With Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, as a hub, the world’s first global research network looking into climate change denial has now been established.
Scientific and political awareness of the greenhouse effect and human influence on the climate has existed for over three decades. During the 1980s, there was a strong environmental movement and a political consensus on the issue, but in recent years, climate change denial – denying that changes to the climate are due to human influence on the environment – has increased which makes the case for understanding why this is so.
The comprehensive project: “Why don’t we take climate change seriously? A study of climate change denial”, is now collecting the world’s foremost researchers in this area. In the project, the network will examine the ideas and interests behind climate change denial, with a particular focus on right-wing nationalism, extractive industries, and conservative think tanks. The goal is to increase understanding of climate change denial, and its influence on political decision-making, but also to raise awareness among the general public, those in power, research institutes, and industry.
Right-wing nationalism’s links to climate change denial are a relatively unresearched topic, but Environmental Sociology recently published an article where Hultman and his research colleagues show the connections between conservatism, xenophobia, and climate change denial, through a study in Norway.
Through the new research project, a unique international collaborative platform for research into climate change denial, Centre for Studies of Climate Change Denialism (CEFORCED), will be established, which will connect around 40 of the world’s foremost scientific experts in the area and pave the way for international comparisons. The platform builds upon the world’s first conference in the subject, which Hultman and Professor Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State University organized in 2016.
An important foundation of the project will be a broad, interdisciplinary view of climate change denial, linking together different disciplines such as geopolitics, environmental psychology, technological history, environmental sociology, gender research, environmental history, energy policy, environmental humanism and technology and science studies.
“We do not dismiss climate change denial as something limited to, for example, powerful, older men with strong connections to the fossil-fuels industry – even if such organized groups do play important roles. Knowledge of climate change and its causes has been around for a long time, so firstly, we also need to understand the type of reactions and everyday denials that explain why we don’t take the greenhouse effect seriously – even when we see the consequences in front of our eyes.”
Three main focuses
- Right-wing nationalism:
The project will map right-wing nationalist parties in Europe and their arguments around climate change denialism. Among other things, Twitter and other internet discussion groups will be analyzed.
- Extractive industries:
The project will undertake a historical investigation into Sweden’s extractive industries –what they have learned about climate change, and how they have acted, as well as connecting knowledge to international studies into the debate.
- Conservative think tanks:
The project maps out how conservative thinktanks in Sweden analyze and communicate around climate, as well as their connections to lobby groups of similar character.
Different forms of climate change denial
According to earlier research, several forms of climate change denial exist:
Groups such as Klimatsans (Climate Sense) or Stockholmsinitiativet (The Stockholm Initiative) in Sweden, as well as lobby groups like the Heartland Institute in the USA, which supports and spread climate change denial.
- Party Political:
Parties such as the Sweden Democrats, who work against different forms of climate policy.
- Response denial:
For example, when people in positions of power make decisions such as the construction of Sälen airport in the Swedish mountains, running totally counter to the climate policies they claim to support.
- Everyday denial:
When people act as though as they unaware of climate change, and, for example, fly several times a year to foreign countries.
Martin Hultman, Associate Professor in Science, Technology and Environmental studies, Chalmers University of Technology, +46-709-450112, +46-31-772 63 58, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some scientific publications on climate denial
- Right-wing nationalism:
Krange, O. Kaltenborn, B.& Hultman, M. (2018). “Cool Dudes in Norway: Climate Change denial among conservative Norwegian Men”. Environmental Sociology.
McCright, A., Dunlap, R (2011) "Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States" Global Environmental Change.
Forchtner, B., Kroneder, A., & Wetzel, D. (2018). “Being Skeptical? Exploring Far-Right Climate-Change Communication in Germany”. Environmental Communication.
Hultman, M., Björk A. & Viinikka, T. (upcoming publication), “Far-right and climate change denial. Denouncing environmental challenges via anti-establishment rhetoric, marketing of doubts, industrial/breadwinner masculinities enactments and ethno-nationalism.”. In Contemporary Environmental Communication by the Far Right in Europe ed. Forchtner, Kølvraa & Wodak London: Routledge
Anshelm, J., & Hultman, M. (2014). A green fatwā? Climate change as a threat to the masculinity of industrial modernity. NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, 9(2), 84-96.
- Extractive industries:
Supran, G; Oreskes, N (2017). "Assessing ExxonMobil's climate change communications (1977–2014)". Environmental Research Letters.
Oreskes, N., & Conway, E. M. (2011). Merchants of Doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Young, N., Coutinho, A. (2013). "Government, Anti-Reflexivity, and the Construction of Public Ignorance about Climate Change: Australia and Canada Compared". Global Environmental Politics.