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Challenging Climate Change: The Denial Countermovement

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... The concept of antireflexivity has been used to examine how anti-environmental movements impede the environmental reflexivity needed to identify and implement climate change solutions. The U.S. climate denial movement and conservative media outlets have been social forces for anti-reflexivity by promulgating narratives of scientific uncertainty and linking climate scepticism with conservative and Republican political identities, which has reinforced a political culture of "non-decision-making" about climate action [11,21]. Young and Coutinho contribute to the concept of anti-reflexivity in their analysis of Canadian climate change media coverage [22]. ...
... Here we see how reflexivity or anti-reflexivity can be provoked by organizational actors in the public, political, and media spheres. This leads Dunlap and McCright to define anti-reflexivity as a "rearguard force defending the industrial capitalist system from widespread scientific, political, and public acknowledgement of the system's unintended and unanticipated consequences, such as climate change" [21] (p. 321). 1 The other key concept that forms our theoretical framework is Arlie Hochschild's notion of "deep story" [13]. ...
... However, the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric mega-project provides an important cautionary tale of the social, economic, and environmental impacts that can be submerged by this low-carbon image. The economic and environmental double disaster of Muskrat Falls was facilitated by several sources of political "anti-reflexivity" [10,21]. This gave the project an aura of inevitability until it was re-framed as too far along to turn back, despite the economic impacts for the province as a whole and the environmental and health risks for downstream communities. ...
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Hydroelectric projects are often pursued on the promise of economic development and environmental co-benefits as a source of low-carbon energy. We analyse the case of the Muskrat Falls hydropower mega-project (located in Labrador, Canada) to understand why this project failed to live up to its promised benefits, but instead delivered a double disaster of economic cost and environmental risk. The key concepts of anti-reflexivity and deep stories help us understand why the project assumed an aura of inevitability in political and public discourse until it was too late to change course. Drawing on publicly available data and secondary sources, we identify the constellation of social forces that maintained political anti-reflexivity about the economic and environmental risks of the project and led to a double economic and environmental disaster. Our analysis identifies vital lessons for countering anti-reflexivity and improving environmental governance related to energy mega-projects.
... Research initially focussed on the influencing role of business organizations. Business exerts influence via its central role in maintaining economic growth (Paterson & P-Laberge, 2018), through financial support, lobbying activities, and social and business connections (Brulle, 2018;Gullberg, 2008;Kim et al., 2016), and through issue framing and shaping public opinion (Dunlap & McCright, 2015;Farrell, 2016;Supran & Oreskes, 2017). However, business influence varies across domestic political institutions (Christoff & Eckersley, 2011;Purdon, 2015), with some political systems enabling veto coalitions by well-organized incumbent sectoral interests (Perrow, 2010), while others are more open to challenger firms (Hochstetler & Kostka, 2015). ...
... However, business influence varies across domestic political institutions (Christoff & Eckersley, 2011;Purdon, 2015), with some political systems enabling veto coalitions by well-organized incumbent sectoral interests (Perrow, 2010), while others are more open to challenger firms (Hochstetler & Kostka, 2015). Case studies document business influence across a range of national contexts, including the US (Downie, 2018;Dunlap & McCright, 2015;Kim et al., 2016;Nasiritousi, 2017;Supran & Oreskes, 2017), EU (Boasson & Wettestad, 2013), Australia (Ayling, 2017), China and India (Blondeel & Van de Graaf, 2018). In these settings, business has mostly sought to obstruct climate-policy development, although some business organizations provide and advocate for climate solutions, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon removal. ...
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This article reviews literature on six actor groups engaged in domestic mitigation governance. It evaluates the usefulness of three climate governance models: market failure, socio-technological transition and public support. For each group, three modes of action are considered: influencing, decision-making and implementing. The public support model is found to best capture the wide range of actors and real-world, complex participation patterns of domestic climate governance. The socio-technological transitions and market failure models in their narrow focus on political and business actors ignore the influencing roles of other groups, such as climate advocacy organizations, anti-climate action groups, Indigenous people’s organizations and labor unions. However, they offer more insight on actor engagement in decision-making and implementation, roles mostly ignored by the public support model. Overall, more systematic comparative research is needed on a wider range of actors, on domestic climate governance in the global South, on differences across countries, sectors and policy domains and on interactions between actors.
... It cannot be stressed enough that, despite the reluctance to act upon current scientific knowledge in some areas of society and policymaking, the anthropogenic nature of climate change is a scientific certainty. Yet the complexity of human societies' entanglement with the climate makes it impossible to predict the consequences of climate change with absolute certainty, a fact that is often used strategically by climate change deniers: differences across scientific models are leveraged, misleadingly, to cast doubt on the existing consensus around the basic science of climate change (Dunlap and McCright 2016). Possible climate futures vary dramatically: they range from local disruptions to speciesthreatening catastrophe in the most pessimistic scenarios. ...
... Many of the discussions surrounding events of this type center on whether a catastrophic event was caused by climate change; climate skeptics or denialists typically reject that causal link. This kind of skepticism has complex cultural roots, and others have explored it in far more detail than I can offer here (Dunlap and McCright 2016). I will limit myself to pointing to a problem that, arguably, underlies (but does not completely explain) climate skepticism: our commonsense understanding of causation-which is of course distinct from scientific or philosophical accounts-is modeled on what cognitive linguists call "force dynamics. ...
... Over the past two decades, an important literature has emerged on the role of contrarians in stirring fake controversies and has shown their deleterious impacts on public health (Michaels, 2008;Michaels and Monforton, 2005;Weinel, 2007), and environmental conservation (McCright and Dunlap, 2000;Jacques et al., 2008;Dunlap and McCright, 2015;Lahsen, 2008;Oreskes and Conway, 2010). The most well-known case is that of climate contrarians in the USA who seriously affected public opinion and policymaking in this country. ...
... Oreskes (2004) carried out a survey of the peer-reviewed literature on climate change and did not find a single paper making a case against the anthropogenic climate change thesis, which indicates that the scientific peer-reviewed literature had then already been closed to climate contrarians. Yet, in the USA climate contrarians still find ways of publicizing their ideas by publishing books and other materials through free-market think-tanks (McCright and Dunlap, 2000;Jacques et al., 2008;Dunlap and McCright, 2015). These publications can be confusing for laypeople and policymakers as they sometimes deploy technical jargon and have a style similar to those of mainstream science (Collins, 2014;. ...
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Fake controversies have influenced policy making on health and environmental issues for decades, resulting in major implementation setbacks worldwide. As a case study, in this paper we examine fake controversies produced by a small group of active Brazilian researchers that have seriously impacted environmental conservation, particularly in issues related to deforestation and climate change. Based on the literature, we develop a typology of strategies deployed in fake controversies, which include manufacturing uncertainty, misusing scientific credentials, and disregarding scientific literature. Afterwards, we examine the influence of this group of contrarians at the National Congress. We then analyze the fake controversies promoted by these contrarians and argue that, to properly understand them, we need to consider a strategy so far overlooked in the literature: the manufacture of “pseudo-facts”, namely, affirmations at odds with the established literature but that strives to appear as scientific facts. Unlike other contexts, in which contrarians have mainly sought to cast doubt on consensual issues by arguing that there are still considerable uncertainties surrounding them, in Brazil pseudo-facts on deforestation have been produced and published outside the peer-reviewed literature. We conclude the study with recommendations on how to oppose fake scientific controversies that threaten environmental conservation in general.
... In this section, I will discuss group lying in the climate change context to test the applicability of the idea of a narrative constraint for honest group statements. Many corporations that depend on fossil fuels have engaged in lobbying to prevent regulation at local, national and international levels (Dunlap and McCright 2015). 24 Their own scientists understood the dangers, and produced models as early as the 1980s, which showed that immediate action should be taken. ...
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A group is lying when it makes a statement that it believes to be untrue but wants the addressee(s) to believe. But how can we distinguish statements that the group believes to be untrue from honest group statements based on mistaken beliefs or confusion within the group? I will suggest a narrative constraint for honest group statements, made up of two components. Narrative coherence requires that a new group statement should not conflict with group knowledge on the matter, or beliefs of relevant operative subgroups, unless a coherent rationale is given. Narrative intention looks at the process of gathering new evidence on the area of expertise of the group and requires that the group position behind the statement is formed in good faith. The narrative constraint will help to distinguish group lies from more innocent erroneous statements of group beliefs when there is an internal disagreement within the group, including in cases involving spokespersons.
... It is important to point out that Lewandowsky talks about the former as a "quantitatively less pronounced factor" (Lewandowsky 2018, p. 153). 2 It is important to note the involvement of major corporations and think thanks, with large interests vested in environmental immobility, in the promotion of these trends of thought (Dunlap and McCright 2015). 3 In this text, I will quote alternatively the novel and the film as it is more convenient. ...
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Do fictional figurations and their formal characteristics determine our relationship with the world? In a historical moment in which several crises overlap (economic, environmental, health), what cultural imaginaries circulate and with what consequences? One of the effects of this multilevel crisis, resulting from unrestrained neoliberalism, has been the rise of conspiracy theories of all kinds. The narrative of these conspiracies converges in many ways with the discursive structure of storytelling and fiction. Such narratives seem to serve as a model to interpret the present, overflowing the realm of representation. This article will explore commonalities between narrativity and conspiracy theories. In doing so, it will analyze Ventajas de viajar en tren, a novel by Antonio Orejudo and subsequent film adaptation Aritz Moreno. The story consists of a formal exploration of creating writing from a plot that addresses issues, such as conspiracy and mental health. I propose to invert this scheme to analyze how conspiracy theory operates as an act of discursive creation and what effects it has on our experience of the present and our relationship with the present and future in social, political and cultural terms.
... An important explanation for why climate-skeptic narratives resonate particularly well is the state of the civil society in the United States. Empirical studies paint the picture of a highly polarized civil society where conservative movements and activist culture warriors in the media side with corporate interest, while a phalanx of neoconservative and neoliberal think tanks provides intellectual ammunition to paid-for grassroots movements and action committees (McCright & Dunlap, 2015;Meyer, 2016;Ruser, 2018Ruser, , 2021. ...
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Recent proposals in the US and elsewhere aim to tackle climate change and socioeconomic inequalities together through a Green New Deal (GND). GND proposals have been criticized by high-profile advocates of carbon-centric climate policies-advocates who do not perceive socioeconomic inequalities to be significant drivers of climate change and who argue that GNDs' wider agenda will undermine decarbonization efforts. Here, we show that socioeconomic inequalities drive emissions-intensive consumption and production , facilitate the obstruction of climate policies by wealthy elites, undermine public support for climate policy, and weaken the social foundations of collective action. This suggests that integrating certain carbon -centric policies into a wider program of social, economic, and democratic reforms would achieve decar-bonization more effectively than carbon-centric policies alone. We show that common policy components of GNDs do indeed tackle the causal mechanisms by which inequalities fuel climate change, and we argue that GNDs enable more effective political strategies than carbon-centric policies.
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Many U.S. states have taken significant action on climate change in recent years, demonstrating their commitment despite federal policy gridlock and rollbacks. Yet, there is still much we do not know about the agents, discourses, and strategies of those seeking to delay or obstruct state-level climate action. We first ask, what are the obstacles to strong and effective climate policy within U.S. states? We review the political structures and interest groups that slow action, and we examine emerging tensions between climate justice and the technocratic and/or market-oriented approaches traditionally taken by many mainstream environmental groups. Second, what are potential solutions for overcoming these obstacles? We suggest strategies for overcoming opposition to climate action that may advance more effective and inclusive state policy, focusing on political strategies, media framing, collaboration, and leveraging the efforts of ambitious local governments.
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