Conspiracism and climate scepticism: empirical research confrims what we all know (and some predictions)

[Hat tip Planet 3.0]

In a fascinating paper, researchers led by UWA School of Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, surveyed the views of over a 1000 climate bloggers on their political views and acceptance or rejection of a cluster of conspiracy theories.

In what comes as no surprise to me the is a strong correlation between those that reject climate science and accept a variety of conspiracy theories (heck,  I have a page dedicated to the topic that is fast growing):

The study Motivated Rejection of Science, to be published in Psychological Science, was designed to investigate what motivates the rejection of science in visitors to climate blogs who choose to participate in the ongoing public debate about climate change.

More than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to discussions of climate science completed a questionnaire that queried people’s belief in a number of scientific questions and conspiracy theories, including: Princess Diana’s death was not an accident; the Apollo moon landings never happened; HIV causes AIDS; and smoking causes lung cancer. The study also considered the interplay of these responses with the acceptance of climate science, free market ideology and the belief that previous environmental problems have been resolved.

The results showed that those who subscribed to one or more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a free market economy were more likely to reject the findings from climate science as well as other sciences.

The researchers, led by UWA School of Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, found that free-market ideology was an overwhelmingly strong determinant of the rejection of climate science. It also predicted the rejection of the link between tobacco and lung cancer and between HIV and AIDS. Conspiratorial thinking was a lesser but still significant determinant of the rejection of all scientific propositions examined, from climate to lung cancer.

And now WtD predicts (high confidence) the following reactions amongst the denial blog-o-sphere:

  • Predictions 1: expect the usual collection of climate sceptics to claim they’re not conspiracy theorists, and that scientists are involved in an orchestrated campaign to exclude them from the debate and smear their good names – because such reasoning is not conspiracy making. Nooooo… not at all. Everything is connected, nothing is as it seems…
  • Prediction 2: the sceptics and deniers will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments and refute it with their own amateur analysis – just like climate science
  • Prediction 3: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic, calling the research “witchcraft” or some such nonsense and a form of ad hominem attack.

I’m reading the paper and will comment and share my own views on the topic of conspiracies and climate sceptics.

20 thoughts on “Conspiracism and climate scepticism: empirical research confrims what we all know (and some predictions)

  1. Sou says:

    I believe in free markets. Free markets are incompatible with global warming therefore I won’t believe scientific facts :->)

    (Okay, so carbon pricing is a market-based approach. I’ll get around this by mis-labelling it a ‘tax’ and saying taxes are the antithesis of free markets and reject it.)


    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Yep – you got it one. Ideology wins out.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Ah you see… that were they see it as a tool of the coming new world order. Don’t ask for conspiracy theories to have internal consistency. They just “work” the way their believers and author want them to.

  2. Steve Bloom says:

    Ah, good old crank magnetism.

  3. You may want to google “crank magnetism,” or just read my take on it 🙂


  4. I doubt that many deniers care about lady di ,alive or dead. So the difficulty in this type of research is – FIRST – determining whether there are a number of clusters of conspiracybelievers, clustering around related conspiracy fears.

    One cluster :cell phones cause cancer links up with 9/11 was an inside job and lady di was murdered by the establishment.

    Another is one world government domination led by, your pick: Jewish banksters, Trilateral Commission, Watermelons, Solar panel manufacturers, you name it.

  5. catweazle666 says:

    I’ve got another conspiracy theory for you.

    AGW sceptics (there is no such thing as a ‘climate denier’ – no-one denies that there is climate, that’s another conspiracy theory) are all funded by cheques from Koch Brothers and Big Oil.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Actually, I think the Koch Brothers and Big Oil may have helped start the climate denial machine, but it has taken on a life of its own and become part of the culture war:

      Climate change has become enmeshed in the so-called culture wars. Acceptance of the scientific consensus is now seen as an alignment with liberal views consistent with other “cultural” issues that divide the country (abortion, gun control, health care, and evolution). This partisan divide on climate change was not the case in the 1990s. It is a recent phenomenon, following in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that threatened the material interests of powerful economic and political interests, particularly members of the fossil fuel industry.3 The great danger of a protracted partisan divide is that the debate will take the form of what I call a “logic schism,” a breakdown in debate in which opposing sides are talking about completely different cultural issues.

      • catweazle666 says:

        What is a ‘climate denial machine’?

        How on Earth can anyone deny climate?

        I can look out of my window and see extensive evidence of the glaciation that covered this country around 12,000 years (a mere blink of an eye in geological time), and the moraines, erratics and drumlins that were left when the ice withdrew. So I’m highly unlikely to deny that the climate changes, am I?

        So why do you describe me as a ‘climate denier’, with its connotation of Holocaust denial, thus placing me in the same category as some very unpleasant characters, the egregious David Irving, for example?

        By doing so, you are going to end up with one Hell of a sight more than a partisan divide leading to a ‘logic schism’.

      • evil oilfunded denier says:

        See this email where Jonathan Overpeck, IPCC author and climate scientist, snuggles up to oil companies –
        “I’m also quite intrigued by what Exxon- Mobil and the University of Arizona could do together on the climate change front.”

    • ‘Climate denier’ is just shorthand for someone who denies that anthropogenic climate change or global warming is real. Everyone knows that: you know that, catweazle.

      Can I also remind you it was the fake sceptics who first started using demeaning rhetoric — ‘warmists’, ‘chicken littles’, etc. — which is also shorthand.

  6. I know a few people who are vocal in their denial of climate change. I know it’s not a scientific survey but to a man (they are all male) they are also prone to belief in oddball theories such as, ‘no moon landing’, ‘the US government was behind 9/11’, ‘UFOs’, ‘we’re descended from visiting aliens’, and the like. They are also fiercely individual and above-average intelligence. So my own anecdotal evidence encourages me to think that climate denial is most likely based on a personal mindset.

    My experience with these people also suggests that there is no hope of changing their minds by either rational argument or scientific evidence. As a consequence, if you take them on, it’s important to realise that it should be any on-lookers that you indirectly target with your logic. So always draw them into as wide an arena as possible. A one-to-one in a closed room (real or virtual) is pointless.

  7. Barry Woods says:

    you do realise the reades surveyed were NOT from sceptic blogs

    ie Tamino, Deltoid, Prof Mandia, John Cook (SkS) etc

    • catweazle666 says:

      Facts, Barry, facts.

      Watermelons don’t need no steenkin facts!

      If ever there was a demonstration of just how desperate they’re getting, this so-called “scientific survey” of “deniers” drawn entirely from contributors to alarmist blogs this must be it. Talk about confirmation bias!

      Sad, very sad.

      Not much longer now….

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