European Association for Studies of Literature, Culture and the Environment

EASCLE Webinar: Understanding Climate Scepticism with Dr. Greg Garrard

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Understanding Climate Scepticism with Dr. Greg Garrard

Thursday, 26 May 2016; 19:00 CET

Understanding Climate Scepticism:

Environmental Communication Meets Ecocriticism


glacierEnvironmentalists know who climate sceptics are: oil company shills, religious fundamentalists and neoliberal cheerleaders. But in this webinar we ask: who do they think they are? What kinds of selves do sceptical texts project? What concepts of nature and science do they deploy, contest and defend? Is the sceptical challenge to scientific consensus defensible, or disastrous? Is there any meaningful difference between ‘scepticism’ and ‘denialism’? What are the internal differences amongst anti-environmentalist discourses? How does climate scepticism vary between nations and ethnic groups? Is ‘conservative environmentalism’ an oxymoron in 2016, and, if so, why? As political polarization deepens in Europe and the United States, this webinar seeks to understand ‘the enemy’, challenging reductive stereotypes and homogenizing assumptions in the interests of constructive democratic debate.

Initial research into sceptical artefacts reveals internal diversity. The sceptical documentary ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ (2007) gives airtime to Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor to Margaret Thatcher, along with ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore and Richard Lindzen, one of the few esteemed climatologists to hold sceptical views. Yet the film’s director is former Revolutionary Communist Martin Durkin, who claims climate change is a neoliberal conspiracy to prevent development in Africa. He describes it as ‘a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media’. Scepticism has left and right wing; Christian and agnostic; empiricist, creationist and constructivist forms that could usefully be teased apart.


1)  all the ecocritical analysis to date has discussed ‘pro-IPCC’ literature. (Indeed, ecocriticism has seldom acknowledged the existence of opposition to environmentalism.) Why? How might the selection bias affect our understanding of climate change as a cultural phenomenon?

2) Almost all the scholarly work on climate scepticism has come from scholars of public opinion and environmental communication. How might their work (some of it sampled as secondary literature below) be relevant for an ecocritical analysis of climate scepticism? What might ecocriticism contribute to a deeper understanding of climate scepticism?

3) What are the opportunities and hazards associated with detailed analysis of sceptical texts?

4) What are the implications of the nomenclature for opponents of the IPCC? Popular terms include ‘sceptics’, ‘contrarians’, ‘deniers’ and ‘realists’.

5) The examples of sceptical texts presented below are all from the UK, where opponents of the IPCC characterize themselves as ‘heretics’ confronting the oppressive orthodoxy of the IPCC, BBC and main political parties. Can you think of examples of national or ethnic specificities in climate scepticism in your own country, or elsewhere?

6) Humour is an important weapon in the cultural climate wars. Who is winning, in your view?



Richard Bean, The Heretic (Oberon 2012)

dir. Martin Durkin, The Great Global Warming Swindle, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-m09lKtYT4

Optional primary readings:

Christopher Booker, The Real Global Warming Disaster (Bloomsbury Continuum 2013)

Martin Cohen, Paradigm Shift: How Expert Opinions Keep Changing on Life, the Universe, and Everything (Imprint Academic 2015)

James Delingpole, Watermelons: How Environmentalists are Killing the Planet, Destroying the Economy, and Stealing your Children’s Future (Biteback 2012)


Andrew J. Hoffman, ‘Talking Past Each Other? Cultural Framing of Skeptical and

Convinced Logics in the Climate Change Debate’, Organization Environment (March 2011) vol.24 no.1 pp.3-33

Wouter Poortinga, Alexa Spence, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Stuart Capstick, Nick F. Pidgeon, ‘Uncertain Climate: An Investigation into Public Scepticism about Anthropogenic Climate Change’, Global Environmental Change (April 2011) vol.21 pp.1015-1024

Stefan Rahmsdorf, ‘The Climate Sceptics’, http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan/Publications/Other/rahmstorf_climate_sceptics_2004.pdf

Please REGISTER through the EASCLE homepage. Registration closes on Wednesday, 18 May 2016.

If you would like to join the EASLCE to participate, please do so HERE.