities and uncertainties of climate science that have led
to the current situation. From the outset, there has been an organized “disinformation”
campaign that has used the complexities of AGW and the inevitable uncertainties
involved in scientific research to generate skepticism and denial concerning AGW.
The primary strategy employed by this campaign has been to “manufacture uncer-
tainty” over AGW (Oreskes & Conway, 2010), especially by attacking climate science
and scientists (Powell, 2011). This appears an effective strategy given that confidence
in climate science and trust in climate scientists are key factors influencing the pub-
lic’s views of AGW (Ding, Maibach, Zhao, Roser-Renouf, & Leiserowitz, 2011;
Hmielowski, Feldman, Myers, Leiserowitz, & Maibach, 2012; McCright, Dunlap, &
Xiao, 2013).
The campaign has been waged by a loose coalition of industrial (especially fossil
fuels) interests and conservative foundations and think tanks that utilize a range of
front groups and Astroturf operations, often assisted by a small number of “contrarian
scientists.” These actors are greatly aided by conservative media and politicians
(Oreskes & Conway, 2010; Powell, 2011), and more recently by a bevy of skeptical
bloggers. This “denial machine” has played a crucial role in generating skepticism
toward AGW among laypeople and policy makers (Begley, 2007; Dunlap & McCright,
For years the denial machine and its campaign attracted little attention, as its opera-
tives succeeded in masking their efforts as legitimate scientific debate while the inter-
ests and motives behind their attacks on climate science and individual scientists such
as Benjamin Santer were largely shrouded from scrutiny (Oreskes & Conway, 2010).
Investigative journalists, most notably Ross Gelbspan (1997), took the lead in analyz-
ing the denial machine, and then a few social scientists joined in the effort (Beder,
1999; Lahsen, 1999; McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2003). Journalists have continued to
make crucial contributions to understanding the denial machine (Begley, 2007;
Gelbspan, 2004; Klein, 2011; Mooney, 2005; Pearce, 2010; Pooley, 2010), but par-
ticularly in the past 5 years a growing number of social scientists and other ana-
lysts—ranging from historians (Weart, 2011) to ex-government officials (Piltz, 2008)
to citizens committed to defending climate science (Kintisch, 2011)—also have pro-
vided analyses of the denial machine. Additional insights into the campaign against
climate science have been provided by climate scientists, especially those who have
been subjected to attack (Bradley, 2011; Hansen, 2009; Mann, 2012; Schneider, 2009).
The articles in this symposium contribute to the growing body of social science
analyses of climate change denial and skepticism. There is debate over which term is
most appropriate for understanding opposition to acknowledging the reality and seri-
ousness of AGW and to climate science itself. Those involved in challenging climate
science label themselves “skeptics,” and in some cases this term is warranted, espe-
cially for members of the public who—for various reasons—are doubtful that AGW is
a serious problem (Leiserowitz et al., 2012). Yet skepticism is an inherent feature of
science and a common characteristic of scientists (e.g., Mann, 2012; Schneider, 2009),
making it inappropriate to allow those who deny AGW to don the mantle of skeptics.
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Dunlap 693
In fact, there is little doubt that many individuals actively involved in the denial cam-
paign are not skeptical of climate science but are in full denial, and no amount of evi-
dence will convince them of the reality of AGW (see, e.g., Brin, 2010; Powell, 2011;
Washington & Cook, 2011). This appears especially true of core actors in the denial
machine, ranging from many representatives of conservative think tanks to some con-
trarian scientists to several bloggers and many of their followers.
It seems best to think of skepticism–denial as a continuum, with some individuals
(and interest groups) holding a skeptical view of AGW but remaining open to evi-
dence, and others in complete denial mode, their minds made up. Social scientists are
analyzing both phenomena, conducting studies of skepticism among the public
(Hobson & Niemeyer, in press; Leiserowitz et al., 2012; McCright & Dunlap, 2011;
Poortinga, Spence, Whitmarsh, Capstick, & Pidgeon, 2011; Smith & Leiserowitz,
2012; Whitmarsh, 2011) as well as a rapidly growing number that focus on key ele-
ments of the denial machine: conservative think tanks (e.g., McCright & Dunlap,
2000), front groups established by the fossil fuels industry (e.g., Oreskes, 2010), con-
trarian scientists (e.g., Lahsen, 2008), conservative politicians (e.g., McCright &
Dunlap, 2010), and conservative media—especially Fox News (e.g., Feldman,
Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Leiserowitz, 2012), newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch
(e.g., McKnight, 2010), and talk radio (e.g., Akerlof, Rowan, Fitzgerald, & Cedeno,
2012). The contributions to this symposium examine both climate change skepticism
and denial.
In the first article, Peter Jacques and I analyze the role of conservative think tanks
(CTTs), long recognized as a central actor in the denial machine (McCright & Dunlap,
2000), focusing specifically on their links to the rapidly increasing number of books
(108 through 2010) that espouse climate change denial. We find that a majority of the
books are linked to a CTT, via either author or editor affiliations or publication by a
CTT press, although the link is much lower for the recent spate of self-published
books. We also find that over time a larger proportion of these books have been pro-
duced in other nations, particularly the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, and
that books from these nations are strongly linked to CTTs. Last, we find that contrarian
scientists with doctorates in natural science disciplines author or edit a declining
minority of the denial books.
Myanna Lahsen’s contribution focuses on skepticism and denial within the scien-
tific community by reporting results from more than 15 years of field work and obser-
vations of scientists involved in atmospheric science and climatology. She makes an
important distinction between the true “contrarian” scientists that strongly criticize
climate science and in many cases participate in the denial machine, and a range of
skeptical scientists. The latter tend to be empirical and theoretical meteorologists who
regret and often resent being displaced by the new generation of climate modelers
central to contemporary climate science and hold a skeptical view of the validity and
utility of their models. Unlike the contrarians, however, these skeptics—whose num-
bers are dwindling because of retirement and death—are not strongly conservative or
antienvironmental and have not joined in the campaign to deny AGW.
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694 American Behavioral Scientist 57(6)
Research on the role of conservative media in promoting climate change denial is
growing rapidly, and Shaun Elsasser and I contribute to this literature by analyzing a
particularly influential element of what has been termed the “conservative echo
chamber”—syndicated conservative columnists. Writers such as George Will reach a
large segment of the American public through their widely circulated opinion editori-
als, and the 4 years worth of op-eds by 80 columnists we examine reflect a uniformly
dismissive view of climate change and critical view of climate science. We note the
major issues they focus on, identify the discredited arguments they employ, and high-
light the crucial role they play in amplifying denialist claims.
A constant refrain coming from the denial campaign is that climate scientists are
“alarmists” who exaggerate the degree and threat of global warming to enhance their
status, funding, and influence with policy makers. The contribution by William
Freudenburg and Violetta Muselli provides an insightful empirical test of this charge
and finds it to lack support. Drawing on their prior work on the “asymmetry of scien-
tific challenge” (Freudenburg & Muselli, 2010), they argue that the constant criticism
coming from the denial machine (e.g., the denial books and conservative media) leads
climate scientists to err on the side of caution and that consensus documents such as
the assessments issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
tend to understate potential climate disruptions.3 They then present evidence that IPCC
assessments have in fact understated the degree of subsequently reported climate dis-
ruption, supporting their argument.
The mass media play a central role in debates over climate science and policy
making, as noted in the next contribution. Maxwell Boykoff draws on his long expe-
rience in analyzing how the media represent climate change to provide an analysis
of the multiple factors that contribute to “outlier voices”—skeptics, contrarians, and
denialists—receiving unwarranted media visibility, and thus influence on policy
debates. He demonstrates how and why the mass media have enabled the outlier voices
to have an excessive impact on these debates, and thus hamper our ability to have
intelligent discussions about developing meaningful actions to ameliorate global
warming. In the process he rebuts another common claim of the denial machine, that
skeptical voices are suppressed in societal discussions about climate change.
The final contribution focuses on factors contributing to skepticism among the
American public, and Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf,
Nicholas Smith, and Erica Dawson focus specifically on the role that the 2009 “cli-
mategate” controversy (involving the release of a highly selective sample of emails
from leading climate scientists and then constant exaggeration and distortion of their
contents by actors in denial machine)4 played in contributing to the widely noted
downturn in public belief in and concern about climate change during that and the
following year. They find that awareness of climategate had a noticeable impact on
public opinion, reducing belief in global warming and trust in scientists, but primarily
among a segment that was already ideologically predisposed to skepticism. After not-
ing other factors (e.g., poor economic conditions) that may also have contributed to
the decline in Americans’ concern about global warming, they end by noting that
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Dunlap 695
2011 polls suggest a reversal of the decline—a trend that seems to be continuing
(Leiserowitz et al., 2012).
In sum, this symposium adds to the growing body of scholarly research on the cam-
paign to deny AGW: the actors and interests behind the campaign, the strategies and
tactics they employ, and the impacts of the campaign. Clearly more research is needed,
especially on the funding sources that fuel the campaign and the impact of skeptical
and denial blogs,5 but progress is being made in clarifying the sources and nature of
climate change denial. By pulling back the curtain on the forces promoting denial,
social science (and other) researchers are demonstrating that the reason AGW is highly
“contested” has less to do with the nature of climate science or the behavior of climate
scientists than with the actions of those who for material and ideological reasons seek
to deny the reality of AGW and thus the necessity of taking action to deal with it.
Hopefully increased knowledge of how and why climate science has been made to
appear controversial will inform future discussions concerning the importance of
developing effective responses to the worsening problem of AGW.
This symposium is dedicated to the memory of William R. Freudenburg, who passed away
prematurely shortly after completing a draft of his essay with Violetta Muselli. Bill was an
insightful and innovative analyst of the social dimensions of ecological problems and left an
exceptionally strong body of scholarship, as evident in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of
Environmental Studies and Sciences (Vol. 2, No. 1) devoted to his work.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
1. I am not suggesting that the overall body of evidence for anthropogenic global warming
is “uncertain,” but that inherent uncertainties in climate science—especially concerning
future projections of temperature increases and their impacts—pose challenges in com-
municating the risk of global warming to the public (Pidgeon & Fischhoff, 2011).
2. See Dunlap and McCright (2011, p. 147) for a diagram of the key elements of the denial
3. For a differing but complementary analysis of why climate scientists tend to err on the side
of caution, see Brysse, Oreskes, O’Reilly, and Oppenheimer (in press).
4. See Pearce (2010) and Powell (2011) on this controversy, and Mann (2012, chap. 14) for a
personal account on how the emails have been used to smear climate scientists.
5. Robert Brulle of Drexel University is completing a study of funding sources.
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Author Biography
Riley E. Dunlap is Regents Professor of Sociology and Dresser Professor in the Department of
Sociology at Oklahoma State University and a past president of the International Sociological
Association’s Research Committee on Environment and Society.
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... Therefore, it is likely that cluster 1 is the group that has sceptical thinking. This corresponds to the sceptical cluster identified by other studies (see e.g., Dunlap, 2013;Maibach et al., 2011;Sibley and Kurz, 2013). In effect, the defining feature of sceptical thinking is to downplay the risk. ...
... Members of the Sceptical cluster deny that climate change is going to be problematic. This is consistent with the "Sceptical", "Doubtful" and "Denial" groups identified in previous research (e.g., Dunlap, 2013;Kácha et al., 2022;Maibach et al., 2011;Sibley and Kurz, 2013;Whitmarsh, 2011), this group minimise the projected effects of climate change and therefore is less likely to support actions to mitigate those effects. Different from outright scepticism (thinking that denies the existence of climate change), their doubts are focused on the seriousness, necessity, effectivity, and urgency of tackling climate change. ...
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... However, recent decades have seen a backlash by significant sections of the population against scientific knowledge (Achenbach, 2015;Čavojová & Ersoy, 2020;Hornsey, 2020;Shulevitz, 2013). A number of scientific developments which have consensus support from scientists such as the benefits of vaccinations, fluoridation of water supplies, and the risks of human-induced climate change, are all facing vigorous opposition (Dubé et al., 2015;Dunlap, 2013;Martin, 1988). Public confidence in vaccinations and decisionmaking regarding whether to participate in immunisation programs is guided in part by scientific evidence, but also by socio-cultural, psychological, and political imperatives (Larson et al., 2011(Larson et al., , 2014. ...
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There are many people who choose alternative or unorthodox healthcare options that are not based on the best available evidence for efficacy and effectiveness. There has been a rejection of vaccination by sections of the population leading to suboptimal rates of vaccination, and increased rates of infectious diseases such as measles. Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) are also increasingly popular, despite the scarcity of clinical evidence for the efficacy and safety of many of these therapies. The goal of this thesis is to explore unorthodox worldviews that predict vaccine scepticism and use of CAM in order to inform the future development of persuasive strategies to encourage participation in evidence-based interventions. Four studies were undertaken to achieve this goal including (1) the development of a standardised measure of CAM utilisation using data from an archived population survey of Australian adults; (2) an investigation of explanatory factors, including personality (openness to experience), cognitive style, and a range of unorthodox beliefs, for the relationship between CAM use and vaccination scepticism, using an archived population survey of Australian adults; (3) an examination of associations between geographic or area-level socio-demographic factors and uptake of vaccination among 5-year old children throughout Australia, using a public health focused ecological methodology, and (4) conducting an online priming experiment, to assess whether increasing the salience of concepts of contamination and purity will produce changes in reactions to a range of health interventions, including vaccination and CAM. Following are the key findings. The first study developed a brief, summative questionnaire measure of CAM utilisation called the R-I-CAM-Q, to address a gap in previous research which was lacking a psychometrically sound, and quantitative measure of CAM utilisation. The main findings of the second study, a cross-sectional survey, were that Pro-CAM attitudes, rather than CAM-use, best predict vaccination attitudes; and that anti-vaccination and pro-CAM attitudes both correlate with the presumed antecedents of magical beliefs about health. The geographic/area-based study revealed that communities with lower rates of vaccination had relatively less disadvantage, and had relatively greater education and occupational status, suggesting that privilege puts people at risk. The priming experiment showed no experimental effect of priming for contamination or purity/naturalness. Nevertheless, higher levels of sensitivity to disgust were associated with lower ratings of the effectiveness of MMR vaccination, tetanus injection, antibiotics, and surgery. The results of these studies into how unorthodox or alternative worldviews predict vaccination scepticism and use of CAM, can directly inform the future development of evidence-based health promotion strategies which encourage the uptake of best practice healthcare, including vaccination practices.
... Broaching the contest between scientifc and ideological world views, Sarewitz explains that "scientifc inquiry is inherently and unavoidably subject to becoming politicized in environmental controversies" (Sarewitz 2004: 385). Facts may be manipulated to suit special interests and the ubiquity of scientifc uncertainty fuels claims of scientifc dissensus by skeptics and deniers (Sarewitz 2004;Jacques et al. 2008;Jacques 2012;Dunlap 2013). ...
Contemporary research and teaching on global environmental politics (GEP) draw upon many approaches to understanding the ways in which states and societies respond to transboundary environmental problems (see Chapter 2). Approaches that emphasize the state (see Chapter 7) and international organizations (see Chapter 8) derive in a straightforward way from scholarly work in international relations (IR), with a marked focus on domestic and international institutions and on traditional determinants of power and sources of authority as key to understanding states’ interests and actions. Alternatively, approaches that adopt a philosophically critical orientation toward IR are more inherently interdisciplinary, and build on theoretical frameworks developed in economics and sociology as well as in the humanities. The latter work frequently examines global environmental politics from the “bottom up,” and takes seriously the notion that subnational and non-state actors, transnational networks of activist organizations as well as individuals are essential to resolving the world’s pressing sustainability challenges (see Chapter 14). This chapter describes an analytical framework informed by IR scholarship for approaching research and teaching in the GEP subfield. The framework may be adapted for use with any substantive area of interest, as well as used to develop undergraduate and graduate coursework in GEP. Elaboration of the framework itself is followed by its application to a discussion of research in GEP that both captures long-standing trends and underscores new avenues of inquiry. The section on teaching GEP that follows includes suggestions for the adoption of pedagogies – specifically fieldwork and other outdoor experiences, contemplative practices, (online) games and role-plays – that are particularly well suited to the field of GEP.
... It has been repeatedly pointed out that the media message may influence public opinion and the perception of environmental policy (Oehl, Schaffer, and Bernauer 2017), but the presence of environmental threats in the media may affect social attitudes differently (not always encouraging actions to help the environment) (Bakaki, Böhmelt, and Ward 2020). However, it has been shown that the manner in which climate change and environmental challenges are presented in the media related to the populist right may have a negative impact on the relationship between the opinions of climate scientists and the public, and the attitudes of particular groups of society towards the environment (Dunlap 2013). In other words, the dominance of the right-wing populist narratives, emphasising issues such as national identity, national sovereignty and scepticism towards universal knowledge of the environment, creates a general cultural climate that is not conducive to actions for energy transition and, generally, blocks the political influence of the environmental movement. ...
This article aims to outline the media and thematic framework within which environmentalists were described by the right-wing pro-government media in Poland from 2016 to 2020 and to explain the main ideological conflicts over ecology. On the other hand, the author shows how these conservative stereotypes about the environmental movement affect the opinions of Polish society. The author defends the thesis that the anti-ecological phobias of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government have politicised environmental issues and revived ecological conflicts. The results presented show the importance of cultural, political and spatial dimensions for the development of the environmental movement in Poland.
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This book considers the ability of individuals and communities to maintain healthy relationships with their surroundings—before, during and after catastrophic events—through physical activity and sporting practices. Broad and ambitious in scope, this book uses sport and physical activity as a lens through which to examine our catastrophic societies and spaces. Acknowledging that catastrophes are complex, overlapping phenomena in need of sophisticated, interdisciplinary solutions, this book explores the social, economic, ecological and moral injustices that determine the personal and emotional impact of catastrophe. Drawing from international case studies, this book uniquely explores the different landscapes and contexts of catastrophe as well as the affective qualities of sporting practices. This includes topics such as DIY skateparks in Jamaica; former child soldiers in Africa; the funding of sport, recreation and cultural activities by extractive industries in northern Canada; mountain biking in the UK; and urban exploration in New Zealand. Featuring the work of ex-professional athletes, artists, anthropologists, sociologists, political ecologists, community development workers and philosophers, this book offers new perspectives on capitalism, nature, sociality, morality and identity. This is essential reading for academics and practitioners in sociology, disaster studies, sport-for-development and political ecology.
Written both for general readers and college students, Dialogues on Climate Justice provides an engaging philosophical introduction to climate justice, and should be of interest to anyone wanting to think seriously about the climate crisis. The story follows the life and conversations of Hope, a fictional protagonist whose life is shaped by the terrifyingly real problem of climate change. From the election of Donald Trump in 2016 until the 2060s, the book documents Hope’s discussions with a diverse cast of characters. As she ages, her conversations move from establishing the nature of the problem, to engaging with climate skepticism, to exploring her own climate responsibilities, through managing contentious international negotiations, to considering big technological fixes, and finally, as an older woman, to reflecting with her granddaughter on what one generation owes another. Following a philosophical tradition established by Plato more than two thousand years ago, these dialogues are not only philosophically substantive and carefully argued, but also distinctly human. The differing perspectives on display mirror those involved in real-world climate dialogues going on today. Key Features: - Written in an engaging dialogue form, which includes characterization, clear exchanges of ideas, and a compelling story arc - Clearly organized to allow readers both in-depth consideration and rapid overviews of various topics - Memorable examples that enable and encourage discussion inside and outside the classroom - An introduction to the book aimed at instructors, which includes helpful instructions for teaching the book and engaging student assignments
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Climate movements increasingly conceptualize the climate crisis as an issue of social injustice, both in terms of its root causes and its present and future effects. Climate justice calls for participatory decision-making within climate movements, which, as communication scholars have pointed out, necessitates inclusive and accessible communicative practices. Within sociocultural linguistics, a growing body of research has explored sociolinguistic justice, or marginalized groups' struggle for self-determined language use. This analysis interweaves these two research areas, applying the theory of sociolinguistic justice to climate communication in organizing contexts. Drawing on 67 semi-structured interviews and 112 online surveys with climate activists from organizations across the United States, the analysis finds that sociolinguistic injustice impedes frontline community members' participation in climate movements. Specific barriers include: (1) English-only communications; (2) the combination of incomprehensible jargon with a dry, emotionless register; (3) the use of Dominant American English in prescriptive climate communication materials such as phonebanking scripts; (4) language policing of discourses of environmental justice and environmental racism; and (5) a form of linguistic ventriloquism in which adult organizers pressure youth to express climate grief in their stead. Climate activists' insights are synthesized to propose countermeasures to each of these problems of sociolinguistic injustice. The results suggest that sociolinguistic justice can be a useful lens for understanding climate justice communication within climate movements, and provide guidance to climate organizers and educators who wish to align their communications with the inclusive, anti-racist, and decolonial values of climate justice.
Da der Begriff Theorie in der Umgangssprache eine völlig andere Bedeutung hat als in der Wissenschaft, ist es wichtig, sich mit der Herangehensweise an naturwissenschaftliche Themen zu befassen. Die Flut an Informationen, der wir alle ausgesetzt sind, erfordert eine kritische Auseinandersetzung, um seriöse von unseriösen Informationen unterscheiden zu können. Und zuletzt erläutern wir einige Begriffe und Konzepte der Klimatologie, welche für den weiteren Verlauf des Buchs grundlegend sind.
Technical Report
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These results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,001 American adults, aged 18 and older. The completion rate was 53 percent. The sample was weighted to correspond with US Census Bureau parameters for the United States. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent for the full sample, with 95 percent confidence. The survey was designed by Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University, and Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-­‐Renouf of George Mason University, and was conducted December 24 through January 3 by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults.
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The use of front groups, PR firms, think tanks, and willing scientists and economists has provided corporations with the means to confuse the public and obstruct political attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the US and Australia in particular, such tactics have enabled the fossil fuel industry to hijack the greenhouse debate.
An analysis of why people with knowledge about climate change often fail to translate that knowledge into action. © 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
Humans have always used denial. When we are afraid, guilty, confused, or when something interferes with our self-image, we tend to deny it. Yet denial is a delusion. When it impacts on the health of oneself, or society, or the world it becomes a pathology. Climate change denial is such a case. Paradoxically, as the climate science has become more certain, denial about the issue has increased. The paradox lies in the denial. There is a denial industry funded by the fossil fuel companies that literally denies the science, and seeks to confuse the public. There is denial within governments, where spin-doctors use ‘weasel words’ to pretend they are taking action. However there is also denial within most of us, the citizenry. We let denial prosper and we resist the science. It also explains the social science behind denial. It contains a detailed examination of the principal climate change denial arguments, from attacks on the integrity of scientists, to impossible expectations of proof and certainty to the cherry picking of data. Climate change can be solved - but only when we cease to deny that it exists. This book shows how we can break through denial, accept reality, and thus solve the climate crisis. It will engage scientists, university students, climate change activists as well as the general public seeking to roll back denial and act.