“There is no simple answer to this simple and important question,” said communications scientist Edward Maibach, of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
Maibach said one of the most significant causes of climate denial has been the campaign by Exxon and other big fossil fuel industry leaders to sow doubt about the science of climate change, despite the fact that the companies knew as early as the 1970s that their products were causing global warming.
“People who reject the conclusions of climate science have been deceived by people and institutions that they trust,” Maibach said. “The deception campaign took a long time, and a lot of money, but it has been wildly successful.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars from ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers and others have been used to fund groups like the Heartland Institute that aim to discredit climate scientists and delay policies that would help combat climate change. This disinformation was taken up by conservative Republicans, with political leaders like former President Trump continuing to spread falsehoods about climate change to their supporters.
The campaign to discredit climate change was so successful, Maibach said, because it delivered “simple clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of voices who are trusted by the audience.”
Despite these efforts, scientists within the Trump administration fought back against this disinformation with guerilla-like tactics, Inside Climate News reported near the end of the Trump presidency, showing just one example of resistance against the climate denial machine.