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I’m still sparring with various anthropogenic climate change deniers at Quora. Most of them are old white males, right wing, and live in the US. I put together the following brief history of climate change denial and have included it in several replies to comments made by these people. But they are locked into denial. They don’t want to know the background to climate denial or the facts about climate change / global warming …
‘Climate change denialism is kind of a cross between a cult, pseudoscience and a political movement, with all three features very much on show. It’s only developed over the last 30 years or so. Here’s the background to climate denial.
The fossil fuel industry and the scientists it employed were basically on the same page as the climate scientists up until about 30 years ago. In 1968, an American Petroleum Institute report warned that large increases in CO2 could melt icecaps and increase sea levels and change fish and plant life. In 1978, an Exxon scientist warned of temperature rises and their serious consequences and that energy strategies would need to be reviewed.
By the early 1980s, about 10 major fossil fuel companies met regularly to discuss science and climate change and its implications. In 1982, Exxon spoke of “potentially catastrophic events” if fossil fuels weren’t reduced. Exxon was quite aware that the consensus of the scientific community was that a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels would result in temperature rises of 1.5–4.5°C, a figure that still applies today. But Exxon cut its climate research budget from $900k to $150k in 1983.
The IPCC was formed in 1988. The fossil fuel companies formed the Global Climate Coalition in 1989 and pushed the view that: “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood.” Having previously agreed with the science, they were now sitting on the fence. By 1990, they were attacking IPCC findings, perhaps aware that measures taken to reduce CO2 would have serious financial implications for the industry. By 1997, Exxon was saying that climate change wasn’t happening.
The whole denier movement mushroomed. The companies funded various right wing think tanks and paid an assortment of folk with varied backgrounds to write papers denying climate change. More than 90% of papers denying anthropogenic global warming come from these think tanks.
With the rise of social media, all sorts of denier stuff has been spread around the place along with spreading fears of economic collapse, communism, one world government, etc. But the climate scientists aren’t listening, nor are the scientific organisations, nor are governments except the US and Brazil. Australia is probably sitting on the fence with the current centre right government.
Polls show that most people agree with the science. According to Pew Research, the proportion of people in the US who agree that climate change is a major threat increased from 44% in 2009 to 60% in 2020. For Democrats, it’s increased from 61% to 88%, although for Republicans it’s only increased from 25% to 31%. The US is very conservative and most other countries tend to have higher percentages.’
But the deniers pursue. They dispute the facts and figures and regard anthropogenic climate change as some sort of giant hoax.