Climate Change Denial: Ideology, not Interest?

In the post-Copenhagen, post-Cancun, post-Climategate world, a bunch of interesting new analyses of the climate change denial movement have popped up. People have been digging deeper into the question of why, not just who or how. What motivates those who are most outspoken and vehement in their attacks on climate science?

Chris Mooney, at DeSmogBlog, summarises the emerging trends quite well. Businesses are increasingly jumping aboard the ‘we need to act’ stance, recognising that their long-term viability could be at stake. Even companies with high carbon impact, such as General Motors and BHP Billiton, are either taking action or recommending that governments instigate regulation to encourage it.

The industrial town of Wollongong in Australia…

The old paradigm, when we assumed that vested interests in the fossil fuel industry were holding everything back, is shifting. An increasing amount of the clamour arguing against the existence of climate change has no grounding in science or economics, but rather ideology.

Check out Mooney’s article for a little more depth and some useful extra resources on this idea. It resonates with what I’ve experienced personally, and what is clear when the intrepid internet user ventures onto the major hotbeds of online climate denial, such as WUWT? There’s a strong anti-regulation, highly libertarian streak. They believe in the free market and small government – concepts I have sympathy for in some areas, but not across the full spectrum of human endeavour.

I feel for these conflicted people in some ways. Many are broadly pro-science, and even think of themselves as defenders of science. However, they are confronted with a scientific problem which demands a socialised and regulated response. This creates major dissonance in their minds. I suspect that the most ardent climate change denialists create and cling to the notion that climate science is some kind of huge scam because they cannot accept that, in this instance, the scientific consequences of their ideology are dire and unacceptable.

Categories: Problems, Science, Thoughts | Tags: , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Climate Change Denial: Ideology, not Interest?

  1. Some do not deny the existence of climate change, only that they don’t believe it’s human driven.

    • That’s true, Amryl. I think that’s the most common position among climate change skeptics actually, and it still feeds in to an ideology.

      Anyone can accept that the climate is changing; that is a fairly neutral position. However to accept that humans are responsible, even in part, raises uncomfortable implications for certain ways of thinking. Some religious people, for example, believe that God wouldn’t allow humanity to affect His Creation in such a way, and therefore do not accept a link between human activity and global climate change.

      • Hmm, I consider myself quite religious and I believe that we are not doing enough as the steward of God creation to protect nature and His creation. I believe it is our greed that brought us to where we are now. And I fear it might be too late to reverse our actions.

  2. I’ve heard that sentiment too, Amryl, and I it’s one I can empathise with – stewardship is a notion that can span both religious and nonreligious approaches to our world and environment.

    I also agree that greed is a driver of what is causing problems, though it’s hard to lay the blame on any person in particular – the way society as a whole is set up encourages consumerism and a negligent attitude towards goods and services. That said, it doesn’t absolve people of responsibility!

  3. Peter

    capitalism has been very poor at valuing environmental services that underly the economy or even contribute to quality of life. rapid growth seems to have been rewarded at the expense of sustainabile growth. i believe that the economic tools are now available to report on these factors and to determine whether growth is sustainable. it will be interesting to see whether they are implemented any time soon.

    an attitude of stewardship over nature needs to be cultivated, as it might appeal more to conservative people (it is conservation after all) than does constant reference to an abstract and obscure “environment”, which is now virtually a meaningless phrase that many people associate with green groups instead of the world outside their front door.

  4. That’s a good point about ‘environmentalism’ and being ‘green’. They both have connotations which are decidedly left of centre and may speak more to the concept of a particular type of person, not an approach to the world.

    I can’t remember where I saw it but I read an excellent article by someone who identified as a conservative and explained how he’d gotten a strong ethos of preservation and quality of goods (as opposed to tacky consumerism) passed down from his father; they were ‘right wing’ but very much held an intellectual position that could gel with, if not match, many of the goals of the ‘environmental’ movement.

  5. Well, I believe quite much in this:

    Otherwise I should ask that how polluting cars and factories there were on ice age, because climate started to warm at ice age. Another question should be how warm climate was before ice age and was there ice age before it, but I am not asking.

    • Thanks for visiting, Sartenada – you have some spectacular photos on your blog!

      As far as Milankovitch cycles go, their impact on century-scale climate simply can’t be used to explain the rapid recent observed warming and changes in the Earth’s energy balance. They are definitely very important on a time scale of tens of thousands of years though, as you note.

      You’re not asking, which is fine, but if you do feel like finding out more about climate science, I’d recommend the excellent


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