Conspiracies, Free Markets and Climate Change Denial

Posted on February 6, 2013


conspiraciesOuted as conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers suspect a plot.

Recently a trio of social scientists, Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles Gignac published a paper studying the motivations and characteristics of climate science deniers, “NASA faked the moon landing–Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax:  An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.”  For the study, they surveyed more than 1100 climate blog users.

They summarized their findings in the paper’s Abstract,

….Paralleling previous work, we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science. … Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer. We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets. This provides empirical confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.

Free market ideology predicted the rejection of climate science approximately 80% of the time, the study found, but a tendency to endorse conspiracy theories also led to a rejection of science independent of free market ideology.  In other words, the rejection of climate science by climate change deniers has everything to do with worldview and almost nothing to do with science.

Of course.

The connection between conspiracy theorists and climate science denial is logical anyway, since the notion that 97% of climate scientists worldwide would be engaging in deception about climate change is nothing if not a whale of a conspiracy theory all by itself.  However, it’s not unexpected that conclusions of that nature were apt to unleash a strong response from the deniersphere claiming, not so, not so.  That strong response was forthcoming.

What happened afterwards was the most delicious part of all.

With 100s of irate climate deniers flooding the inbox with their choice remarks, the original report authors thought,  “Cool, more data.”

Two of the original report authors combed through and analyzed the climate denier response, bringing in John Cook of Skeptical Science fame and Michael Marriott-Hubble of Climate Realities Research to help.  Then they wrote a new paper, “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation.”

The conclusion of the new paper?  Climate denier critics of the original paper were strongly prone to conspiracy theories.  In other words, the response of the critics to the original paper merely added further evidence for the conclusions of that original paper.


We now await the climate denial machine’s response to the second paper.  Can they resist?  Or will they take the bait again, evoke yet more conspiracies and become the subject of a third paper?

We’ll find out, I guess.