Europe’s climate change denial movement looks a whole lot like the American version

  • Published on September 14th, 2020

With the state of Delaware and the city of Charleston, South Carolina joining the effort to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the climate damages its knowingly caused on the coasts, it’s looking more and more likely that at some point, one of these many cases will succeed in prying open the inner workings of organized denial and exposing it to the harsh light of legal liability.


By Climate Denier Roundup

Until then, we’ll have to settle for papers that study denial from the outside, and fortunately there are plenty of those! The latest is from a group of Spanish academics, working with UC-Boulder denial expert Maxwell Boykoff to map out the European Climate Contrarian Movement.

The paper, published just yesterday in the journal Climatic Change, not only examined which organizations are pushing climate denial, but then also examined their messages. They found, despite the rather different contexts, European denial looks and sounds quite similar to its American counterpart.

The authors highlight eight main nodes in Europe’s ‘climate contrarian’ movement: the Austrian Economics Center, France’s Institut Économique Molinari, Germany’s Europäisches Institut für Klima und Energie (EIKE), Spain’s Institute Juan de Mariana, the LIberales Institut of Switzerland, and the Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, all in the UK.

There are, of course, ties to the fossil fuel industry and other polluters when it comes to funding for some of these groups, and many have, at various times, collaborated with deniers from the US. They also share “a similar ideological bias — close to neoliberal and right-wing stances.” All except Germany’s EIKE and the UK’s GWPF (the only two focused entirely on climate) – are also part of the Atlas Network, the Koch’s global group of free-market fanatics.

So what have these groups been saying? The study breaks their message down into three main parts: general scientific denial (e.g. attacks on the IPCC), rebuttals to specific scientific claims (e.g. claiming that warming isn’t happening or that we don’t know if it’s our fault), and counter-framing of non-scientific claims (e.g. focusing on economic issues, and attacking non-scientific voices like journalists or politicians who call attention to the issue.) All the organizations engaged in a mix of these three types of communications, with messages that dispute consensus messaging and the IPCC’s legitimacy appearing most frequently.

Interestingly, many of the materials actually did acknowledge that warming is happening, but claimed that human activity isn’t the cause, which came alongside skepticism of the policies to address it, which they claim would be worse than the warming. That said, 22% of the texts claimed that climate change isn’t happening at all, while 10.9% of them did say warming is happening, but argued that it’s a good thing!

Just shy of 40% of the examined materials were flush with neoliberal and conservative ideology, and all the organizations made some mention of economic growth as a justification for ignoring environmental concerns, market self-regulation and minimum government interventions as solutions, alongside criticisms of a carbon tax.

It seems, then, that these groups share many of the same qualities as the US denial organizations.

One can only hope, then, that it doesn’t take quite as long for the lawsuits to begin holding them accountable as it has here in the US!

(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)

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