Climate change denial

Sources, actors and strategies

Authored by: Riley E. Dunlap , Aaron M. McCright

Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  July  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415544764
eBook ISBN: 9780203876213
Adobe ISBN: 9781135998509


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Climate change denial has taken various forms over the past two decades – including the denial of global warming, the denial of its anthropogenic sources and the denial of its seriousness – as climate science and socio-political contexts have evolved. While it originated in the US, climate change denial has spread gradually to a range of nations, creating something of an international movement. Initially funded primarily by the fossil fuels industry (Gelbspan 1997), over time conservative foundations and think-tanks have become major supporters and promoters of climate change denial. Conservative think-tanks in particular have facilitated and promoted the efforts of a small number of ‘contrarian’ scientists in an effort to provide the forces of denial with the guise of scientific credibility, magnifying the visibility and impact of the contrarians’ views (McCright and Dunlap 2000, 2003). The activities of the contrarians have supplied vital ammunition for attacking mainstream climate science, symbolised by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and thus the scientific underpinnings of calls for policy-making to deal with climate change (Begley 2007).

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