of Global Warming and Denigration of Climate Science"
Abstract: "The conservative “echo chamber” is a crucial element of the climate change denial machine. Although social scientists have begun to examine the role of conservative media in the denial campaign, this article reports the first examination of conservative newspaper columnists.
Syndicated columnists are very influential because they reach a large audience. We analyze 203 opinion editorials (“op-eds”) written by 80 different columnists published from 2007 to 2010, a period that saw a number of crucial events and policy proposals regarding climate change.
We focus on the key topics the columnists address and the skeptical arguments they employ. The overall results reveal a highly dismissive view of climate change and critical stance toward climate science among these influential conservative pundits. They play a crucial role in amplifying the denial machine’s messages to a broad segment of the American public."
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From the beginning of the paper:
The United States has been an outlier in climate change policy making for the past two decades, offering little leadership and often undermining efforts to develop carbon emission reduction policies in the international arena (e.g., not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol), while also failing to implement domestic policies. Although many factors have contributed to the failure to enact strong international and national climate change policies, ranging from diverging interests between developed and developing nations (Roberts & Parks, 2007) to the weakness of Democratic leadership in recent years (Pooley, 2010), a powerful and sustained effort to deny the reality and significance of human-induced climate change has been a key factor.1
For more than two decades a concerted campaign by a wide but interrelated range of actors—described as the “denial machine” (Begley, 2007)—has worked to block climate change policy making, particularly when major policy action appears immi- nent (Gelbspan, 2004; McCright & Dunlap, 2003; Pooley, 2010). A crucial strategy in this effort has been to challenge the evidence supporting global warming by attacking climate science, and increasingly scientists, in an attempt to spread doubt and uncer- tainty about the reality of anthropogenic climate change and thus question the need for ameliorative policy making (Ceccarelli, 2011; McCright & Dunlap, 2010; Oreskes & Conway, 2010; Powell, 2011).2
The denial machine involves a complex and evolving set of actors (see Dunlap & McCright, 2011). Although the fossil fuels industry was its driving force early on (Beder, 1999; Gelbspan, 1997), the denial machine appears increasingly to be rooted in the U.S. conservative movement,3 receiving heavy funding from conservative foun- dations (Grandia, 2009; Mashey, 2010) and leadership from conservative think tanks (Hoggan, 2009; McCright & Dunlap, 2000, 2010; Oreskes & Conway, 2010). Segments of corporate America, including associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as companies such as Exxon Mobil, continue to provide funding for other actors, ranging from the conservative think tanks to various front groups and sporadic Astroturf campaigns (Dunlap & McCright, 2010, 2011).
A small number of contrarian scientists, most with ties to conservative think tanks and sometimes directly to the fossil fuels industry, are another key element of the denial machine as they lend an aura of scientific credibility to efforts to debunk climate science (McCright, 2007; Oreskes & Conway, 2010). Similarly, conservative politicians, and nowadays virtually the entire Republican Party, have become a vital force denying global warming (Davenport, 2011; McCright & Dunlap, 2010; Mooney, 2005).