If You’ve Wondered Why So Many Politicians Deny Climate Change, Science Has Your Answer

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., one of the Senate’s most high-profile deniers of climate science. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Scientists have known for a long time what’s causing current climate change. What’s been less clear is why so many U.S. politicians aren’t listening.
Sure, there’s been falsely balanced media coverage of climate science. And there are both financial and ideological incentives to deny that carbon emissions are causing the phenomenon.

By Emily Atkin|ClimateProgress

But according to new research published in Nature Climate Change, there’s at least one statistically proven reason why more than 56 percent of Congressional Republicans deny climate change: echo chambers.

The term “echo chambers” traditionally refers to situations where people surround themselves with information they want to hear, and block out the rest. We’ve known for a while that these present themselves in climate politics; A 2014 study suggested that the reason Americans haven’t fully accepted the scientific consensus on climate change is because of echo chambers like Fox News, where conservative viewers are “exposed only to content consistent with their opinions, while shielded from dissenting views.”

The study published Monday, however, looked at how echo chambers specifically affected members of Congress and the people who influenced them during the 2010 debate over cap-and-trade. And what it found was that the presence of echo chambers only impeded scientific debate when they appeared on the side that denied the science of human-caused climate change. That’s because those echo chambers relied on significantly fewer pieces of peer-reviewed science to make their claims that carbon emissions were not worth limiting.