Academic papers and book chapters
Almiron, N., Boykoff, M., Narberhaus, M. et al. (2020). Dominant counter-frames in influential climate contrarian European think tanks. Climatic Change 162, 2003–2020. Numerous studies to date have interrogated United States (US) think tanks—and their networks—involved in climate change countermovement (CCM). Comparatively in Europe (EU), research has been lacking. This investigation therefore attends to that gap. We conducted a frame analysis on eight most prominent contrarian think tanks in six countries and four languages in Europe over 24 years (1994–2018). We found that there has been consistent contrarian framing through think tanks in the EU regarding climate change. Yet, we found a proliferation of contrarian outputs particularly in recent years. This uptick in quantity correlates with increases in CCM activities in the US. Our content analyses showed that well-worn climate change counter-frames spread by US CCM organizations were consistently circulated by European organizations as well. Moreover, we found that, as in the US, neoliberal ideological stances stood out as the most frequently taken up by contrarian think tanks in Europe. As such, we documented that CCM tropes and activities have flowed strongly between US and EU countries.
Beder, S. (2014). Lobbying, greenwash and deliberate confusion: how vested interests undermine climate change. In M. C-T. Huang and R. R-C Huang (Eds.), Green Thoughts and Environmental Politics: Green Trends and Environmental Politics (pp. 297-328), Taipei, Taiwan: Asia-seok Digital Technology. Corporations that would be affected by measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set out to confuse and deceive the public and policy- makers on the issue. They use corporate front groups, public relations firms and conservative think tanks to cast doubt on predictions of global warming and its impacts, to imply that governments do not know enough to act, to argue that the cost of reducing greenhouse gases is prohibitively expensive and to promote doubtful solutions such as ‘clean’ coal. Similarly corporations and their lobby groups have sought to delay treaties and legislation and shape those that are finally agreed and passed. In particular they promote voluntary actions by presenting themselves as environmentally responsible and committed to finding solutions.
Beder, S. (2001). Neoliberal think tanks and free market environmentalism. Environmental Politics, 10 (2), 128–133. Corporate-funded think tanks have played a central role in promoting free market environmentalism onto the policy agenda throughout the English-speaking world. These think tanks have consistently opposed government regulation and advocated the virtues of a ‘free’ market unconstrained by a burden of red tape. The role of think tanks in the establishment of this ‘neoliberal’ agenda in the US and the UK in recent decades has been well documented. However, their central role in a range of specific policy areas, such as environmental policy, has been neglected.
Bonds, E. (2011). The knowledge-shaping process: elite mobilization and environmental policy. Critical sociology, 37 (4), 429–446. Both using and contributing to power structure research, this article presents evidence that corporate and military elites form networks and mobilize resources to influence the development of environmental policy. This influence may be achieved when elites form and utilize knowledge-shaping processes, which involve four principal exercises of power. First, elites suppress information that may threaten their interests. Second, elites organize and fund institutions to produce and promote research that may be useful in efforts to secure their goals. Third, elites fund experts willing to attack and discredit potentially damaging research. Finally, they attempt to exert influence in knowledge administration, or in selecting what information counts as knowledge and what does not.
Boykoff, M. (2016). Consensus and contrarianism on climate change. How the USA case informs dynamics elsewhere. Mètode Science Studies Journal, 6 (2016): 89–95. This essay focuses on the USA context, and explores some of the intertwined social, political and economic factors, as well as cultural and psychological characteristics that have together influenced public attitudes, intentions, beliefs, perspective and behaviours in regards to climate change science and governance over time.
Boykoff, M. and Olson, K. (2013). ‘Wise contrarians’: a keystone species in contemporary climate science, politics and policy. Celebrity Studies 4 (3) 276-291. Examination of the ‘Wise Use’ movements rooted in the US West to understand celebrity climate contrarians embedded in countermovements activities.
Brulle, R. J., Carmichael, J., & Jenkins, C. J. (2012). Shifting public opinion on climate change: An empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010. Climatic Change, 114, 169-188. This paper conducts an empirical analysis of the factors affecting U.S. public concern about the threat of climate change between January 2002 and December 2010. Utilizing Stimson’s method of constructing aggregate opinion measures, data from 74 separate surveys over a 9-year period are used to construct quarterly measures of public concern over global climate change. We examine five factors that should account for changes in levels of concern: 1) extreme weather events, 2) public access to accurate scientific information, 3) media coverage, 4) elite cues, and 5) movement/countermovement advocacy.
Brulle, R.J. (2014). Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations. Climatic Change (2014) 122:681–694. This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States. An examination of these data shows that these 91 CCCM organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. The overwhelming majority of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations. Additionally, there is evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of CCCM funding through the use of donor directed philanthropies.
Brulle, R. J. (2018). The climate lobby: a sectoral analysis of lobbying spending on climate change in the USA, 2000 to 2016. Climatic Change 149, 289–303. Lobbying is considered to be an important factor in the success or failure of climate change legislation. This paper provides an estimate of lobbying expenditures related to climate change legislation in the U.S. Congress from 2000 to 2016. During this time period, over $2 billion was spent on this activity, constituting 3.9% of total lobbying expenditures. Major sectors involved in lobbying were fossil fuel and transportation corporations, utilities, and affiliated trade associations. Expenditures by these sectors dwarf those of environmental organizations and renewable energy corporations. Levels of expenditures on lobbying appear to be related to the introduction and probability of passage of significant climate legislation. Future research should focus on tying particular positions on climate legislation and lobbying expenditures at the corporate level.
Brulle, R. J. (2019). Networks of Opposition: A Structural Analysis of U.S. Climate Change Countermovement Coalitions 1989–2015. Sociological Inquiry. The climate change countermovement (CCCM) in the United States has exerted an important influence on delaying efforts to address climate change. Analyzes of this countermovement have primarily focused on the role of conservative think tanks. Expanding this research, this article initiates an examination of the structure of key political coalitions that worked to oppose climate action. In conjunction with their allied trade associations, these coalitions have served as a central coordination mechanism in efforts opposed to mandatory limits on carbon emissions. These coalitions pool resources from a large number of corporations and execute sophisticated political and cultural campaigns designed to oppose efforts to address climate change. Through an analysis of twelve prominent CCCM coalitions from 1989 to 2015, I show that over 2,000 organizations were members of these coalitions and that a core of 179 organizations belonged to multiple coalitions. Organizations from the coal and electrical utility sectors were the most numerous and influential organizations in these coalitions. The article concludes with suggestions for further research to expand understanding of complex social movements and countermovements.
Brulle, R.J., Hall G., Loy L. et al. (2021). Obstructing Action: Foundation Funding and U.S. Climate Change Counter-movement Organizations. Climatic Change (forthcoming). This paper updates the analysis of funding of the Climate Change Countermovement from 2003 - 2010 to 2003 - 2018, doubling the time period of the previous analysis. Funding for the organizations in the CCCM has continually increased at a rate of 3.4% throughout the time period. The source of the vast majority (74%) of this funding cannot be identified. Where funding can be identified, it is dominated by contributions from a few large conservative philanthropies.
Busch, T., Judick, L. (2021). Climate change — that is not real! A comparative analysis of climate-skeptic think tanks in the USA and Germany. Climatic Change 164, 18. The science is clear: climate change is real. In 2015, 195 countries adopted the global climate deal in Paris. Nonetheless, numerous well-organized conservative think tanks (CTTs) deny that climate change is happening. We ask what kind of counterclaims are used by climate-skeptic CTTs and to what extent these counterclaims change over time. We analyze about 2500 blog articles from prominent CTTs in the USA and Germany between 2008 and 2016. Our results show that skeptical arguments about climate policy and science dominate the countermovement. At the same time, we detect that the prevalence of counterclaims is CTT-specific and that US think tanks show a greater variability compared to their German counterparts. In a surprising outcome, we find that the Paris Agreement did not affect the climate denial movement. Based on these insights, we discuss our contributions to social movement research in the climate change denial context and derive conclusions for pro-climate campaigns.
Cann, H. W. (2015). Climate Change, Still Challenged: Conservative Think Tanks and Skeptic Frames. Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association Las Vegas, NV, April 2-4, 2015. Using a sceptic framing typology developed by McCright and Dunlap (2000), this paper assesses online Heartland publications from September to December of 2013, providing a snapshot portrait of what think tanks in the United States are talking (and not talking) about. In this way the author argues the emergence of two key themes. First, the 2013 Heartland documents show an unexpected decline in the prevalence of frames that critique the economic implications of climate change policies. Secondly, the 2013 documents show a changing relationship between attacks on the scientific uncertainty of climate change versus the moral characters of those involved with mainstream climate research.
Cann, H. W., & Raymond, L. (2018). Does climate denialism still matter? The prevalence of alternative frames in opposition to climate policy. Environmental Politics, 27(3), 433-454. Issue frames portraying climate science as uncertain are cited as a key impediment to new climate change and energy policies. However, some have recently argued that the debate over policy impacts, especially policy impacts on consumers, has become more politically salient than the debate over science. This study applies qualitative content analysis to 340 documents from the conservative think tank, the Heartland Institute, to test whether certain policy frames have become more common among leading opponents of climate policy in the United States. The results indicate a continued reliance on science framing, with more directed attacks on climate scientists and fewer frames stressing the uncertainty of climate science. An increase in the use of policy frames related to effects on consumers also suggests that opposition to climate policy is taking new forms as the political debate evolves, with ramifications for climate change policy opposition on an international scale.
Carroll, W., Graham, N., Lang, M. K., Yunker, Z., & McCartney, K. D. (2018). The corporate elite and the architecture of climate change denial: A network analysis of carbon capital's reach into civil society. Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue Canadienne de Sociologie, 55(3), 425-450. This study employs social network analysis to map the Canadian network of carbon-capital corporations whose boards interlock with key knowledge-producing civil society organizations, including think tanks, industry associations, business advocacy organizations, universities, and research institutes. We find a pervasive pattern of carbon-sector reach into these domains of civil society, forming a single, connected network that is centered in Alberta yet linked to the central-Canadian corporate elite through hegemonic capitalist organizations, including major financial companies. This structure provides the architecture for a “soft” denial regime that acknowledges climate change while protecting the continued flow of profit to fossil fuel and related companies.
Curtin, P. & Rhodenbaugh, E. (2001). Building the news media agenda on the environment: A Comparison of public relations and journalistic sources. Public Relations Review 27(2): 179-195. This content analysis study compares two types of information subsidies provided to members of the Society of Environmental Journalists: public relations materials mailed to members and news tip sheets put together by SEJ for the use of their members. Results suggest that although the critics’ charges have some merit, the preponderance of materials promoting a backlash agenda stem from just a few public relations sources.
Doyle, J. (2007). Picturing the climactic: Greenpeace and the representational politics of climate change communication. Science as Culture, 16(2): 129-150. In this paper, the author examines the problems associated with communicating a temporal environmental issue such as climate change, by analysing the history of climate change communication produced by Greenpeace since the early 1990s. Through historical analysis, the intention is to consider how Greenpeace has sought to make ‘real’ the potential and often invisible risks of climate change. Given Greenpeace’s commitment to photo- graphic documentation, what limitations has this mode of representation posed for the communication of climate change?
Dunlap, R.E. & Brulle, R.J. (2020). Sources and amplifiers of climate change denial. In Holmes, D.C. & Richardson, L.M. (Ed.) Research Handbook on Communicating Climate Change (pp. 49-61). Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar Publishing. Starting in 1989, corporations with strong ties to the production and use of fossil fuels, in coordination with allied trade associations, conservative think tanks, philanthropic foundations, and public relations firms, mounted campaigns opposed to action to mitigate carbon emissions. A crucial strategy of this Bril (CCCM) was the implementation of well-organized efforts to undermine public understanding of human-caused climate change by promoting uncertainty over mainstream climate science. These long-term efforts, often led by front groups to hide corporate responsibility, enlisted contrarian scientists for credibility and public relations firms for expertise in messaging. The misinformation developed by the CCCM has been greatly amplified by conservative media (especially Fox News, WSJ and talk radio), bloggers, and social media - as well as the Republican Party in the US, which has institutionalized climate change denial. This chapter reviews the major sources and amplifiers of climate change misinformation over the past three decades.
Dunlap, R.E. & McCright, A.M. (2015). 'Challenging Climate Change: The Denial Countermovement' pp. 300-332. In Dunlap, R.R. & Brulle, R.J. (eds.), Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. Shortly after James Hansen’s June 1988 Senate testimony placed anthropogenic global warming on the public agenda in the United States, organized efforts to deny the reality and significance of the phenomenon began, reflected by formation the following year of the Global Climate Coalition (an industry-led front group formed to call global warming into question). These efforts to deny global warming—and human-caused climate change more generally1—have continued over the ensuing quarter-century, involving an ever-growing array of actors, and often cresting when domestic or international action (eg, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol) aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions seems imminent. Organized denial reached an unprecedented level in 2009 when the newly elected Obama administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress increased the likelihood of US action to reduce GHG emissions and the December 2009 Copenhagen Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was approaching. The efforts have continued relatively unabated since then, cresting whenever climate change policymaking becomes salient on the US or international agendas.
Dunlap R.E. & Jacques, P.J. (2013). Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks: Exploring the Connection. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(6) 699–731. Analysis of 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. The authors 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. The authors also find that over time a larger proportion of these books have been produced 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.
Dunlap, R. E. and McCright, A. M. (2010) ‘Climate change denial: Sources, actors and strategies. In Constance Lever-Tracy (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 240–259. 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).
Dunlap, R. E., & McCright, A. M. (2011). Organized climate change denial. In J. S. Dryzek, R. B. Norgaard & D. Schlosberg (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society (pp. 144-160). London, UK: Oxford. This article provides an overview of organized climate change denial. Focusing primarily on the US, where denial first took root and remains most active, this article begins by describing the growth of conservative-based opposition to environmentalism and environmental science in general. It then explains why climate change became the central focus of this opposition, which quickly evolved into a coordinated and well-funded machine or ‘industry’. It also examines denialists' rationale for attacking the scientific underpinnings of climate change policy and the crucial strategy of ‘manufacturing uncertainty’ they employ.
Dunlap, R.E. (2013). Climate Change Skepticism and Denial: An Introduction. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(6): 691-698. Introduction to a special issue of ABS on climate change denial.
Farrell, J. (2016). Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(1), 92–97. Drawing on large-scale computational data and methods, this research demonstrates how polarization efforts are influenced by a patterned network of political and financial actors. These dynamics, which have been notoriously difficult to quantify, are illustrated here with a computational analysis of climate change politics in the United States. The comprehensive data include all individual and organizational actors in the climate change countermovement (164 organizations), as well as all written and verbal texts produced by this network between 1993–2013 (40,785 texts, more than 39 million words). Two main findings emerge. First, that organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue. Second, and more importantly, that corporate funding influences the actual thematic content of these polarization efforts, and the discursive prevalence of that thematic content over time. These findings provide new, and comprehensive, confirmation of dynamics long thought to be at the root of climate change politics and discourse. Beyond the specifics of climate change, this paper has important implications for understanding ideological polarization more generally, and the increasing role of private funding in determining why certain polarizing themes are created and amplified. Lastly, the paper suggests that future studies build on the novel approach taken here that integrates largescale textual analysis with social networks.
Farrell, J. (2016). Network structure and influence of the climate change counter-movement. Nature Climate Change, 6(4), 370–374. Anthropogenic climate change represents a global threat to human well-being1–3 and ecosystem functioning4. Yet despite its importance for science and policy, our understanding of the causes of widespread uncertainty and doubt found among the general public remains limited. The political and social processes driving such doubt and uncertainty are di‑cult to rigorously analyse, and research has tended to focus on the individual-level, rather than the larger institutions and social networks that produce and disseminate contrarian information. This study presents a new approach by using network science to uncover the institutional and corporate structure of the climate change counter-movement, and machine-learning text analysis to show its influence in the news media and bureaucratic politics. The data include a new social network of all known organizations and individuals promoting contrarian viewpoints, as well as the entirety of all written and verbal texts about climate change from 1993–2013 from every organization, three major news outlets, all US presidents, and every occurrence on the floor of the US Congress. Using network and computational text analysis, I find that the organizational power within the contrarian network, and the magnitude of semantic similarity, are both predicted by ties to elite corporate benefactors.
Farrell, J. (2019). The growth of climate change misinformation in US philanthropy: Evidence from natural language processing. Environmental Research Letters, 14(3), 034013. Two of the most consequential developments affecting US politics are (1) the growing influence of private philanthropy, and (2) the large-scale production and diffusion of misinformation. Despite their importance, the links between these two trends have not been scientifically examined. This study employs a sophisticated research design on a large collection of new data, utilizing natural language processing and approximate string matching to examine the relationship between the large-scale climate misinformation movement and US philanthropy. The study finds that over a twenty year period, networks of actors promulgating scientific misinformation about climate change were increasingly integrated into the institution of US philanthropy. The degree of integration is predicted by funding ties to prominent corporate donors. These findings reveal new knowledge about largescale efforts to distort public understanding of science and sow polarization. The study also contributes a unique computational approach to be applied at this increasingly important, yet methodologically fraught, area of research.
Gale, R. (1986). Social Movements and the state: the environmental movement, countermovement, and government agencies. Sociological Perspectives 29(2): pp. 202-240. This article modifies resource mobilization theory to emphasize interaction amongst social movements, counter-movements, and governmental agencies.
Galloway, C. & Lynn, M. (2007/8). Public Relations and climate change impacts: Developing a collaborative response. PRism 5(1-2). Global climate change effects pose problems both for community development professionals concerned with strengthening communities and for public relations practitioners confronting communication challenges. This paper suggests that each discipline has something to offer the other in dealing with communities facing climate change impacts
Greenberg, J., Knight, G. & Westersund, E. (2011). Spinning climate change: Corporate and NGO public relation strategies in Canada and the United States. The International Communication Gazette, 73(1-2): 65-82. This article examines the role of PR in the debate about global climate change. Seeking to move beyond a focus on PR as just the handmaiden of corporate power, the article documents the fluid role of professionalized communication in terms of its impact on both corporate and NGO actors and their activities, focusing on communication tactics and the influence of PR consultancies.
Haltinner, K, Sarathchandra, D. (2018). Climate change skepticism as a psychological coping strategy. Sociology Compass, 12(6). This article explores current sociological scholarship on climate skepticism and, drawing on recent literature in social psychology and behavioral science, presents an argument for future research on the relationship between emotion, information aversion, and climate denial. We extrapolate and unite these disconnected bodies of scholarship to argue that strong emotions such as fear may drive climate change skepticism and denial among some adherents. By partnering the scholarship outlined above with advances in research on conspiracy ideation, we argue that climate change skepticism and denial is, at least in some cases, a form of an exaggerated ostrich effect, whereby adherents are so driven to avoid learning about a specific problem; they actively seek to construct an alternative, safer, narrative. Given this predisposition, attempting to challenge such skepticism with information is counterproductive. As such, this paper presents alternative possibilities for communicating research findings on climate change.
Jacques, P. J., Dunlap, R. E., & Freeman, M. (2008). The organization of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism. Environmental Politics, 17, 349-385. This study quantitatively analyses 141 English-language environmentally sceptical books published between 1972 and 2005. The study finds that over 92 per cent of these books, most published in the US since 1992, are linked to conservative think tanks (CTTs). Further, it analyses CTTs involved with environmental issues and find that 90 per cent of them espouse environmental scepticism. It concludes that scepticism is a tactic of an elite-driven counter-movement designed to combat environmental- ism, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of US commitment to environmental protection.
Lazarus, O., McDermid, S., & Jacquet, J. (2021). The climate responsibilities of industrial meat and dairy producers. Climatic Change, 165(1–2), 30. Our view of responsibility for climate change has expanded to include the actions of firms, particularly fossil fuel producers. Yet analysis of animal agriculture’s role in climate change—estimated as 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions—has mainly focused on the sector as a whole. Here we examine the world’s 35 largest meat and dairy companies for their commitments tomitigating climate change and find four companies that havemade an explicit commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. In general, these commitments emphasized mitigating energy use, with minimal focus on emissions (e.g., methane) from animal and land use, whichmake the biggest warming contributions in the agricultural sector.We also compare the companies’ projected global emissions under a business-as-usual scenario to their headquarter countries’ future emissions, assuming each country’s compliance with their commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement. Taking this view of responsibility and emissions accounting (which is not the conception of responsibility in the Paris Agreement), our results show that including industrial meat and dairy producers’ full global emissions in national accounting would impact national targets for greenhouse gas reductions. As examples, by our calculations, two companies—Fonterra in New Zealand, and Nestlé in Switzerland—would make up more than 100% of their headquarter country’s total emissions target in the coming decade. Finally, we evaluated using 20 yes-or-no questions and a variety of sources the transparency of emissions reporting, mitigation commitments, and influence on public opinion and politics of the 10 US meat and dairy companies. According to the evidence we collected, all 10 US companies have contributed to efforts to undermine climate-related policies. Each of these analyses approaches responsibility in new and different ways. Under the swiftly changing social conditions provoked by climate change, we can expect new imaginings of responsibility for GHG emissions, as well as increased attention to the role of corporate actors and their accountability for climate change impacts.
McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2000). Challenging global warming as a social problem: An analysis of the conservative movement’s counter-claims. Social Problems, 47, 499-522. This paper examines the counter-claims promoted by the conservative movement between 1990 and 1997 as it mobilized to challenge the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. A thematic content analysis of publications circulated on the web sites of prominent conservative think tanks reveals three major counter claims. First, the movement criticized the evidentiary basic of global warming as week, if not entirely wrong. Second, the movement argued that global warming will have substantial benefits if it occurs. Third, the movement warned that proposed action to ameliorate global warming would do more harm than good.
McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2003). Defeating Kyoto: The conservative movement’s impact on U.S. climate change policy. Social Problems, 50, 348-373. This paper examines how the conservative movement mobilized between 1990 and 1997 to construct the “non-problematicity” of global warming. After describing how conservative think tanks mobilized to challenge the global warming claims of mainstream climate science, the authors examine how these counter-movement organizations aligned themselves with prominent American climate change sceptics known for their staunch criticism of mainstream climate research and their affiliations with the fossil fuels industry. The authors argue that a major reason the United States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to ameliorate global warming is the opposition of the American conservative movement, a key segment of the anti- environmental countermovement. They examine how the conservative movement mobilized between 1990 and 1997 to construct the “non-problematicity” of global warming.
McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2010). Anti-reflexivity: The American conservative movement’s success in undermining climate change science and policy. Theory, Culture, and Society, 27, 100-103. The American conservative movement is a force of anti-reflexivity insofar as it attacks two key elements of reflexive modernization: the environmental movement and environmental impact science. The conservative movement has employed four non-decision-making techniques to challenge the legitimacy of climate science and prevent progress in policy-making.
McCright, A.M (2007). Dealing with climate contrarians. In: S.C. Moser and L. Dilling (Eds.) Creating a climate for change: communicating climate change and facilitating social change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 200-212. Summary of existing research on the claims, organizational affiliations, tactics, and effectiveness of the contrarians in the American national policy context, and then strategies for dealing with contrarians.
McKie, R. E. (2019). Climate Change Counter Movement Neutralization Techniques: A Typology to Examine the Climate Change Counter Movement. Sociological Inquiry, 89(2), 288–316. The Climate Change Counter Movement has been a topic of interest for social scientists and environmentalists for the past 25 years (Dunlap and McCright, 2015). This research uses the sociology of crime and deviance to analyze the numerous arguments used by climate change counter movement organizations. Content analysis of 805 statements made by climate change counter movement organizations reveals that the theory Techniques of Neutralization (Sykes and Matza, American Sociological Review 22 (6):664, 1957) can help us better understand the arguments adopted by these organizations. Taking two observations from two time points, the author examine not only the composition of the messaging adopted by Climate Change Counter Movement (CCCM) organization, but how these messages have changed over time. In all, there were 1,435 examples of CCCM neutralization techniques adopted by CCCM organizations across these two points in time. This examination of the movement provides valuable insight into the CCCM and the subsequent environmental harm that is partly facilitated by their actions.
Meyer DS, Staggenbord S (1996) Movements, countermovements, and the structure of political opportunity. American Journal of Sociology 101(6). Movement, countermovement interaction is an ongoing feature of contemporary counter-movements and, indeed, of contemporary politics. Yet the interplay of contending movements is understudied and under-theorized. This article began to remedy this deficit.
Miller, D. & Dinan, W. (2015) Resisting meaningful action on climate change: Think tanks, 'merchants of doubt' and the 'corporate capture' of sustainable development. In: A. Hansen and R. Cox, (eds.) Handbook of environment and communication. London: Routledge. The chapter examines various corporate and elite responses to climate change. In particular it notes the tensions within global elite networks between those who take a proactive response to climate issues and have aimed to provide leadership on climate by shaping (arguably dominating) the political and public discourse on this issue, and the defensive movement of climate change contrarianism and denial. These two tendencies have resulted in differing sorts of lobbying, public relations and corporate responses to climate issues.
Norgaard, K. M. (2006). “People want to protect themselves a little bit”: Emotions, denial, and social movement nonparticipation. Sociological Inquiry, 76(3), 372–396. Following Evitar Zerubavel, the author describes the process of collective avoiding as the “social organization of denial”. Emotions played a key role in denial, providing much of the reason why people preferred to avoid information. Emotion management was also a central aspect of the process of denial, which in this community was carried out through the use of a cultural stock of social narratives that were invoked to achieve “perspectival selectivity” and “selective interpretation.”
Norgaard, K. M. (2011). Climate Denial: Emotion, Psychology, Culture, and Political Economy. In J. S. Dryzek, R. B. Norgaard & D. Schlosberg (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society (pp. 144-160). London, UK: Oxford. The term ‘denial’ is sometimes used to describe the phenomenon of outright rejection of information as true. However, the term, in the case of climate change, has several other aspects. This article outlines the phenomenon of climate denial, that is, the active resistance to information on a collective level. It begins with a review of existing explanations for the public failure to respond to climate change from psychology and sociology. It then uses ethnographic data to introduce the framework of socially organized denial. This view from the ground up builds upon many of the explanations to concept of denial, and highlights the intersecting role of emotions, culture, social structure, and inequality in people's lived experience. Broadly, this article is concerned with the more pervasive and everyday problem of how and why people who purport to be concerned about climate change, manage to ignore it.
O’Neill, S. J., & Boykoff, M. (2010). Climate denier, skeptic or contrarian? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, E151. Comment on “Expert credibility in climate change”.
Piltz, R. (2008). The denial machine. Index on Censorship, 37(4), 72-81. In March 2001, early in their first year in the White House, President Bush and Vice President Cheney set the framework for their approach to climate change policy by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty process and rejecting regulatory limits on emissions of greenhouse gases. Also in 2001, with far less fanfare, the new administration began to align itself with an orchestrated global warming disinformation campaign designed to mislead the public about the scientific evidence for anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming and its likely harmful impacts.
Plehwe, D. (2014). Think tank networks and the knowledge–interest nexus: the case of climate change. Critical Policy Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, 101–115. The large number of think tanks and think tank networks involved in climate change policy scepticism can be considered central. Such networks are designed to promote or to disrupt political discourse. Although many individual think tanks and network relationships do not give cause for particular concern, the combination of powerful expert, consulting and lobby/advocacy capacities that rely on organized think tank infrastructures implies a growing need for closer attention to think tank models in public policy analysis.
Plehwe, D. (2015). "The politics of policy think-tanks: organizing expertise, legitimacy and counter-expertise in policy networks". In Handbook of Critical Policy Studies. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. Think-tanks have become prominent organizations in political processes at national and international levels. They are widely praised for their capacity to conduct policy-relevant research, for their ability to innovate, and to reach out to practicing politicians. Critiques have pointed out that many think-tanks do not contribute research in any real sense, and frequently serve elite, government or business interests instead. Although the two perspectives are clearly contradictory, a comprehensive treatment of the politics of policy think-tanks can reconcile different views by way of, firstly, recognizing different types of think-tanks, and their diverse roles in particular policy communities at various stages in policy processes. Secondly, beyond the analytic distinction of different types of think-tanks, the political dimension of the knowledge and expertise produced and processed by think-tanks needs to be recognized and analyzed. A historical and social network analytical approach to study individual policy think-tanks as well as policy think-tank networks can be employed to clarify resources relevant to think-tank knowledge production, inter alia specific academic, political, corporate or ideological backgrounds, in addition to qualities and contributions of the expertise disseminated by think-tanks. This is demonstrated by way of revisiting, firstly, the deregulation battles in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and secondly, some of the environmental policy battles of the recent past. In each case think-tanks were or are prominently involved in various constructive and destructive policy efforts, and can be observed playing powerful and sometimes critical roles not necessarily in conjunction with the academic quality of the knowledge they help to advance. A critical approach to think-tank politics and the recognition of the political character of knowledge in turn can improve policy deliberation and decision making because of the efforts involved to advance greater transparency and accountability of policy actors on the one hand and the critical understanding of knowledge resources on the other hand.
Plehwe, D. (2021). "Think tanks and the politics of climate change". In Handbook on Think Tanks in Public Policy. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. In deliberation-minded and civil society-oriented scholarship, think tanks are relevant because of their constructive role in policy-related knowledge generation. They are held to establish and enable expertise from diverse stakeholders and multiple angles, and to successfully feed the policy process. The environmental policy field, in general, and climate change mitigation especially, allows additionally for the observation of a less benign and wider range of roles and functions for think tanks across multiple conflict constellations. Conflict theoretical and power-sensitive approaches implicate the need to relate think tanks - in agnostic ways - to the political struggles of competing discourse coalitions that frequently rely on problem-solving research, as well as destructive strategies of 'knowledge shaping' and 'strategic ignorance '. The current vitriol in climate change mitigation debates cannot simply be attributed to the abuse of science and fake news. Evidence points to a far-ranging transformation of the ‘global knowledge power structure’ in which policy think tanks have come to play an increasingly important and ambiguous role.
Rahmstorf, S. (2004). The climate skeptics. In Munich Re (Eds.), Weather catastrophes & Climate Change (pp. 76-83). Munich, Germany: Munich Re. Media reports repeatedly focus on sceptics. Some of them do not believe in climate change, others attribute it to natural causes, and others consider it harmless or even favourable. How seriously should we take these theories? This chapter discusses the climate sceptics arguments.
Sapinski, J. P. (2019). Corporate Climate Policy-planning in the Global Polity: A Network Analysis. Critical Sociology, 45(4–5), 565–582. Alongside the climate change denial movement, a section of the capitalist class has been organizing to promote a project of “climate capitalism” that relies on carbon markets and other policies compatible with the neoliberal order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Like the denial movement, promoters of climate capitalism have constructed an extensive network of think tanks and policy-planning groups to foster adherence to their climate policy proposals. This article uses social network analysis to map out the reach of these climate and environmental policy groups within the array of interconnected NGOs, inter-governmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and other organizations that constitute the global polity. This analysis sheds light on the position climate capitalism—understood as a project of a section of the global corporate elite—occupies among international organizations. Overall, I find that climate and environmental policy groups: (1) maintain substantial ties to key organizations of the global polity, and (2) mediate a substantial amount of relations, bridging between central organizations and more peripheral ones, as well as among those located in Europe and North America. I thus argue that a global inter-organizational infrastructure exists that supports climate capitalism, which contributes to its dominant position in climate change politics.
Schmid-Petri, H. (2017). Politicization of science: how climate change skeptics use experts and scientific evidence in their online communication. Climatic Change, 145(3), 523-537. This study, using the discussion about climate change in the USA as an example, analyzes the research question of how climate change skeptics use experts and scientific evidence in their online communication. Two different strategies are distinguished: legitimation and criticism. The study conducts a quantitative content analysis of online documents to answer the research question. The results show that the deduced strategies are an important part of the communication of climate change skeptics, who more commonly use the criticism strategy than the legitimation strategy. Results are further differentiated for different actor types and various types of experts.
Supran, G., & Oreskes, N. (2017). Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014). Environmental Research Letters, 12(8), 084019. This paper assesses whether ExxonMobil Corporation has in the past misled the general public about climate change. We present an empirical document-by-document textual content analysis and comparison of 187 climate change communications from ExxonMobil, including peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications, internal company documents, and paid, editorial-style advertisements (‘advertorials’) in The New York Times. We examine whether these communications sent consistent messages about the state of climate science and its implications—specifically, we compare their positions on climate change as real, human-caused, serious, and solvable. In all four cases, we find that as documents become more publicly accessible, they increasingly communicate doubt. This discrepancy is most pronounced between advertorials and all other documents. For example, accounting for expressions of reasonable doubt, 83% of peer-reviewed papers and 80% of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12% of advertorials do so, with 81% instead expressing doubt. We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science—by way of its scientists’ academic publications—but promoted doubt about it in advertorials. Given this discrepancy, we conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public. Our content analysis also examines ExxonMobil’s discussion of the risks of stranded fossil fuel assets. We find the topic discussed and sometimes quantified in 24 documents of various types, but absent from advertorials. Finally, based on the available documents, we outline ExxonMobil’s strategic approach to climate change research and communication, which helps to contextualize our findings.
Supran, G., & Oreskes, N. (2021). Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil’s climate change communications. One Earth, S2590332221002335. This paper investigates how ExxonMobil uses rhetoric and framing to shape public discourse on climate change.We present an algorithmic corpus comparison and machine-learning topic model of 180 ExxonMobil climate change communications, including peer-reviewed publications, internal company documents, and advertorials in The New York Times. We also investigate advertorials using inductive frame analysis. We find that the company has publicly overemphasized some terms and topics while avoiding others. Most notably, they have used rhetoric of climate ‘‘risk’’ and consumer energy ‘‘demand’’ to construct a ‘‘Fossil Fuel Savior’’ (FFS) frame that downplays the reality and seriousness of climate change, normalizes fossil fuel lock-in, and individualizes responsibility. These patterns mimic the tobacco industry’s documented strategy of shifting responsibility away from corporations—which knowingly sold a deadly product while denying its harms—and onto consumers. This historical parallel foreshadows the fossil fuel industry’s use of demand-as-blame arguments to oppose litigation, regulation, and activism.
Walters, R. (2018). Climate change denial: ‘Making ignorance great again’. In Ignorance, Power and Harm (pp. 163-187). Barton, A., Davis, H. (Eds.) Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. The denial of climate change and its negative consequences for global environments is pervasive in certain corridors of corporate and political power. This agnosia by powerful elites is a substantial contributor to global environmental degradation and destruction. This chapter explores the power of ignorance and argues that political dismissiveness of climate change is a recipe to exploit the environment for political and profitable purposes. Moreover, it argues that ignorance, defined as ‘unjustifiable belief’, provides those in positions of power and entitlement to assert their own unquestioning expertise within an ideological bias that not only furthers their political and capital aspirations but endangers the planet.
Weart, S. (2011). Global warming: How skepticism became denial. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 67(1), 41-50. Deniers of the scientific consensus avoided normal scientific discourse and resorted to ad hominem attacks that cast doubt on the entire scientific community while disrupting the lives of some researchers. The author points out that scientists have failed to mount a concerted public relations campaign to defend their position.