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Introducing Climate Psychology: facing the climate crisis
Introducing Climate Psychology: facing the climate crisis

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3 Organised climate change denial: a brief history and its main strategies

The fossil fuel industry has been aware about the warming and damaging effects of increasing carbon dioxide emissions for the Earth’s climate since the 1950s. For example, internal documents and models by ExxonMobil’s own scientists projected human-led global warming with dramatic effects by the year 2050, similar to data by governments and other scientific groups. However, the company’s public communication strategy was to promote doubt and uncertainty (Supran et al., 2023).

The main fear of both government and industry was that measures to prevent climate change would place limits on the free market and economic regulations would harm the fossil fuel industries (Jacques, 2006). This led them to create what has been termed the ‘denial machine’ – an organised attempt to limit public support for policies related to preventing climate change by sowing the seeds of doubt, uncertainty and eventually, denialism (Begley, 2007). Key parties involved in organised climate change denialism are the fossil fuel industries, resource corporations (e.g. mining, forestry), foundations, thinktanks, politicians, and media that mainly belong on the right-wing political spectrum (Dunlap and McCright, 2011).