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Communicating Climate Change

Annotated resources for teaching climate change from interdisciplinary perspectives. Contributions are welcomed by the sponsor, NSF EPSCoR, and initial contributors Dr. Y. Houy, UNLV Honors College, and Dr. P. Starkweather, UNLV School of Life Science.

Climate Change Denial

Skepticism and denial about climate change is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, ranging from skepticism about data collection methodology and result interpretation that can drive scientific inquire further, to fundamental questioning about the veracity of science itself. Skepticism/denial takes the forms as diverse as denial of experiential evidence and passive resignation of what is happening to local environments and communities, to organized denial for political and/or economical ends. In the face of overwhelming evidence of global warming, each of these forms of skepticism/denial requires different communication strategies and framing (See “Communicating Climate Science”, and “Framing Public Discussions”).

Statistical Research on Climate Change Denial (2011 research study)

The statistical analysis-driven studies by Drs. McCright and Dunlap shows that conservative white males, particularly those that self-report being confident about understanding the climate change debate, disproportionately deny that climate change is anthropogenic. In their concluding discussion the authors draw on sociological research about conservative culture to argue that this denial is a form of reaffirming group identity as conservatives who resist any capitalist market system-threatening changes. In other words, the recognition that climate change is caused by humans would mean that activities and attitudes central to conservative beliefs and lifestyles would be threatened.

McCright, A. M. & Dunlap R. E. (2011). Cool Dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Global Environmental Change. 21, 1163-1172.

Sociological Research on Climate Change Denial (2011 research study)

This sociological study supports the statistical analysis of McCright and Dunlap. It examines the current tensions in American political culture between those who support unregulated markets and those who support social liberalism with some state interventions and a social safety net.

Antonio, R. J. and Brulle, R. J. (Spring 2011). "The Unbearable Lightness of Politics: Climate Change Denial and Political Polarization." The Sociological Quarterly, 52 (2). 195-202.

Socially Organized Denial of Climate Change (2011 research study)

Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, by K. M. Norgaard is an ethnography of a small community in Norway with first-hand experiences of the effects of global climate change. Norgaard concludes that fear, guilt, helplessness, and crisis of identity reinforces a hegemony of economic and political interests, specifically the fossil-fuel industry which drives Norway’s economy.


Norgaard, K. M. (2011). Living in Denial: Climate change, emotions, and everyday life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

The Inquisition of Climate Science (2011 book)

Written by the director of the National Physical Science Consortium, Dr. Powell documents the movement to discredit science through an organized “industry” of denial.

Powell, J. L. (2011). The Inquisition of Climate Science. New York: Columbia University Press.

Watts Up With That? (website)

This blog by Anthony Watts, who as he states has “a skeptical view of certain climate issues,” touts itself as “the world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change” and is an influential blog espousing climate change skepticism:

DeSmog: Clearing the PR Pollution That Clouds Climate Science (website)

DeSmog is a website run by PR professional Jim Hogan, author of Climate Cover-up: The crusade to deny global warming, and is dedicated to showing how PR has been used to deny climate change. It includes an online database of climate change deniers, their backgrounds and corporate connections, and resources for further research.

Skeptical Science (website)

Skeptical Science: Getting skeptical about global warming skepticism is a website dedicated to debunking climate change skepticism using scientific analysis: “This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?”

On Disbelief of Science

Science Under ttack (streaming video file)


The BBC produced “Science under Attack: Has the public lost its faith in scientists?” is a 52 minutes streaming video exploring why scientific explanations are under attack, particular in the climate change debate. 52 min. streaming video file:

A summary of a study showing in which demographic groups trust in science has declined:

The Cultural Cognition Project (research project)

The cultural cognition project at Yale Law School studies how cultural values shapes public perceptions of risk, and public policy:

Of particular interest to discussions of the causes of climate change denial is a research project which has studied how “identity-protective cognition” prevents some observers from accepting scientific explanations:

On Different Names of Skeptics and Deniers (blog posts)

Wihbey, J. (Aug. 16, 2012) ‘Denier,’ ‘Alarmist,’ ‘Warmist’, ‘Contrarian,’ ‘Confusionist,’ ‘Believer.’ Yale Climate Media Forum.This is a short history of different terms to describe climate change deniers/skeptics.

Keith Kloor, (Nov. 20, 2010). Who’s a Skeptic/Denier/Dissenter/Contrarian? Discover: The Magazine of Science, Technology, and the Future.In trying to distinguish who should be called climate skeptic, and who a climate denier, Discover magazine blogger Keith Kloor asked a group of science journalists how they used various terms to describe different groups that have a skeptical stance toward climate science and global warming evidence:



Why Climate Change Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility—in One Pie Chart (Blog post)

This blog post by Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium, Dr. James L. Powell, and author of The Inquisition of Climate Science, visually summarizes a project to review 13,950 scientific reports between 1991-2012, and finding that only 24 of these reject global warming.

Also available from the official website of James L. Powell:

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