Climate-change sceptics like free market economics - study

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2012

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 If you think smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, HIV doesn't cause Aids or Nasa faked the Moon landing, you are also more likely to support free market economics and be sceptical about climate change.

New Australian research suggests conspiracy theorists and fans of free market economics are more likely to spurn the scientific consensus on climate change.

Researchers, led by University of Western Australia psychology school professor Stephan Lewandowsky, polled 1000 visitors to climate debate blogs about their beliefs on a range of scientific questions and conspiracy theories, including a plot behind Princess Diana's death, the Apollo Moon landings being a hoax, and the links between HIV and Aids and smoking and lung cancer.

Faith in capitalism was an "overwhelmingly strong determinant of the rejection of climate science" while "conspiratorial thinking was a lesser but still significant determinant of the rejection of all scientific propositions examined, from climate to lung cancer".

"There has been much research pointing to the role of free market ideology in rejecting climate science, but this is the first time it's been shown that other scientific facts, such as the link between HIV and Aids, are also subject to ideological rejection,” Prof Lewandowsky said.

Given that 90 per cent of climate researchers agreed global warming was due to human greenhouse gas emissions, he said it was important climate change was not framed as "a scientific debate where there is none".

Victoria University social psychologist Marc Wilson has studied attitudes to the theory of evolution and said general patterns found in the Australian research were mirrored here.

There was a strong link between a person's political stripes - Left versus Right and liberal versus conservative - and their views on climate change.

His research showed more than 60 per cent of New Zealanders agreed human behaviour was causing continuing global climate change while only 28 per cent agreed climate change was "a completely natural phenomenon, unrelated to anything humans do".

"In New Zealand poo-pooing climate change is weakly associated with greater belief in conspiracies. People who tend to ‘believe' in other contemporary scientific ideas such as evolution and the Big Bang also tend to endorse climate change more."

Those who supported Left-leaning parties such as the Greens and Labour were more interested in equality and more open to change than those on the Right like National and ACT.

"A pro-climate change position . . . [is] a threat to the status quo because acceptance . . . means we'll have to do something about it."

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Terry Dunleavy, of climate change watchdog the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, declined to "comment on the climate ravings of a psychology professor" in response to Prof Lewandowsky's findings. He referred questions to the coalition's founder, Cambridge University-educated Wellington scientist Dr Vincent Gray.

Dr Gray has consulted on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception and said environmentalists had hijacked climate change, turning it into a religious belief system.

A former communist who once believed John F Kennedy assassination conspiracies, Dr Gray said he was "not that keen" on capitalism but accepted the links between smoking and lung cancer and HIV and Aids.

- Waikato Times

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