Climate and environmental science denial: A review of the scientific literature published in 1990–2015

Björnberg, Karin Edvardsson; Karlsson, Mikael; Gilek, Michael; Hansson, Sven Ove
Journal of Cleaner Production

Denial of scientific findings is neither a new nor an unexplored phenomenon. In the area of environmental science and policy though, the research on denial has not been systematically summarized and analyzed. This article reviews 161 scientific articles on environmental and climate science denial published in peer reviewed international journals in the last 25 years and aims to both identify research gaps and enable learning on the phenomenon. Such knowledge is needed for the increasingly important task to provide effective response to science denial, in order to put an end to its influence on environmental policy making. The review, which is based on articles found in the databases Web of Science, Scopus and Philosopher’s Index, shows that denial by far is most studied in relation to climate change, with a focus on Anglo-American countries, where this form of denial is most common. Other environmental issues and other geographical areas have received much less scientific attention. While the actors behind climate science denial, their various motives and the characteristics of their operations have been thoroughly described, more comparative research between issues and countries is needed in order to draw reliable conclusions about the factors explaining the peculiarities of denial. This may in turn lay the ground for developing and actually testing the effectiveness and efficiency of strategies to counter environmental science denial. Irrespective of the ambitions of environmental goals, science-based policies are always preferable. The scientific community therefore needs to increase its efforts to dismantle false claims and to disclose the schemes of denialists.