Tag Archives: Climate Denial

Climate denial? Flat Earth? What’s the difference?

People who deny that climate change is happening have something in common with people who believe in a flat Earth.

LONDON, 30 August, 2021 − Dover, a town in the county of Kent in the United Kingdom, was during the 1960s rich in eccentrics: one of them was Mr Samuel Shenton, founder and secretary of the International Flat Earth Research Society.

He was regarded with affection and merriment by local and even national newspaper reporters, and so was solemnly consulted during the US Apollo programme, the race to the moon. In 1965 he refused to believe that a photograph of the curvature of the Earth, taken by astronauts on a Gemini mission, proved that the planet was a sphere. Or that it was moving in space at 30kms a second.

“If we were going at such a tremendous speed through space you wouldn’t be able to get out of your house,” he told a Guardian colleague, “and you’d see the effects on the clouds and the waterways.”

Reportedly at his death his society had no more than 100 members. Then it crossed the Atlantic, and something started to happen.

Shared rejection

By 2018, Lee McIntyre, a researcher at Boston University in Massachusetts, could attend a Flat Earth International Conference in Denver, Colorado and use it as a starting point for an enjoyable and even mildly sympathetic new book called How to Talk to a Science Denier (MIT Press, $24.95).

The event became his template for a study of that stubborn phenomenon known as science denial, the outright refusal to accept data, experimental evidence or patient explanation of findings that you have already decided to reject.

In the course of this reporter’s lifetime, such conspicuous refusals have included the link between smoking and cancer and other health conditions; the connection between HIV infection and illness and death from Aids; the value of vaccination as a protection against disease; and most conspicuously, the connection between human exploitation of fossil fuels and the swelling climate crisis.

And although each act of denial begins from an apparently different starting point, the machinery of resistance − that determination not to be persuaded − shares five common factors.

“You cannot change someone’s beliefs against their will, nor can you usually get them to admit there is something they don’t already know”

One is a refusal to accept aspects of the evidence that do not suit your beliefs, but seize upon those that might seem to. This is called cherry-picking: you just believe the bits you like and ignore the rest.

The second factor is a commitment to the notion of massive conspiracy: a global conspiracy if need be, to declare that Covid-19 isn’t a real disease; or alternatively that it is spread by radiation from 5G radio masts; or that all the world’s science academies, almost all the world’s meteorologists and even governments, are in some monstrous plot to pretend that the climate is changing dangerously, when it isn’t, or if it is, it’s because of natural causes.

The third factor is the denunciation of real experts and the reliance on self-appointed experts. The fourth factor almost always involves logical error (we have an example above from Mr Shenton). And the last and − the deniers seem to think − the most clinching tactic is to say: “But you cannot deliver 100% proof.”

In the chapters that follow, McIntyre explores the different forms that denial takes: he talks to coal-miners in Pennsylvania about climate change; he talks to activists and campaigners about the rejection of genetic engineering as a technique for improving crops; to people who reject vaccination as a protection against disease, and to climate deniers. In all cases, he identifies evidence of the five techniques deployed to resist argument.

Selective acceptance

However, not all forms of rejection are quite as uncompromising as faith in Flat Earth. His miners know about climate change, and yes, know the costs too, but they’re miners. Mining coal is what they do.

Those against genetically-modified crops may turn out to be more concerned about economics, or choice, or the growth of corporate power. People can be vaccine-hesitant (“Is it safe? How do you know?”) rather than flat-out deniers. In each case there are separate issues underlying the unease.

Greek astronomers worked out more than 2,000 years ago that they lived on an orb; to believe the Earth is a stationary disc supported on pillars, Flat Earthers must reject the physics, astronomy and radiation science of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein, while at the same time using cellphones and the Internet, products of that science.

Climate deniers have the slightly more tricky challenge of acknowledging the value of science except when it’s climate science.

Oil money

Each group believes in a massive, worldwide conspiracy to deceive. Two Flat Earthers told McIntyre that the conspiracy to foist the globalist view of the planet was the work of “the Adversary”, the Devil himself.

Climate deniers have the slightly harder task of persuading themselves that climate scientists − Chinese, British, American, Australian, Brazilian or from anywhere in the world − are all conspiring to issue a false message confected for some kind of pecuniary gain or political motive, or for the sake of a hoax, which is a bit more complicated.

There is another compounding factor addressed by this book: the big oil companies decided in 1998 to actually systematically challenge the science, with of course big money: altogether almost a billion dollars a year now flows into an organised climate change counter-movement.

In the US, climate science, like the Covid-19 pandemic itself, has become a party political issue. Nobody gets rich by denying that the Earth is round. Quite a few already very rich people will be yet richer because concerted global action on the climate emergency has been delayed, by systematic cherry-picking, conspiracy theorising, a small army of fake experts and some wilfully illogical reasoning. A very large number are likely to become miserably and even catastrophically poorer.

Winning ways

Meanwhile, how do you talk to a science denier? McIntyre’s suggested approach involves patience, courtesy, a willingness to listen, and to address the denier’s arguments directly.

“You cannot change someone’s beliefs against their will, nor can you usually get them to admit there is something they don’t already know. Harder still might be to get them to change their values or identity.

“But there is no easier path to take when dealing with science deniers. We must try to make them understand … But first we have to go out there, face-to-face, and begin to talk to them.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason, by Lee McIntyre (MIT Press $24.95 ISBN: 9780262046107)

People who deny that climate change is happening have something in common with people who believe in a flat Earth.

LONDON, 30 August, 2021 − Dover, a town in the county of Kent in the United Kingdom, was during the 1960s rich in eccentrics: one of them was Mr Samuel Shenton, founder and secretary of the International Flat Earth Research Society.

He was regarded with affection and merriment by local and even national newspaper reporters, and so was solemnly consulted during the US Apollo programme, the race to the moon. In 1965 he refused to believe that a photograph of the curvature of the Earth, taken by astronauts on a Gemini mission, proved that the planet was a sphere. Or that it was moving in space at 30kms a second.

“If we were going at such a tremendous speed through space you wouldn’t be able to get out of your house,” he told a Guardian colleague, “and you’d see the effects on the clouds and the waterways.”

Reportedly at his death his society had no more than 100 members. Then it crossed the Atlantic, and something started to happen.

Shared rejection

By 2018, Lee McIntyre, a researcher at Boston University in Massachusetts, could attend a Flat Earth International Conference in Denver, Colorado and use it as a starting point for an enjoyable and even mildly sympathetic new book called How to Talk to a Science Denier (MIT Press, $24.95).

The event became his template for a study of that stubborn phenomenon known as science denial, the outright refusal to accept data, experimental evidence or patient explanation of findings that you have already decided to reject.

In the course of this reporter’s lifetime, such conspicuous refusals have included the link between smoking and cancer and other health conditions; the connection between HIV infection and illness and death from Aids; the value of vaccination as a protection against disease; and most conspicuously, the connection between human exploitation of fossil fuels and the swelling climate crisis.

And although each act of denial begins from an apparently different starting point, the machinery of resistance − that determination not to be persuaded − shares five common factors.

“You cannot change someone’s beliefs against their will, nor can you usually get them to admit there is something they don’t already know”

One is a refusal to accept aspects of the evidence that do not suit your beliefs, but seize upon those that might seem to. This is called cherry-picking: you just believe the bits you like and ignore the rest.

The second factor is a commitment to the notion of massive conspiracy: a global conspiracy if need be, to declare that Covid-19 isn’t a real disease; or alternatively that it is spread by radiation from 5G radio masts; or that all the world’s science academies, almost all the world’s meteorologists and even governments, are in some monstrous plot to pretend that the climate is changing dangerously, when it isn’t, or if it is, it’s because of natural causes.

The third factor is the denunciation of real experts and the reliance on self-appointed experts. The fourth factor almost always involves logical error (we have an example above from Mr Shenton). And the last and − the deniers seem to think − the most clinching tactic is to say: “But you cannot deliver 100% proof.”

In the chapters that follow, McIntyre explores the different forms that denial takes: he talks to coal-miners in Pennsylvania about climate change; he talks to activists and campaigners about the rejection of genetic engineering as a technique for improving crops; to people who reject vaccination as a protection against disease, and to climate deniers. In all cases, he identifies evidence of the five techniques deployed to resist argument.

Selective acceptance

However, not all forms of rejection are quite as uncompromising as faith in Flat Earth. His miners know about climate change, and yes, know the costs too, but they’re miners. Mining coal is what they do.

Those against genetically-modified crops may turn out to be more concerned about economics, or choice, or the growth of corporate power. People can be vaccine-hesitant (“Is it safe? How do you know?”) rather than flat-out deniers. In each case there are separate issues underlying the unease.

Greek astronomers worked out more than 2,000 years ago that they lived on an orb; to believe the Earth is a stationary disc supported on pillars, Flat Earthers must reject the physics, astronomy and radiation science of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein, while at the same time using cellphones and the Internet, products of that science.

Climate deniers have the slightly more tricky challenge of acknowledging the value of science except when it’s climate science.

Oil money

Each group believes in a massive, worldwide conspiracy to deceive. Two Flat Earthers told McIntyre that the conspiracy to foist the globalist view of the planet was the work of “the Adversary”, the Devil himself.

Climate deniers have the slightly harder task of persuading themselves that climate scientists − Chinese, British, American, Australian, Brazilian or from anywhere in the world − are all conspiring to issue a false message confected for some kind of pecuniary gain or political motive, or for the sake of a hoax, which is a bit more complicated.

There is another compounding factor addressed by this book: the big oil companies decided in 1998 to actually systematically challenge the science, with of course big money: altogether almost a billion dollars a year now flows into an organised climate change counter-movement.

In the US, climate science, like the Covid-19 pandemic itself, has become a party political issue. Nobody gets rich by denying that the Earth is round. Quite a few already very rich people will be yet richer because concerted global action on the climate emergency has been delayed, by systematic cherry-picking, conspiracy theorising, a small army of fake experts and some wilfully illogical reasoning. A very large number are likely to become miserably and even catastrophically poorer.

Winning ways

Meanwhile, how do you talk to a science denier? McIntyre’s suggested approach involves patience, courtesy, a willingness to listen, and to address the denier’s arguments directly.

“You cannot change someone’s beliefs against their will, nor can you usually get them to admit there is something they don’t already know. Harder still might be to get them to change their values or identity.

“But there is no easier path to take when dealing with science deniers. We must try to make them understand … But first we have to go out there, face-to-face, and begin to talk to them.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

How to Talk to a Science Denier: Conversations with Flat Earthers, Climate Deniers, and Others Who Defy Reason, by Lee McIntyre (MIT Press $24.95 ISBN: 9780262046107)

Flat denial rejects 'very likely' science

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Warnings, predictions and statements of probability all have their uses, but only if people heed them. Research tells one story, human behaviour seems to offer another version.

LONDON, 28 April – The odds that global warming of almost 1°C since 1880 is just a natural fluctuation are very low: less than one in a hundred and probably less than one in a thousand, according to a study in the journal Climate Dynamics.

Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in Canada didn’t play with computer simulations: he simply looked at the climate data since 1500 and subjected it to statistical analysis. The message from the historical data – records, tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and so on – is that global warming is linked to fossil fuel-burning and to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“This study will be a blow to any remaining climate change deniers,” said the physicist. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.”

Lovejoy’s finding is unlikely to be the end of the story, perhaps because there are problems with words like “probability”. David Budescu of Fordham University in the US reports in Nature Climate Change that when people hear the words “very likely” used to describe a 95% chance that something is the case, they are more likely to interpret that as around 50% probability.

Budescu and his colleagues worked their way through the problems the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had in presenting its findings. The researchers settled on the terms very unlikely, unlikely, likely and very likely in 24 nations and 17 languages, and found that, on balance, while the IPCC intended “very likely” to mean a more than 90% chance, people tended to understand the phrase as “closer to 50%”. The researchers suggest that the IPCC puts the numbers in, or at least changes the way it presents uncertainty.

A challenge too far

But there has been consistent evidence that people tend to think in unpredictable ways when contemplating an uncertain future predicted decades ahead. In 2010, psychologists at the University of California Berkeley conducted an experiment on undergraduates and found that people tended to discount the most apocalyptic warning if it challenged their view of a stable and orderly world.

“Fear-based appeals, especially when not coupled with a clear solution, can backfire and undermine the intended effects of the messages,” the researchers conclude in the journal Psychological Science.

And even when people were prepared to accept that climate change was a substantial threat, there could be resistance to meeting the costs of mitigation.

The problem is almost as old as the spectre of global warming itself. In his 2012 book The City and the Coming Climate (Cambridge University Press) Brian Stone recalls the spectacular US heat waves and drought of 1988, then the hottest year ever recorded.

Off the charts

At the time the Nasa scientist James Hansen put up a $100 wager that at least one of the first three years of the 1990s would surpass the 1988 record. Hansen was the man who in 1988 told a senate committee “it was time to stop waffling … the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” and thus put global warming on the political agenda for the first time.

Nobody took his money. “1988 not only was hot: it was off the charts in terms of historical extremes, including the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s,” writes Stone. “Yet the 1990s would render the ’88 record almost trivial.”

The temperature anomalies continued to mount: new temperature records were set every 30 months. Nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded happened between 2001 and 2010, and the temperature anomaly in 2010 was twice that of 1988.

The statistical probability that such a string of increasingly hot years had nothing to do with climate change was effectively zero, Stone writes. “The implications of these trends should be apparent to every sentient person alive today: the Earth’s climate is changing.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Warnings, predictions and statements of probability all have their uses, but only if people heed them. Research tells one story, human behaviour seems to offer another version.

LONDON, 28 April – The odds that global warming of almost 1°C since 1880 is just a natural fluctuation are very low: less than one in a hundred and probably less than one in a thousand, according to a study in the journal Climate Dynamics.

Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in Canada didn’t play with computer simulations: he simply looked at the climate data since 1500 and subjected it to statistical analysis. The message from the historical data – records, tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and so on – is that global warming is linked to fossil fuel-burning and to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“This study will be a blow to any remaining climate change deniers,” said the physicist. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.”

Lovejoy’s finding is unlikely to be the end of the story, perhaps because there are problems with words like “probability”. David Budescu of Fordham University in the US reports in Nature Climate Change that when people hear the words “very likely” used to describe a 95% chance that something is the case, they are more likely to interpret that as around 50% probability.

Budescu and his colleagues worked their way through the problems the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had in presenting its findings. The researchers settled on the terms very unlikely, unlikely, likely and very likely in 24 nations and 17 languages, and found that, on balance, while the IPCC intended “very likely” to mean a more than 90% chance, people tended to understand the phrase as “closer to 50%”. The researchers suggest that the IPCC puts the numbers in, or at least changes the way it presents uncertainty.

A challenge too far

But there has been consistent evidence that people tend to think in unpredictable ways when contemplating an uncertain future predicted decades ahead. In 2010, psychologists at the University of California Berkeley conducted an experiment on undergraduates and found that people tended to discount the most apocalyptic warning if it challenged their view of a stable and orderly world.

“Fear-based appeals, especially when not coupled with a clear solution, can backfire and undermine the intended effects of the messages,” the researchers conclude in the journal Psychological Science.

And even when people were prepared to accept that climate change was a substantial threat, there could be resistance to meeting the costs of mitigation.

The problem is almost as old as the spectre of global warming itself. In his 2012 book The City and the Coming Climate (Cambridge University Press) Brian Stone recalls the spectacular US heat waves and drought of 1988, then the hottest year ever recorded.

Off the charts

At the time the Nasa scientist James Hansen put up a $100 wager that at least one of the first three years of the 1990s would surpass the 1988 record. Hansen was the man who in 1988 told a senate committee “it was time to stop waffling … the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” and thus put global warming on the political agenda for the first time.

Nobody took his money. “1988 not only was hot: it was off the charts in terms of historical extremes, including the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s,” writes Stone. “Yet the 1990s would render the ’88 record almost trivial.”

The temperature anomalies continued to mount: new temperature records were set every 30 months. Nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded happened between 2001 and 2010, and the temperature anomaly in 2010 was twice that of 1988.

The statistical probability that such a string of increasingly hot years had nothing to do with climate change was effectively zero, Stone writes. “The implications of these trends should be apparent to every sentient person alive today: the Earth’s climate is changing.” – Climate News Network

Flat denial rejects ‘very likely’ science

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Warnings, predictions and statements of probability all have their uses, but only if people heed them. Research tells one story, human behaviour seems to offer another version. LONDON, 28 April – The odds that global warming of almost 1°C since 1880 is just a natural fluctuation are very low: less than one in a hundred and probably less than one in a thousand, according to a study in the journal Climate Dynamics. Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in Canada didn’t play with computer simulations: he simply looked at the climate data since 1500 and subjected it to statistical analysis. The message from the historical data – records, tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and so on – is that global warming is linked to fossil fuel-burning and to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “This study will be a blow to any remaining climate change deniers,” said the physicist. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.” Lovejoy’s finding is unlikely to be the end of the story, perhaps because there are problems with words like “probability”. David Budescu of Fordham University in the US reports in Nature Climate Change that when people hear the words “very likely” used to describe a 95% chance that something is the case, they are more likely to interpret that as around 50% probability. Budescu and his colleagues worked their way through the problems the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had in presenting its findings. The researchers settled on the terms very unlikely, unlikely, likely and very likely in 24 nations and 17 languages, and found that, on balance, while the IPCC intended “very likely” to mean a more than 90% chance, people tended to understand the phrase as “closer to 50%”. The researchers suggest that the IPCC puts the numbers in, or at least changes the way it presents uncertainty.

A challenge too far

But there has been consistent evidence that people tend to think in unpredictable ways when contemplating an uncertain future predicted decades ahead. In 2010, psychologists at the University of California Berkeley conducted an experiment on undergraduates and found that people tended to discount the most apocalyptic warning if it challenged their view of a stable and orderly world. “Fear-based appeals, especially when not coupled with a clear solution, can backfire and undermine the intended effects of the messages,” the researchers conclude in the journal Psychological Science. And even when people were prepared to accept that climate change was a substantial threat, there could be resistance to meeting the costs of mitigation. The problem is almost as old as the spectre of global warming itself. In his 2012 book The City and the Coming Climate (Cambridge University Press) Brian Stone recalls the spectacular US heat waves and drought of 1988, then the hottest year ever recorded.

Off the charts

At the time the Nasa scientist James Hansen put up a $100 wager that at least one of the first three years of the 1990s would surpass the 1988 record. Hansen was the man who in 1988 told a senate committee “it was time to stop waffling … the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” and thus put global warming on the political agenda for the first time. Nobody took his money. “1988 not only was hot: it was off the charts in terms of historical extremes, including the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s,” writes Stone. “Yet the 1990s would render the ’88 record almost trivial.” The temperature anomalies continued to mount: new temperature records were set every 30 months. Nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded happened between 2001 and 2010, and the temperature anomaly in 2010 was twice that of 1988. The statistical probability that such a string of increasingly hot years had nothing to do with climate change was effectively zero, Stone writes. “The implications of these trends should be apparent to every sentient person alive today: the Earth’s climate is changing.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Warnings, predictions and statements of probability all have their uses, but only if people heed them. Research tells one story, human behaviour seems to offer another version. LONDON, 28 April – The odds that global warming of almost 1°C since 1880 is just a natural fluctuation are very low: less than one in a hundred and probably less than one in a thousand, according to a study in the journal Climate Dynamics. Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in Canada didn’t play with computer simulations: he simply looked at the climate data since 1500 and subjected it to statistical analysis. The message from the historical data – records, tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and so on – is that global warming is linked to fossil fuel-burning and to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “This study will be a blow to any remaining climate change deniers,” said the physicist. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.” Lovejoy’s finding is unlikely to be the end of the story, perhaps because there are problems with words like “probability”. David Budescu of Fordham University in the US reports in Nature Climate Change that when people hear the words “very likely” used to describe a 95% chance that something is the case, they are more likely to interpret that as around 50% probability. Budescu and his colleagues worked their way through the problems the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had in presenting its findings. The researchers settled on the terms very unlikely, unlikely, likely and very likely in 24 nations and 17 languages, and found that, on balance, while the IPCC intended “very likely” to mean a more than 90% chance, people tended to understand the phrase as “closer to 50%”. The researchers suggest that the IPCC puts the numbers in, or at least changes the way it presents uncertainty.

A challenge too far

But there has been consistent evidence that people tend to think in unpredictable ways when contemplating an uncertain future predicted decades ahead. In 2010, psychologists at the University of California Berkeley conducted an experiment on undergraduates and found that people tended to discount the most apocalyptic warning if it challenged their view of a stable and orderly world. “Fear-based appeals, especially when not coupled with a clear solution, can backfire and undermine the intended effects of the messages,” the researchers conclude in the journal Psychological Science. And even when people were prepared to accept that climate change was a substantial threat, there could be resistance to meeting the costs of mitigation. The problem is almost as old as the spectre of global warming itself. In his 2012 book The City and the Coming Climate (Cambridge University Press) Brian Stone recalls the spectacular US heat waves and drought of 1988, then the hottest year ever recorded.

Off the charts

At the time the Nasa scientist James Hansen put up a $100 wager that at least one of the first three years of the 1990s would surpass the 1988 record. Hansen was the man who in 1988 told a senate committee “it was time to stop waffling … the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” and thus put global warming on the political agenda for the first time. Nobody took his money. “1988 not only was hot: it was off the charts in terms of historical extremes, including the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s,” writes Stone. “Yet the 1990s would render the ’88 record almost trivial.” The temperature anomalies continued to mount: new temperature records were set every 30 months. Nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded happened between 2001 and 2010, and the temperature anomaly in 2010 was twice that of 1988. The statistical probability that such a string of increasingly hot years had nothing to do with climate change was effectively zero, Stone writes. “The implications of these trends should be apparent to every sentient person alive today: the Earth’s climate is changing.” – Climate News Network

'Dark money' funds US climate deniers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Most of the many millions of dollars channelled each year to US organisations which deny that climate change is an urgent problem come from sources which cannot be identified.

LONDON, 6 January – Approximately three quarters of the hundreds of millions of dollars that go to US climate change denial organisations is from unidentifiable sources, according to new research in the journal Climatic Change.

Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in the US, set himself the challenge of trying to identify the financial backers who bankrolled more than 100 US organisations that make up what he calls the “climate change counter movement”.

He did so, he reports, because in the US the level of understanding of climate change as a serious and imminent problem remains low, despite urgent pronouncements from national academies and international agencies.

“In response to a survey question in the fall of 2012: Do scientists believe that Earth is getting warmer because of human activity? 43% replied no, and another 12% didn’t know. Only 45% of the U.S. public accurately reported the near-unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change. This result reflects a broad misunderstanding of climate science by the general public”, he writes.

One major factor driving this misunderstanding was what he calls a “deliberate and organised effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate change.”

Opting for anonymity

So Brulle compiled a list of 118 important climate denial organisations in the US: many of them conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and so on.

He then obtained Internal Revenue Service data from 91 of these organisations, and matched it with information from the US National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Foundation Center, a source of information on US philanthropy, fund-raising and grant programmes.

In his final analysis, he found that 140 foundations had made 5,299 grants worth $558 million to the 91 organisations between 2003 and 2010.

A number of free market and conservative trusts and foundations had openly funded the climate change counter movement, but more interestingly, once-prominent backers such as the ExxonMobil Foundation were no longer making publicly traceable contributions. Funding had shifted to untraceable sources.

For example, one foundation called the Donors Trust now provided 25% of all traceable funding used by organisations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change. But those who in turn funded the Donors Trust could not be traced.

Deniers’ megaphone

In fact, Brulle reports that most funding for denial efforts is untraceable: only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to such organisations can be accounted for in public records. Approximately 75% was “dark money” from unidentified sources.

In effect this “dark money” served as a megaphone to amplify the voices of denial, and leave many US voters with the impression that man-made global warming had doubtful scientific support, or was at least in scientific dispute. In fact, the illusion of uncertainty had been staged.

“To fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalised efforts that have built and maintain this organised campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight”, writes Brulle.

“However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, script writers, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Most of the many millions of dollars channelled each year to US organisations which deny that climate change is an urgent problem come from sources which cannot be identified.

LONDON, 6 January – Approximately three quarters of the hundreds of millions of dollars that go to US climate change denial organisations is from unidentifiable sources, according to new research in the journal Climatic Change.

Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in the US, set himself the challenge of trying to identify the financial backers who bankrolled more than 100 US organisations that make up what he calls the “climate change counter movement”.

He did so, he reports, because in the US the level of understanding of climate change as a serious and imminent problem remains low, despite urgent pronouncements from national academies and international agencies.

“In response to a survey question in the fall of 2012: Do scientists believe that Earth is getting warmer because of human activity? 43% replied no, and another 12% didn’t know. Only 45% of the U.S. public accurately reported the near-unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change. This result reflects a broad misunderstanding of climate science by the general public”, he writes.

One major factor driving this misunderstanding was what he calls a “deliberate and organised effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate change.”

Opting for anonymity

So Brulle compiled a list of 118 important climate denial organisations in the US: many of them conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and so on.

He then obtained Internal Revenue Service data from 91 of these organisations, and matched it with information from the US National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Foundation Center, a source of information on US philanthropy, fund-raising and grant programmes.

In his final analysis, he found that 140 foundations had made 5,299 grants worth $558 million to the 91 organisations between 2003 and 2010.

A number of free market and conservative trusts and foundations had openly funded the climate change counter movement, but more interestingly, once-prominent backers such as the ExxonMobil Foundation were no longer making publicly traceable contributions. Funding had shifted to untraceable sources.

For example, one foundation called the Donors Trust now provided 25% of all traceable funding used by organisations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change. But those who in turn funded the Donors Trust could not be traced.

Deniers’ megaphone

In fact, Brulle reports that most funding for denial efforts is untraceable: only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to such organisations can be accounted for in public records. Approximately 75% was “dark money” from unidentified sources.

In effect this “dark money” served as a megaphone to amplify the voices of denial, and leave many US voters with the impression that man-made global warming had doubtful scientific support, or was at least in scientific dispute. In fact, the illusion of uncertainty had been staged.

“To fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalised efforts that have built and maintain this organised campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight”, writes Brulle.

“However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, script writers, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations.” – Climate News Network

‘Dark money’ funds US climate deniers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Most of the many millions of dollars channelled each year to US organisations which deny that climate change is an urgent problem come from sources which cannot be identified. LONDON, 6 January – Approximately three quarters of the hundreds of millions of dollars that go to US climate change denial organisations is from unidentifiable sources, according to new research in the journal Climatic Change. Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in the US, set himself the challenge of trying to identify the financial backers who bankrolled more than 100 US organisations that make up what he calls the “climate change counter movement”. He did so, he reports, because in the US the level of understanding of climate change as a serious and imminent problem remains low, despite urgent pronouncements from national academies and international agencies. “In response to a survey question in the fall of 2012: Do scientists believe that Earth is getting warmer because of human activity? 43% replied no, and another 12% didn’t know. Only 45% of the U.S. public accurately reported the near-unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change. This result reflects a broad misunderstanding of climate science by the general public”, he writes. One major factor driving this misunderstanding was what he calls a “deliberate and organised effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate change.”

Opting for anonymity

So Brulle compiled a list of 118 important climate denial organisations in the US: many of them conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and so on. He then obtained Internal Revenue Service data from 91 of these organisations, and matched it with information from the US National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Foundation Center, a source of information on US philanthropy, fund-raising and grant programmes. In his final analysis, he found that 140 foundations had made 5,299 grants worth $558 million to the 91 organisations between 2003 and 2010. A number of free market and conservative trusts and foundations had openly funded the climate change counter movement, but more interestingly, once-prominent backers such as the ExxonMobil Foundation were no longer making publicly traceable contributions. Funding had shifted to untraceable sources. For example, one foundation called the Donors Trust now provided 25% of all traceable funding used by organisations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change. But those who in turn funded the Donors Trust could not be traced.

Deniers’ megaphone

In fact, Brulle reports that most funding for denial efforts is untraceable: only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to such organisations can be accounted for in public records. Approximately 75% was “dark money” from unidentified sources. In effect this “dark money” served as a megaphone to amplify the voices of denial, and leave many US voters with the impression that man-made global warming had doubtful scientific support, or was at least in scientific dispute. In fact, the illusion of uncertainty had been staged. “To fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalised efforts that have built and maintain this organised campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight”, writes Brulle. “However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, script writers, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Most of the many millions of dollars channelled each year to US organisations which deny that climate change is an urgent problem come from sources which cannot be identified. LONDON, 6 January – Approximately three quarters of the hundreds of millions of dollars that go to US climate change denial organisations is from unidentifiable sources, according to new research in the journal Climatic Change. Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in the US, set himself the challenge of trying to identify the financial backers who bankrolled more than 100 US organisations that make up what he calls the “climate change counter movement”. He did so, he reports, because in the US the level of understanding of climate change as a serious and imminent problem remains low, despite urgent pronouncements from national academies and international agencies. “In response to a survey question in the fall of 2012: Do scientists believe that Earth is getting warmer because of human activity? 43% replied no, and another 12% didn’t know. Only 45% of the U.S. public accurately reported the near-unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change. This result reflects a broad misunderstanding of climate science by the general public”, he writes. One major factor driving this misunderstanding was what he calls a “deliberate and organised effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate change.”

Opting for anonymity

So Brulle compiled a list of 118 important climate denial organisations in the US: many of them conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and so on. He then obtained Internal Revenue Service data from 91 of these organisations, and matched it with information from the US National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Foundation Center, a source of information on US philanthropy, fund-raising and grant programmes. In his final analysis, he found that 140 foundations had made 5,299 grants worth $558 million to the 91 organisations between 2003 and 2010. A number of free market and conservative trusts and foundations had openly funded the climate change counter movement, but more interestingly, once-prominent backers such as the ExxonMobil Foundation were no longer making publicly traceable contributions. Funding had shifted to untraceable sources. For example, one foundation called the Donors Trust now provided 25% of all traceable funding used by organisations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change. But those who in turn funded the Donors Trust could not be traced.

Deniers’ megaphone

In fact, Brulle reports that most funding for denial efforts is untraceable: only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to such organisations can be accounted for in public records. Approximately 75% was “dark money” from unidentified sources. In effect this “dark money” served as a megaphone to amplify the voices of denial, and leave many US voters with the impression that man-made global warming had doubtful scientific support, or was at least in scientific dispute. In fact, the illusion of uncertainty had been staged. “To fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalised efforts that have built and maintain this organised campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight”, writes Brulle. “However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, script writers, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations.” – Climate News Network