Climate change deniers backed by big money – study

Climate change deniers backed by big money – study

Follow the money and you'll find who is backing climate change deniers in the media, a new report suggests.

People and organisations that produce information countering the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change are more likely to have their messages in news media if they've got links to corporate benefactors, a study published in Nature Climate Change today says.

Author Associate Professor of sociology Justin Farrell of Yale University built an institutional and social network of 4556 people and 164 organisations pushing a view against anthropogenic climate change in the US.

He then used Internal Revenue Service data to figure out which organisations in that group had received corporate funding between 1993 and 2013.

To work out how much influence the climate change countermovement had on the media and politicians, Assoc Prof Farrell used computational text analysis to compare 40,785 documents and nearly 25,000 written and verbal texts between 1993 and 2013.

The documents were produced by the countermovement, while the texts about climate change were from three major media outlets – The New York Times, The Washington Times and USA Today, as well as from US presidents and the US Congress.

Assoc Prof Farrell says the study shows political and social processes that factor into uncertainty and doubt about climate change among US citizens.

"[It] may help to explain why these views are more common in the US compared with other developed nations," he says.

It found organisations with links to a corporate benefactor are better at getting their messages into the public arena than those without.

He says the study has broad implications for the privatisation of science, influence of corporate lobbying around scientific issues and the increasing concentration of corporate wealth in the US.

The study comes as the COP21 conference, billed as the biggest international climate change talks, gets underway in Paris.

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