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Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers

Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers

Myron Ebell at a Heartland Institute conference

Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say leading academics.

Among those strategies, say the three researchers from Yale and Brown University, are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Yale University’s Professor Justin Farrell and Kathryn McConnell, together with Brown University’s Professor Robert Brulle, say people working on responses to climate change “cannot afford to underestimate the economic influence, institutional complexity, strategic sophistication, financial motivation, and societal impact of the networks” behind climate misinformation campaigns.

Brulle, who is also an academic at Drexel University, told DeSmog that after conversations with leaders of environment groups and foundations, he had concluded “there is virtually no understanding of the nature or extent of misinformation efforts and organized efforts to stop climate action.”

Misinformation Ignored

He said: “So in my opinion, the efforts to promote climate action are failing to take into account opposition efforts in their strategies. I can assure you that this is not the situation for the organized efforts to stop climate action — which I call the climate countermovement.”

Brulle and Farrell have each produced several major studies in leading academic journals on the funding and influence of the “climate countermovement” and its fossil fuel interests. In 2018, Brulle joined several academics in criticizing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for ignoring in a major report swaths of research and evidence on the impact of organized climate science denial.

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