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climate change, contrarians, Wise Use, conservative ideology


In the 1980s, celebrity climate contrarians, which we might understand as a kind of ‘keystone species’ or ‘charismatic megafauna’, emerged through resistance to dominant interpretations of scientific evidence, and through divergent views regarding what are the best ways to respond to climate threats. Our research here examines the growth pathways of these beings through historical accounts of the ‘Wise Use’ movements rooted in the United States (US) West, as well as interview data and participant observations at the 2011 Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, and through tracking of media coverage of climate change and contrarian think tanks over the last 25 years. This contribution helps to better understand celebrity climate contrarians embedded in countermovement activities through a threefold analysis: of the motivations that prop up these contrarian stances, such as ideological or evidentiary disagreement to the orthodox views of science (also known as scientific consensus); the drive to fulfill the perceived desires of special interests (for example, carbon-based industry); and the exhilaration from self-perceived academic martyrdom and the more general desire for notoriety. In these ways, celebrity is a vehicle for influence, and influence is vital to decision-making within the dynamic architectures of contemporary climate science, politics and policy.