Photo: Nicolle Rager Fuller/National Science Foundation
Quick: what's the connection between climate change and conspiracy theory?
According to a new study published in the upcoming issue of Psychological Science, people who tend to believe in conspiracy theory are also more likely to be climate change deniers:
Believing that climate change isn't happening or that it's not human-caused requires a belief that thousands of climate scientists around the world are lying outright, Lewandowsky and his colleagues wrote in their new paper. Conspiracy theory beliefs are known to come in clusters — someone who thinks NASA faked the moon landing is more likely to accept the theory that 9/11 was an inside job, for example. So Lewandowsky and his colleagues created an online survey and asked eight mostly pro-science blogs and five climate-skeptic blogs to post a link to the survey for their readers. The respondents were self-selecting, but highly motivated to care about climate science, the researchers noted.
The responses came only from the eight pro-science blogs, the researchers reported. Of 1,145 usable survey responses, the researchers found that support for free-market, laissez-faire economics was linked to a rejection of climate change. A tendency to believe other conspiracy theories was also linked to denial of climate change. Finally, climate-change deniers were more likely than others to say that other environmental problems have been solved, indicating a dismissive attitude toward "green" causes.
And as you can expect, the findings of this study sparked its own conspiracy theory. Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience has the story: Link
None of the skeptic blogs actually posted the survey link. There are comments in the blogs that did post it openly discussing how its meant to associate 'deniers' with conspiracy theorists. Also, IT WAS AN INTERNET QUESTIONNAIRE.
Of the respondents who were 'deniers', half of them held positions inconsistent with the majority of the skeptic blog community. The large majority of 'conspiracy theorists' fell into this group. If you remove those who are inconsistent, then the 'denier' and 'believer' communities aren't too different.
It's funny because this is exactly the sort of thing that the skeptics complain about: the problems with the research are not intentional, but negligent. If they invited a denier who had views even slightly more rational than Sen. Inhofe, they could have done a legitmate study.
Apparently one skeptic site DID post the survey. Roger Pielke Jr received the survey but was skeptical that it could be rigorous. And it looks like the results could easily be gamed by malicious survey respondents.
It's true of all of us to some extent of course, we often dismiss things as irrelevant because we emotionally don't like them . . . the problem is not so much that climate change skeptics ignore the evidence in forming their own views, it's that so many of them seem to have powerful and influential positions. It's vested interest in politics and the media that's the real problem.