Are "Climate Deniers" Rational Actors? Applying Weberian Rationalities to Advance Climate Policymaking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In recent decades, the label of Climate Denier has become an increasingly
popular ad hominem device for climate change communications. Yet,
what constitutes climate denial has evolved considerably from its
original ascription for those who deny the physical science of
anthropogenic global warming. This paper unpacks the multiple
contemporary meanings of climate denial to examine whether this
moniker can correlate with rational action (i.e. principled action logically
derived from reliable knowledge), and how rationality can be deployed
when pursuing political priorities that conflict with the orthodox
normative positions of experts. Valid modes of rationality are diverse
and not the sole preserve of those proponents of transformative and/or
unified climate change action. Modes of rationality are also intimately
linked to problem framing. Experts’ existing problem-frames may
actually facilitate Deniers’ avoidance of the sorts of rationalisations that
experts wish them to make. By better understanding the rationalities
pertaining to the climate change debate, the paper concludes, experts
and advocates can tailor their communication to more effectively
influence the design of effective policies. A better understanding of
how Climate Deniers can be rational and how rationalisation relates to
problem framing may be necessary to address the most polarised
politics of the climate crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Communication
Early online date12 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Rationality
  • Climate communication
  • policymaking
  • climate denial
  • Decision-making
  • denial
  • rational actor
  • climate communication

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