Did Corporate Funding Help Create the Climate Divide?
The vast majority of climate scientists agree that climate change is real, serious, and caused by humans – yet many Americans continue to express doubt about climate change. How can that be? A new study from Yale University may have an answer.
As The Washington Post reports, the study analyzed climate data published by 164 groups and some 4,500 individuals over the course of 20 years. The results showed that groups receiving corporate funding were more likely to publish materials that raised doubt about climate science and the role humans play in global warming. The study’s author believes this network of organizations produced messages “aimed, at the very least, at creating ideological polarization…and at the very most, at overtly refuting current scientific consensus.”
Unfortunately, this has left many Americans confused about who or what to believe. In addition, the media has often given equal time to contrarian views, even though only about 3 percent of scientists hold those views. This in turn can cause scientists who are part of the consensus to be less forceful when presenting their arguments. There’s also the human tendency to seek out and surround yourself with information – however scant – that supports your existing viewpoint, as some members of Congress have done.
There is good news, however. The study illustrates the enormous power of messaging – and we can help reshape the debate with well-crafted and well-presented communications of our own. Also, belief in climate science is growing, despite the aforementioned attempts to spread misinformation and sow doubt.
We should also remember that many corporations and business leaders support climate action. This week, 78 multinational corporations, including Microsoft and Pepsi, pledged to challenge climate skeptics and urge politicians to implement strong climate policies.
Money is powerful, but the truth is stronger.
By Joby Warrick, contributor to The Washington Post
Climate change has long been a highly polarizing topic in the United States, with Americans lining up on opposite sides depending on their politics and worldview. Now a scientific study sheds new light on the role played by corporate money in creating that divide.
The report, a systematic review of 20 years’ worth of data, highlights the connection between corporate funding and messages that raise doubts about the science of climate change and whether humans are responsible for the warming of the planet. The analysis suggests that corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.
“The contrarian efforts have been so effective for the fact that they have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust,” said Justin Farrell, a Yale University sociologist and author of the study, released on Monday in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
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