No Bombshell in Academics’ Analysis: Skeptics/Conservative Think Tanks Linked

There’s a really strong connection between conservative think tanks and books taking a “skeptics” approach to environmental issues.

It’s no bombshell pronouncement for most policy wonks, journalists who have followed climate change for any length of time, or Nation’s Capital policy geeks, but an analysis published in a scholarly journal, Environmental Politics, finds that more than 92 percent of the “environmentally skeptical” books published between 1972 and 2005, most of them published in the U.S. since 1992, “are linked to conservative think tanks.”

“We conclude that skepticism is a tactic of an elite-driven counter-movement designed to combat environmentalism, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of U.S. commitment to environmental protection,” the authors write. They maintain that “environmental skeptics are not, as they portray themselves, independent and objective analysts. Rather, they are predominantly agents of [get ready for yet another new acronym] CTTs, conservative think tanks, and their success in promoting skepticism about environmental problems stems from their affiliation with these politically powerful institutions.”

The 27-page analysis by Professors Peter J. Jacques, Riley E. Dunlap, and Mark Freeman, was published in the June 2008 issue of Environmental Politics, published by the Taylor & Francis Group, scholarly publishers. They report that of 141 “books which promote environmental skepticism,” 130, or 92.2 percent, “have a clear link to one or more conservative think tanks.” They reported that all but nine of the 110 such books published in the U.S. had such associations.

Analyzing a public backlash against then-President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to relax environmental regulations, the researchers wrote that “anti-environmentalists learned that it was safer to question the seriousness of environmental problems and portray environmentalists (and environmental scientists) as ‘radicals’ who distort evidence in order to exaggerate problems.”

They pan as lacking credibility “the notion that environmental skeptics are unbiased analysts exposing the myths and scare tactics employed by those they label as practitioners of ‘junk science.’” They similarly dismiss a “charade” what they describe as “the self-portrayal of skeptics as marginalized ‘Davids’ battling the powerful ‘Goliath’ of environmentalists and environmental scientists.” Those skeptics have some pretty big bucks behind them in the form of the think tanks’ wealthy foundation and corporate donors, the authors insist.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.