Study: Climate Deniers Tend to be Conspiracy Theorists

July 9, 2015

Climate Science is all a conspiracy to make me look like I’m a fringe lunatic.


The Heartland Institute got out ahead of the curve, publishing a piece titled Is The Global Left Counting on Pope to Split the Catholic Church Over Global Warming? back in May. Take a moment to ponder this:

Has the Left finally come out with a method that will destroy the power of the Church to cause further damage to an already weakened Church, having been busy for years preparing for this moment? Not to be forgotten is the unholy alliance of international communism with the jihadi Islamists.

Greg Laden’s Blog:

Now, there is a brand new paper by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer, Scott Brophy, Elisabeth A. Lloyd, and Michael Marriott, called
Recurrent Fury: Conspiratorial Discourse in the Blogosphere Triggered by Research on the Role of Conspiracist Ideation in Climate Denial, in the current or upcoming issue of the Journal of Social and Political Psychology. The abstract reads:

A growing body of evidence has implicated conspiracist ideation in the rejection of scientific propositions. Internet blogs in particular have become the staging ground for conspiracy theories that challenge the link between HIV and AIDS, the benefits of vaccinations, or the reality of climate change. A recent study involving visitors to climate blogs found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and other scientific propositions such as the link between lung cancer and smoking, and between HIV and AIDS. That article stimulated considerable discursive activity in the climate blogosphere—i.e., the numerous blogs dedicated to climate “skepticism”—that was critical of the study. The blogosphere discourse was ideally suited for analysis because its focus was clearly circumscribed, it had a well-defined onset, and it largely discontinued after several months. We identify and classify the hypotheses that questioned the validity of the paper’s conclusions using well-established criteria for conspiracist ideation. In two behavioral studies involving naive participants we show that those criteria and classifications were reconstructed in a blind test. Our findings extend a growing body of literature that has examined the important, but not always constructive, role of the blogosphere in public and scientific discourse.

The authors note that there are generally two reasons someone would reject established consensus climate science. One is their politics (climate change is truly, an inconvenient truth for them). The other is conspiracist ideation, or “…person’s propensity to explain a significant political or social event as a secret plot by powerful individuals or organizations.” They point out that there is a sensible link between rejecting an area of science and believing in a conspiracy. In essence, a significant conspiracy is required in order for thousands of research scientists working in hundreds of institutions across dozens of countries to all be saying essentially the same thing about a major area of science. Conspiracy is not enough. Massive conspiracy is required. “In the case of climate change, several qualitative analyses have shown that denial is suffused with conspiratorial themes, for example when dissenters are celebrated as “Galileos” who oppose a corrupt scientific “establishment”.” Consider this:

Smith and Leiserowitz (2012) found that among people who reject the findings from climate science, up to 40% of affective imagery invoked conspiracy theories. That is, when asked to provide the first word, thought, or image that came to mind in the climate context, statements such as “the biggest scam in the world to date” would be classified as conspiracist.

Below, my video “Flogging the Scientists”, which captures some of the paranoid dynamics of the climate denial crowd.

31 Responses to “Study: Climate Deniers Tend to be Conspiracy Theorists”

  1. ladadadada Says:

    There seems to be a correlation between all types of science denial and conspiracy theories.

    The anti-vaccine crowd have their CDC whistle blower which they claim shows that not only do vaccines cause autism but that the CDC knew about this 10 years ago and covered it up.

    The Anti GMO crowd have for a long time believed that Monsanto are trying to control the entire world’s food supply and are conspiring with or coercing governments worldwide to achieve this.

    Perpetual motion machines/free energy people tend to be loners, inventing their machines and soliciting donations for further research but it doesn’t take very long before an onlooker says “The government would never allow this, too much money/freedom at stake.”

    Water powered cars are a specific example of free energy where many onlookers claim that the technology has existed for years and the only reason we aren’t all driving this way is because of a government/big oil conspiracy.

    It works the other way too. These conspiracy theories rely on ignoring science or doing your own “science” badly enough to come up with a result that pleases you.

    Moon landing hoax
    Planet X/Nibiru
    HAARP controlling the weather
    Twin towers controlled demolition
    UFOs at Area 51
    Water fluoridation
    Hollow Earth/Flat Earth
    Secret NASA base on Mars
    Cure for cancer being suppressed

    It’s interesting how many of these (including the climate change “fudging the data” conspiracy) involve NASA.

  2. Deniers are ideationists – That is so true.

    Those denying the pause also seem to have this daft idea of “dark forces” and “Oil funded” sceptics.

    Seems that pause denial and conspiracy ideation go hand in glove.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      SSSSSSSSS wanders through Crocks yet again and makes his usual inane remarks. We can add two more S’s to his handle—-for Straw man arguments and (non) Sequiturs.

      Nice try, though. I wonder how long he and the other AGW deniers will attempt to keep the “there is no pause” lie alive? Probably as long as the fossil fuel interests pay them to do so.

      • miffedmax Says:

        If he’s really in Scotland, there’s a good chance his computer is powered by renewable energy. Still, it’s good to know that somewhere in the land of my forebears, a village still employs an idiot.

        • “If he’s really in Scotland ….”

          Since Peter Sinclair still allows critic comments to appear here, why not go further down the conspiracy trail and suggest he’s getting payments from the Kochs or dark money peole to do so.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Welcome back, Russell. Let me help you earn your whore’s dollar from Heartland for today by responding to your BS. I do this because I can’t believe they’d be dumb enough to pay you if no one paid any attention to what you say. Although they likely ARE dumb enough to not understand what a useless investment you are. Consider it to be my contribution to the “keep Russell off welfare” movement.

            It would appear that SSSSSSSSSS really is located in Scotland. His website has UK in its address, so there apparently is one village there that still employs an idiot.

            If you want, I for one will be glad to suggest he’s getting payments from the Kochs or dark money people to post his idiot denialism on sites where it will be tolerated. He is probably someone like you who can’t make an honest living in the fields he has trained in, and has therefore prostituted himself by spreading bullshit in areas where he has no knowledge

            Just like you when it comes to climate science. I’m still waiting for you to talk to us about climate change science—Arctic sea ice decline, remember?

          • Russel Cook, you and “scottish skeptic” have one thing in common. You are both incompetent ne’er-do-wells who lack any real technical skills.

            You’d never get any attention or recognition from competent professionals, so you’ve turned to the on-line climate-denial rubber-chicken circuit to feed your egos. That’s the best place for incompetent f*&@-ups like you to win the rock-star treatment you crave but would never get anywhere else.

            I’ll admit that I’m being pretty nasty here, but do folks like Russel Cook and “scottish skeptic” deserve any better? I think not.

          • Yeh, yeh.

            Say, did y’all catch today’s major wipeout by the Union of Concerned Scientists? Seems they latched onto the same conspiracy that Oreskes did:



            As ever, you fellows need to develop an exit strategy. Visualize yourself on a ship which grazed an iceberg. You may not have felt it, and you may not have noticed the horizon tilt yet, but your accusation world is doomed to sink, it is a mathematical certainty. Your UCS friends are committing political suicide by rearranging the deck chairs. Forget that, grab yourself life preservers.

          • dumboldguy Says:


            This is the UCS report that Russell is calling “a major wipeout”, folks, and that he attempts to dismiss with a “yeh, yeh”, some links to his total garbage site and that of his idiot colleague Watts, and a projective warning to us that we need an “exit strategy”. You and the deniers are the ones committing political suicide, Russell, because the truth is going to destroy YOU.

            Yes it does indeed seem that UCS latched onto the same conspiracy that Oreskes did. The bad thing about criminal conspiracies is that when the truth comes out, somebody goes to jail. I myself hope that you and yours are put on trial for crimes against humanity some day soon. YOU would be wise to develop an “exit strategy” before that happens (A suggestion—-stop your lying and whoring for Heartland and get a real job—I’m sure you are qualified to flip burgers at McD’s—they hire people who walk in off the street as you did at Heartland)

            Russell waxes poetic with “Visualize yourself on a ship which grazed an iceberg. You may not have felt it, and you may not have noticed the horizon tilt yet, but your accusation world is doomed to sink, it is a mathematical certainty”.

            Actually, Russell is speaking of Shell’s world, since the icebreaker they need to begin drilling in the Arctic has “grazed something” and had to return to port. With luck, it will not be repairable in time and yet another year’s delay will result. Maybe the global economic picture for oil will have deteriorated far enough by then that Shell will give it up in the Arctic (as other companies have).

            And since we’re talking conspiracy theories, how about the one that says Greenpeace has some ex-Seals among the membership who went down and slashed the hull while all the kayakers distracted folks on the surface. I’ve been a member of UCS and Greenpeace for many years—-I’m glad to see that my dues dollars are being put to good use by both groups.

    • You got that right, particularly on the ‘oil funded skeptics’ notion, which comes from the political side of the issue which embraced the White House’s Green Energy czar Van Jones (911Truther believer). Notice how “dumb old guy” right below dives straight into conspiracy theory as daffy as what the ChemTrail believers put out.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I’d attempt a reply to this if it made any sense, Russell. You really need to work on your communication skills. Being a “guy that knows no science and who Heartland just grabbed off the street” to spread denialist bullshit won’t cut it here—up your game or go away.

        A quick lesson—-you need to support a premise by providing supporting facts—and rational analysis should lead to a conclusion as to the correctness of the premise. Opinionated and obfuscatory and irrelevant BS “talking points” delivered as some sort of weak ad hominem are a waste of everyone’s time.

        How about going into detail about “…how “dumb old guy” right below dives straight into conspiracy theory as daffy as what the ChemTrail believers put out”? What conspiracy theory did I dive into? How is it as daffy as what the chemtrailers put out?

        PS I’ve read the book—-Merchants of Doubt—-a veritable masterpiece, IMO—and will be getting the DVD from Netflix within a week. Looking forward to viewing it. Someone should strap you in a chair and make you watch it—it would be like sprinkling holy water on a vampire—I would enjoy watching you scream, smoke, and melt away (metaphorically speaking of course).

    • So, did you figure out how to convert human CO2 emissions (GT) to PPM in the Earth’s atmosphere yet?

      Or is that sort of high-school homework assignment above your pay-grade?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Go to his website for your answer. SSSSSSSSSSSSS appears to be math, science, and logic-impaired to a significant degree

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    “…a significant conspiracy is required in order for thousands of research scientists working in hundreds of institutions across dozens of countries to all be saying essentially the same thing about a major area of science. Conspiracy is not enough. Massive conspiracy is required.”

    Yes, and now that we have 99.9% of all climate scientists in agreement that AGW IS occurring, we truly DO have a “massive” consensus. Only the ignorant, deluded, and paid shills could call it a “conspiracy”..

    (PS Flogging the Scientists is one of your better efforts).

    • With all the breaches in computer security (including the massive OPM computer hack), perhaps it’s time to rethink government/industry security policies.

      Billions of dollars have been spent on all manner of computer/network security measures, and the data breaches just keep coming.

      I think I may have an extremely cost-effective solution.

      Dump all the network/computer “security experts”. Dump the high-priced government/DoD contractors. Stop paying big $$$ for IPS (Intrusion Prevention Systems), anti-malware software, etc.

      Then hire some climate-scientists to take their place.

      Climate-scientists have demonstrated that they can keep data secret for decades.

      Really, now — just think about it.

      Climate data-sets that are routinely accessed and shared by thousands of professors, postdocs, graduate students, and even undergraduate students have been kept totally secret and secure from the prying eyes from anyone else. And climate-scientists have managed to do thiw without the massive computer/network security expenditures put out by the DoD and private industry.

      The OPM, the DoD, big banks, credit card companies, major retailers, etc. have spent untold billions of dollars on security, all for naught.

      And to think that they could have kept all their data secret and secure if they had just hired a few climate-science postdocs instead!

      • dumboldguy Says:

        You are definitely on to something here. Have you considered an indiegogo type crowd funding startup appeal? Since Repugnants are so much in favor of cutting costs at the base so that more of the $$$ flows up to the 1%, they should be willing to kick in some $$$ to help you get off the ground.

  4. Big problem here is that there actually are “conspiracies” by some powerful groups to cover up data. I suspect that a number of the really crazy “conspiracy theories” are actually inventions of the folks promoting actual conspiracies to discredit the folks finding the real ones.

    For example, I can provide solid proof that JP Morgan Chase is attempting a corner in silver (much like the one attempted by the Hunt Bros. back in the 1980s). If I raise this issue with politicians, the first reaction is to label it a “conspiracy theory”. If anyone is interested, I’ll provide all kinds of evidence ignored by regulators and those in power.

    • jimbills Says:

      Right. The problem is that not every “conspiracy theory” is automatically wrong. Ladada(so on) made a comment about GMOs and food above that is an exaggeration, but it’s not far off – GMO tech is used as the foothold to monopolize staple crop agriculture, and these companies do influence governments – just as any other huge corporation does.

      By the same argument as the GMO one, one could say that the fossil carbon industry influencing U.S. and world policy is just a “conspiracy theory”. Or that the idea that the healthcare industry and Wall Street has any pull on government and the media is a “conspiracy theory”. It’s crazy to think that – it’s just a “conspiracy theory” – and so on. These things do fit the “person’s propensity to explain a significant political or social event as a secret plot by powerful individuals or organizations” definition, after all.

      Conspiracy theories ARE often wrong, the psychology behind them often involves an attempt at bending facts to fit one’s own narratives, and a hallmark of many conspiracy theories is a lack of concrete evidence, but the automatic demonization of conspiracy theories can often be a mistake as well. The evidence has to be weighed, and the individual has to come to a conclusion about it. (As we’re normally faulty thinkers, this a very dicey proposition, however).

      On many conspiracy theories, I’d just say I have insufficient data and a lack of personal interest to state myself either for or against them. Obviously, we can rule out Flat Earth theory, but who’s to say the government doesn’t have evidence of alien life and has covered it up? I’m not an insider, so I can’t say it for certain, although the general evidence I can see points to it being more unlikely than likely.

      On climate change, the idea that almost all the world’s climate scientists are in on a grand conspiracy to subvert the truth about the climate both fails to understand the nature of the scientific process and provide any concrete evidence in support of it, with thousands of scientists maintaining a cone of silence about the conspiracy for decades (which is pretty funny if you know a few scientists), and that climate change theory is corroborated by hard evidence in temperature readings, Arctic ice melt, and species migration – so it being a conspiracy can be ruled as ‘extremely unlikely’ at best.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Alex Jones knows that “not every conspiracy theory is wrong”. He lists 33 here, and “has a lot more he could have listed”. My favorites are 16, 22, 29, and 32.

        I think it’s ironic that we apparently have a conspiracy to create and disseminate fake conspiracies in order to create “doubt” and discredit the actual conspiracies that the conspirators want to cover up. Did I get that right? Can we call that C2 (C squared)?

        And doesn’t conspiracy imply some evil or unlawful or harmful intent? How can 99.9% of climate scientists telling us that AGW is a problem (and basing that contention on scientific evidence) constitute a conspiracy? I get so confused sometimes.

        • jimbills Says:

          How about the conspiracy theory that Alex Jones is actually a CIA operative?

          This stuff is rife for humor, of course. Here’s my fave Alex Jones clip:

          After the shocked stupor passes, it’s beautiful comic relief.

          On a few conspiracy theories, though, screw it, I say – just shrug and accept that some things are not for us to know. Or, in emergencies, go to Occam’s Razor for the likeliest probability.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Alex Jones a CIA operative? Definitely possible—-as part of the C2 plan (or are we up to C3 now?)

            Your fave Jones clip is simply mindboggling—-a series of waves of crazy like a tsunami, sweeping all rationality before it. All I can say is WOW!, and that Jones gives Glenn Beck and Limbaugh a real run for their money.

          • jimbills Says:

            Yep. BTW – compare Alex Jones’s face in the screen capture of the Youtube clip I linked to the face in top graphic of this blog post.

            I also like this guy a lot:

            I watched the first episode (only) of his show (Ancient Aliens) on Netflix a while back and after choking a bit found myself still watching, mesmerized by his hair and facial expressions.

            But, enough making fun of these guys. My main point is that any theory should be judged on its evidence whether it’s labeled as “conspiracy” or not.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            If you have 5 minutes, watch what Hitler though of this guy.

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    Heartland: “Not to be forgotten is the unholy alliance of international communism with the jihadi Islamists.” Oh, no. Wouldn’t want to ‘forget’ that! (Yikes! That was sarcasm, which can only mean one thing! I’ve been brainwashed by the jihadist media!)

  6. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27.

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