Feds Fund Dissertation on 'Climate Change Denial'

Study seeks 'more complete and nuanced understanding of climate change denial'

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June 15, 2017

The National Science Foundation is funding a doctoral dissertation on "climate change denial."

The University of Kansas was awarded $12,000 for the research, which began on June 1. The research seeks to find a "more complete and nuanced understanding" of individuals who are skeptical that human beings cause climate change.

The dissertation focuses on two parishes outside of New Orleans, along the Mississippi River, and claims that residents who work in the oil industry "exploit the local environment."

"The study will investigate residents' attitudes on climate change and assess the relationship between these attitudes and local environmental policy," according to the grant for the study. "This region is of specific interest due to the unique configuration of social and environmental factors that impact the community, including environmental risk, economic dependence on extractive industry, high rates of climate change denial, and high concentration of oil and gas employment."

The researchers seek to prove that people who do not believe in man-made global warming are driven in part by their emotions.

"This study will challenge dominant perspectives on climate skepticism by incorporating economic, cultural, and emotional factors into the discourse on climate change denial," the grant states. "By contributing to a more complete and nuanced understanding of climate change denial, this study will have potentially transformative impacts on the future of climate discourse and policy by providing new tools for climate advocates to address climate denial in the political arena."

Researchers will interview residents of the Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, asking them where they get their news.

"The interviews will focus on several themes including news acquisition, political attitudes, attitudes toward local economic issues, attitudes toward environmental issues such as coastal restoration and climate change, and attitudes regarding the political processes around these issues in the community," the grant states.

The research rests on the "socially organized denial" theory, which claims people do not act on climate change fears because of "social norms" that "avoid uncomfortable feelings."

"Residents of southeast Louisiana regularly experience environmental harm yet remain bound economically to industries that exploit the local environment," the grant states. "While environmental awareness is common, climate change denial is persistent in the community. The theory of socially organized denial, which explores social dimensions of climate change denial, will be applied to investigate the origins of these attitudes and factors that perpetuate widespread climate skepticism in the region."