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Beyond climate change denialism: Conceptual challenges in communicating climate action obstruction

February 1, 2022

Research from CSSN scholars Núria Almiron and Jose A. Moreno questions the use of the concept of denialism and suggest the incorporation of a more sophisticated conceptual and analytical framework that provides more nuance.

 

Abstract

Climate change has been the subject of much research in various fields of the social sciences in recent decades, including that of communication. As a result, much evidence has been accumulated on the complex reality behind political inaction in this regard. However, when it comes to communicating this reality, the media, and part of academia, have tended to simplify this complexity by focusing on the climate countermovement and literal denialism of the phenomenon. This countermovement has been extensively studied in the United States, revealing the existence of a highly influential anthropogenic climate change denialism in that country. However, academic research has also shown that political inaction on the climate cannot be explained by denialism alone; not in the United States, and much less in Europe. In this article, we question the current indiscriminate use of the concept of denialism and suggest the incorporation of a more sophisticated conceptual and analytical framework that provides more nuance and aligns with the evidence emerging from academic research. It is a matter not only of critically communicating the reality of political inaction with regard to the climate, but also of identifying the entire spectrum of responsibilities, which are not limited to simply denying or not denying climate change.

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