Climate misinformation: who, what, why?


Given the strength of the scientific consensus (every national academy of science in the world accepts that humans are warming the planet), why do large parts of the media continue to portray confusion and doubt rather than urgency?

Some names recur in this - check out some of the 'usual suspects' in our 'Sceptics Hall of Shame'.

It is interesting to examine the psychology of climate denial: a better term than scepticism, in our opinion, since scepticism implies a careful examination of the evidence.

As well as the more subtle pressures on those for whom a belief in climate change would take them out of their comfort zone (and let's face it, it's not a comfortable idea for any of us) there are more blatant forces at work. Legislation to avert climate catastrophe would have an immediate impact on the profits of some industries, in particular fossil fuel companies. For example, it was revealed that Koch Industries, a little-known, privately owned US oil company, paid nearly US $50 million to climate denial groups and individuals between 1997 and 2008.  In a similar period Exxon Mobil paid out around $17 to $23 million. Read more about the funders of climate denial.

Those who actively promote climate scepticism are well networked, and have been termed 'deniers' rather than sceptics because many show scant regard for the facts, while seizing avidly on any error in the work of climate scientists.  This article discusses the psychology of climate change denial.

To gain an understanding of the level of scientific consensus on climate change, a recent study examined every article on climate change published in peer-reviewed scientific journals over a 10-year period. Of the 928 articles on climate change the authors found, not one of them disagreed with the consensus position that climate change is happening or is human-induced.