Study: 3% Contrarians Derailing the 97% Climate Consensus

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Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t Russell Cook; According to a new study, the credibility of the alleged 97% climate consensus is so fragile, the 3% who dissent are completely disrupting climate action. And Naomi Oreskes is really important.

Who are the 3 Per Cent? The Connections Among Climate Change Contrarians

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2021
Laura D. Young and Erin B. Fitz

Despite 97 per cent of scientists agreeing on anthropogenic global warming, the remaining 3 per cent play a critical role in keeping the debate about climate consensus alive. Analysis of climate change contrarians from multi-signatory documents reveals 3 per cent of signees to be climate experts, while the remaining 97 per cent do not meet expert criteria and are also involved with organizations and industries who make up the climate change countermovement. The data also reveal most contrarians to be aged sixty-five or older. As a result, we explore other factors (for example, collective memories and ideological views) that may have also contributed to expert and non-expert views.

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One eye catching feature of the study is the number of mentions of Naomi Oreskes. She is given absolute prominence in the presented history of climate science narrative – 17 mentions in the study. Other high profile researchers such as Michael Mann and the Hockey Stick controversy don’t rate a single mention. A significant part of the study is dedicated to claiming people who criticise Oreskes are wrong. (h/t Russell)

So what motivates the 3% to oppose the 97% climate consensus? The authors appear to suggest contrarians are ignorant and biased.

A total of 81 per cent of the climate change contrarians received their highest level of college degree (that is, Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD, or level of degree relative to institution, location, and/or area of study) in 1985 or prior.Footnote 5 The most common time when contrarians received their degrees was the 1970s.Footnote 6 This suggests individuals receiving their degrees within the last thirty years are less likely to reject the climate change consensus. This pattern could be for several reasons, for example: new modeling or other scientific revelations not known at the time climate change contrarians received their degree; changes in how certain areas (for example, meteorology) approach research; or, as we suggest later, the impact of conservatism/neoliberalism on views of science and/or government


What motivates experts and non-experts alike to pursue a position on climate change contrary to scientific consensus? The role of conservative politics, conservative think tanks, and industry efforts that make up the CCCM is well documented; however, our findings reveal other similarities among contrarians worthy of consideration.

Neoliberalism emerged as a driving force to oppose government oversight and regulation, largely related to backlash from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and subsequent expansion of the federal government. While tenets of neoliberalism (that is, a laissez-faire approach to the market with a heavy emphasis on deregulation and free trade) would become central to CCCM objectives, the ideology pervaded academic circles far earlier (McCright and Dunlap Reference McCright and Dunlap2011a; Oreskes and Conway Reference Oreskes and Conway2010). In fact, while the ideology is most notably associated with the creation of the Chicago School of economics, it was not unique to just Chicago. Neoliberalism was transnational in nature, permeating into other academic and political circles with the help of several institutions established solely to push this ideology (Mirowski and Plehwe Reference Mirowski and Plehwe2009). As a result, by the 1950s, there was “an all-out assault on virtually every aspect of Keynesian economics” led, most notably, by Milton Friedman (Yergin and Stanislaw Reference Yergin, Stanislaw, Yergin and Stanislaw1998, para. 8). By the 1960s and 1970s, neoliberalism was a prominent theory within economics and other disciplines. As a result, much like collective memories pertinent to older contrarians’ formative years, it is reasonable to believe that neoliberal ideology would have impacted contrarians’ attitudes toward science and government prior to the emergence of the CCCM.

Read more: Same link as above

The funniest part of the study is the authors are both political scientists, who feel justified criticising people they claim are non-experts for attempting to contribute to the climate debate, without having the self-awareness to look in the mirror and question the credibility and depth of their own knowledge.

via Watts Up With That?

December 18, 2021