A critical analysis of the discursive strategies for circulating climate change denial

Rickens, Erich William (2019-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : Despite consensus within the scientific community, the notion of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change is still denied by a large percentage of people, as well as key actors within the public policy domain, particularly in the context of the United States. At the forefront of climate change denial lie industry-funded think tanks that frequently publish content which attempts to disrupt the notion that scientific consensus exists around anthropogenic climate change. Through these efforts, various think tanks have successfully helped to circulate doubt and confusion around anthropogenic climate change. As a result, they have effectively “fogged up the room” to the point that they win the debate by means of “inaction”, particularly within policy and decision-making spaces. This thesis focuses on one of the most prominent think tanks within the context of the “denial machine”, namely The Heartland Institute, analysing its discursive strategies for circulating climate change denial at a public scale. Methodologically, a critical discourse analysis is conducted in relation to various seminal texts published by The Heartland Institute. In doing so, this thesis finds that: • The Heartland Institute’s discourse around climate change is deeply ideology-laden. Specifically, Heartland’s arguments for refuting climate change science are more closely related to questions of economic policy than to the science of climate change itself. • Through the discursive practices of truth-claiming, adversarial framing, recontextualisation and articulation, The Heartland Institute frames itself as “speaking truth to power” (Foucault, 1984) by countering the so-called “hegemony” of mainstream climate science, and in particular the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In doing so, The Heartland Institute contributes to the preservation of the dominant social and economic paradigm and the societal power structures that they entail. • Finally, this thesis explores how, by framing IPCC-aligned climate scientists as being politically-motivated and ideologically-corrupt, the Heartland Institute leverages “post-truth” politics as a means of circulating climate change denial.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Ten spyte van konsensus onder wetenskaplikes word die idee van antropogeniese klimaatsverandering steeds deur ’n groot persentasie mense, sowel as sleutelfigure binne die openbare sfeer, en spesifiek in die Verenigde State van Amerika, ontken. Op die voorpunt van die ontkenning van klimaatsverandering is industrie-befondsde dinkskrums wat gereëld inhoud publiseer wat poog om die idee omver te werp dat wetenskaplike konsensus rondom antropogeniese klimaatsverandering bestaan. Deur hierdie pogings het verskeie dinkskrums reeds daarin geslaag om twyfel en verwarring oor antropogeniese klimaatsverandering te sirkuleer. As gevolg hiervan het dié dinkskrums effektief daarin geslaag het om die water so te vertroebel dat hul as wenners uit die debat tree bloot deur apaties te wees, veral wanneer dit gaan oor beleid en besluitneming. Hierdie tesis fokus op een van die mees prominente dinkskrums in die konteks van die “ontkenningsmeganisme”, naamlik die Heartland Instituut, en ontleed die Instituut se diskursiewe strategieë waarmee dit klimaatsontkenning op ‘n samelewingswye skaal sirkuleer. Die metodologie van kritiese diskoers-analise is gebruik om verskeie invloedryke publikasies van die Heartland Instituut te ontleed. Na aanleiding hiervan bevind hierdie studie dat: • Die diskoers van die Heartland Instituut oor klimaatsverandering swaar ideologies-gelaai is. In die besonder, Heartland se argumente wat poog om klimaatswetenskap te weerlê, het meer met vrae oor ekonomiese beleid te doen as met die wetenskap van klimaatsverandering. • Deur die diskursiewe praktyke van waarheidspostulering, antagonistiese opstelling, herkontekstualisering, en artikulasie hou die Heartland Instituut homself voor as “die artikuleerder van die waarheid teenoor magshebbers” (“speaking truth to power”, Foucault, 1984) deur die sogenaamde “hegemonie” van hoofstroom-klimaatswetenskap en spesifiek die “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (oftewel die IPCC) teen te gaan. Hierdeur dra die Heartland Instituut by tot die handhawing van die dominante sosiale en ekonomiese paradigma van die samelewing, asook die magstrukture wat dit behels. • Deur die klimaatswetenskaplikes wat met die IPCC geassosieer word, uit te beeld as polities gemotiveerd en ideologies korrup, eksploiteer die Heartland Instituut ‘n post-waarheidspolitiek as middel om die ontkenning van klimaatsverandering te versprei.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105688
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