The connection between climate change denial books and right-wing think tanks


Books denying human-caused climate change and its significance are one key means of creating an aura of credibility around manufactured uncertainty and attacks on climate science and scientists. New research published in the journal American Behavioral Scientist finds a strong link between right-wing think tanks and 108 climate change denial books published through 2010. "It appears that at least 90% of denial books do not undergo peer review," the study says, "allowing authors or editors to recycle scientifically unfounded claims that are then amplified by the conservative movement, media, and political elites."

An abstract of the article "Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks : Exploring the Connection," by Riley Dunlap and Peter Jacques, is free but the full article is behind a paywall, unfortunately. [UPDATE March 31: The full article is now available free at the link to the abstract.]

Thanks to Graham Readfearn at DeSmogBlog, who called this to our attention with a good post: Research Reveals Almost All Climate Science Denial Books Linked to Conservative think Tanks. Readfearn notes:

... You might have been intrigued by titles like "An Appeal To Reason: A Cool Look At Global Warming", "The Climate Caper" or the subtle sledgehammer that was "Global Warming and Other Bollocks".

But new research into the origins and authors of more than 100 of these climate science denial books finds almost all of them - about four out of five - are largely the products of conservative-leaning think tanks.

While not covered in the research, many of the conservative think tanks involved have accepted cash from fossil fuel interests over the years, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, The Cato Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, and The Heartland Institute. Others, such as the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia or the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the UK, have consistently refused to reveal their donors.

Dr Dunlap told DeSmogBlog that it was hard to quantify accurately the impact the books had had on policy debates and the public perception of climate change science, but he said:

Keep in mind that they are just a small part of the wealth of material that conservative think tanks put out or help produce on climate change denial - there are reports, op-eds and TV interviews. But I do think that the better selling ones, almost always connected to a conservative think tanks, get a good deal of visibility. ... Books tend to convey some degree of (false) credibility on their authors, allowing them to be viewed as "experts" despite their lack of scientific expertise.  In the case of the successful books, I think this results in at least some interviews on TV and radio, and thus their messages are greatly amplified.

[Thanks to Lee Russ for the heads-up on the availability of the full article.]

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4 Responses to The connection between climate change denial books and right-wing think tanks

  1. RobG says:

    Try reading some of those books. Those of us who are in favor of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, aka the United States Constitution, do tend to lean to the Right. We're not a bunch of hippie liberals who want legislated fairness and more government control and taxation, especially over the flawed theory that humans are causing global warming.

    Global warming is cyclical and we are NOT having a significant impact on it. The planet is doing a fine job taking care of itself. The planet healed after the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. It's healed after each huge volcanic eruption (one of which produces more CO2 at one time than the entire planet does in a year).

    Where's all the oil that was spilled in the gulf? Most of it is GONE. It was discovered that there are petroleum-eating microbes in the Gulf of Mexico that have been there for millions of years, because there are oil fissures on the sea floor spewing out raw crude. But I'm sure the left-leaning media and so-called scientists will conveniently ignore that, since it's against their philosophy.

    Don't forget about the leaked emails from East Anglia a few years back, which proved that scientists have been manufacturing their data to prove their point.

    So instead of trying to claim that the Right is ignoring the facts, how about realizing that it's the Left that is in fact ignoring them.

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      This comment contains an unusually large quantity of ignorance, misinformation, and foolish snarkiness in just a few lines. Our editorial policy is generally to dump this sort of thing and not give it free space and waste our readers' time, and that will continue to be the policy, but once in a while maybe it's of some value to show a sample and reply to it briefly. We're not going to spend a lot of time on it.

      The first paragraph is a really classic, if intellectually primitive, example of "motivated reasoning" in the ideology behind the global warming denialist mentality. It gives us a chance to call attention once again to Chris Mooney's book, published last year, "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality," which analyzes its subject in great detail with considerable references to the research literature.

      The second paragraph is scientifically uninformed, but mainly it doesn't seem to notice that, following the analogy of the planet and the dinosaurs, in the current situation the question might be, are we the dinosaurs?

      The third paragraph is extraordinarily uninformed, superficial, and cavalier in its discussion of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil blowout disaster. Just as a very quick refresher overview, look at the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill article in Wikipedia -- in particular the sections on volume and extent of the spill, damage from the use of the toxic dispersant Corexit, environmental impacts, and health consequences. This is an ongoing story with ecological, human health, and economic consequences, regardless of the current general public inattention to it.

      I'll also note that the Government Accountability Project has a forthcoming report on the BP blowout disaster, following up on the human health consequences. Stay tuned.

      The fourth paragraph, is too brainwashed to bother with -- we posted on the stolen climate scientists' emails many times and won't take the time here to review all that -- but it's a chance to call readers' attention again to Michael Mann's book, published last year, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines," which deals with this history and more.

  2. Patrick J. Hoy says:

    Please interpret for me a graph that was published in the August 2010 edition of the National Geographic Magazine (surely no bastion of close-minded conservative analysis that magazine) in the cover story about Blue Holes of the Carribean. The graph plots sea level rise and fall over the last 450,000 years. According to the graph, cyclic sea level changes of approximately 400 feet take place every 50,000 to 100,000 years. And, according to the graph, the current sea level rise is nearing the highest point before it once again begins a rapid decline to its lowest point.
    My analysis is that the sea level changes are based on a cyclic pattern of melting of the polar ice caps (causing sea level rise) and refreezing of the ice caps (causing sea level declines).
    If this analysis is accurate, then one must conclude that global climate change is a normal cycle that has been happening to the earth for many thousands of years and perhaps we should be preparing for the inevitable global cooling that is about to beset the earth, instead of worrying about further global heating.
    My goal is to determine the truth. I don't care whether the truth falls toward global warming or cooling; I just want the truth. If you can explain the significance of the simple information from that graph, then I will be more inclined to believe that the current global warming is something particular to this age and not a repeat of what's been happening naturally for many thousands of years.

  3. Patrick J. Hoy says:

    I made a mistake in my previous comment. The name of the article (and the cover feature) in the August 2010 edition of National Geographic Magazine is "Bahamas Blue Holes." The graph I wrote about is included in the foldout accompanying the article. All else remains unchanged.

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