A Language Problem

global warming denialism by country

As Stephen Colbert would undoubtedly crow: “We’re Number One! We’re Number One! USA! USA!” According to a recently released survey by the U.K.-based market research firm Ipsos MORI, more Americans doubt that climate change “is largely the result of human activity” than do citizens of 20 countries polled. Only 54 percent of Americans believe in human-caused climate change, with 32 percent disagreeing with the statement. In China, 93 percent of respondents accept human-caused climate change, with 5 percent disagreeing. In France and India, 80 percent of the populations are on board with the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. (Ipsos notes that India’s and China’s numbers reflect an “affluent and connected” segment of the populations responding to its online poll.)

What’s got pundits scratching their heads is that the top three climate-change-doubting countries are all English-speaking: the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia, in that order.  Canada comes in at number seven, after Russia, Poland, and Japan. 

Mother Jones’ Chris Mooney suggests that neoliberalism – the economic philosophy that promotes free markets and opposition to big government -- is at the root of the skepticism in the Anglosphere. He quotes Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who studies the climate-change-denial movement: "It's the countries where neo-liberalism is most hegemonic and with strong neo-liberal regimes (both in power and lurking on the sidelines to retake power) that have bred the most active denial campaigns -- U.S., U.K., Australia and now Canada. And the messages employed by these campaigns filter via the media and political elites to the public, especially the ideologically receptive portions." That points a big fat finger at Rupert Murdoch, whose conservative media reigns in three of the four countries. Mooney also points out that the U.S. “is home to 91 different organizations (think tanks, advocacy groups, and trade associations) that collectively comprise a ‘climate change counter-movement.’"

Rush Limbaugh, of course, takes all credit for climate-change skepticism. With a little help from Al Gore, that is: “When [Gore] goes anywhere to make a global warming appearance, you can count on it snowing,” Limbaugh opines. 

Ipsos MORI Global Trends, 2014

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