A poster about climate change.

Climate Change Denial: Debunking Myths and Finding Solutions

Rachel Lark - January 1, 2024

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Climate change denial exists despite the wealth of research on the subject. Unfortunately for everyone on the planet, this crisis is very real.

What Is Climate Change Denial?

Climate change denial is the complete dismissal of climate change as a whole. It is the refusal to believe facts or scientific research about the planet’s changing temperature, melting ice caps, or increasingly extreme weather. Plenty of people deny the very existence of the crisis, claiming it’s made up or not an issue worth caring about. 

Causes of Climate Change Denial 

Climate change denial is a complex issue with multiple root causes. Here are some of the most prevalent. 

  1. Individual Lobbyists

Sometimes, wealthy or influential individuals lobby against bills and pour funding into anti-awareness campaigns. Usually, it’s because they make money on the industries causing climate change. Take the Koch brothers — Charles and David Koch — who are billionaire owners of a massive private energy corporation. They make most of their money on crude oil refinement. 

To them, the fight to stop the global temperature from rising is a threat to their investments. Unfortunately, they value their shareholders and profit margin more than the planet. Between 1997 and 2018, they spent over $145 million to support opaquely-funded lobby groups.

  1. Personal Beliefs

Why do people deny this crisis exists when the proof is right in front of them? Well, when concrete, irrefutable scientific fact doesn’t align with someone’s worldview, they face two choices — they can either dramatically shift their entire perspective or make the world conform to their beliefs.

More often than not, people choose the second option. Unfortunately, they frequently and deliberately seek misinformation to validate their lifelong belief system. After all, it’s not easy to confront what you believe to be fact. 

  1. Personal Experience

Sometimes, climate change denial comes from a lack of personal experience. People often hesitate to believe something if they don’t witness it firsthand. If they’ve never lived through an extreme weather event or seen ice caps melting right in front of their eyes, they are more inclined to think nothing is wrong. 

In reality, up to 40% of the global population is already experiencing the effects of climate change — even if they don’t realize it. Things like severe droughts, sweltering summers, unusually heavy flooding, and intense storms all stem from this crisis.

  1. Corporate Lobbyists

Corporate lobbyists are similar to individuals, with the catch being they often work on a much larger scale. To add insult to injury, they use the money they get from their customers to fund anti-awareness or misinformation campaigns — meaning your purchases at the local big box store could be inadvertently hurting the fight for a better planet. 

Unfortunately, this climate change denial cause is more common than corporations would like people to think. During a sting operation in 2021, an undercover individual got a senior director at ExxonMobil to admit the company was working with shadow groups to strategically undermine the science behind this issue. 

The senior director admitted to having weekly meetings with a U.S. senator to influence the Biden administration’s climate-related crisis intervention efforts. While ExxonMobil has targeted presidents and members of Congress for decades, they made substantial progress under Trump. According to one lobbyist, their wins were so numerous they were difficult to count — and made billions for the company.

Undercover footage of the ExxonMobil sting operation. Source: Channel 4 News

The Truth About the Matter

In truth, climate change will only worsen unless humans take immediate action. In fact, 2022 was the sixth hottest year on record since people began tracking global temperatures in 1880. As you’ve probably noticed, weather has grown more severe in recent years. Unfortunately for everyone, this issue is real and happening now.

Myths Reinforcing Climate Change Denial 

Even if people believe this crisis is real, it can be challenging to tell misinformation from the truth when so many groups pour funding into anti-awareness campaigns. Here are some common myths reinforcing climate change denial in the modern day.

  1. “Climate Change Is Natural”

Anti-awareness groups often say climate change is natural to move focus off of the issue. While they’re technically telling the truth, you should glance at the fine print — the pace it’s moving at is unnatural. 

All research points to people being behind everything. In fact, humans are responsible for 95% of climate change, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — natural causes only account for 5% of the total.

  1. “You Can’t Personally Do Anything About Climate Change”

While it’s true the World Bank, governments, and advocacy groups are the main influences on climate change policy, the average person has just as much power when they collaborate with others. Doing things like starting grassroots efforts or running for local office could help minimize climate change denial by bringing attention to the facts.

  1. “A Climate Crisis Won’t Happen for Centuries”

Sometimes, climate change denial involves making the crisis someone else’s problem. Instead of outright denying its existence, people say it will take centuries to become a real issue. Even well-meaning activists often believe the younger generation will handle it.

In reality, many people are already experiencing the adverse impacts of the changing climate. Moreover, experts predict things will ramp up quickly in the upcoming years. They say drought heavily affects the agricultural industry, and coastal cities might go underwater. Think back to how insurance companies pulled out of Florida because the severe weather and flooding became too expensive to insure — that’s just the beginning.

  1. “Most People Don’t Believe in Climate Change”

According to a 2022 survey, over 70% of Americans believe human activity is wholly or partially responsible for climate change. Across every race, gender, age, income level, and political party, people in the modern era agree it’s an issue. 

What’s more, only 6% outright deny the crisis even exists — a slight decrease from the 2019 survey. Although climate change denial is a substantial issue because it spurs misinformation campaigns and less proactive effort, most people agree the planet is warming. Consider this the next time you think widespread collaboration isn’t possible. 

You Can Raise Awareness and Help the Planet 

The fact people deny this crisis exists despite the wealth of research on the subject is concerning. Still, you should think about how you’d feel if you were in a denier’s position — you probably wouldn’t want to believe such a hard truth. If you’re compassionate and careful, you can combat climate change denial by raising awareness and having frank discussions.

After all, a majority believe climate change is real. Even though it might not seem like that online or in the news, most people agree it exists. Addressing the causes of this denial — lobbyists and a lack of awareness — is the key to bringing everyone closer together and finding a solution.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.