The Online Manufacture of Climate Change Denial

Using administrative and digital trace data, alongside new methods for network and text analysis, this project aims to uncover how think tanks garner attention around their contrarian climate change discourse on social media.

Despite scientific consensus, a vocal group of think tanks and advocacy groups continue to produce discourse designed to sow doubt about anthropogenic climate change (ACC) — our most pressing global challenge. Existing research confirms that these contrarian organisations (CORGs) may influence the political and media elite but it overlooks their public reception, especially online. This is a notable gap as social media have become key channels for learning about anthropogenic climate change as environmental journalism has declined.

This project addresses this gap by investigating how the content of CORGs’ online climate change discourse influences the extent to which individuals re-share that discourse in their online personal networks — a contemporary form of mobilisation. It also assesses how CORGs’ discursive choices are shaped by their financial patrons — actors who play a key role in the financial maintenance of the Climate Change Countermovement. Analytically, this project will use transactional data from social media and new computational methods for text analysis and network analysis to model production of and mobilisation around contrarian discourse online.

  • Cohen R. Simpson

    Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

    Research Fellow & British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow