Environmental skepticism is an umbrella term that describes those that argue that particular claims put forward by environmentalists and environmental scientists are false or exaggerated, along with those who are critical of environmentalism in general. The use of the term is contested. Supporters of environmentalists argue that "skepticism" implies an open-minded attitude to empirical evidence and that their opponents are in fact advocates for predetermined positions reflecting ideological commitments or financial interests.
Environmental skeptics have argued that the extent of harm coming from human activities is less certain than some scientists and scientific bodies claim, or that it is too soon to be introducing curbs in these activities on the basis of existing evidence, or that further discussion is needed regarding who should pay for such environmental initiatives. Others argue that such widespread skeptical doubts have not developed independently, but have been "encouraged by lobbying and PR campaigns financed by the polluting industries". This process has been termed a form of denialism, and that, in the US particularly, "large donations [have been made] to Senators and Congressmen and [have] sponsored neoliberal think tanks and contrarian scientific research. ExxonMobil, the oil major, has been accused by Friends of the Earth and others of giving millions of dollars to a long list of think-tanks and lobbyists opposed to Kyoto."
The popularity of the term was enhanced by Bjørn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomborg approached environmental claims from a statistical and economic standpoint, and concluded that often the claims made by environmentalists were overstated. Lomborg argued, on the basis of cost benefit analysis, that few environmentalist claims warranted serious concern.
Analysis of skepticism
A recent study of the environmental skepticism movement found that the overwhelming majority of environmentally skeptical books published since the 1970s were either written or published by authors or institutions affiliated with conservative think tanks. The authors identified four defining themes in the movement:
They "conclude that scepticism 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 US commitment to environmental protection."
Examples of skeptical works and analyses of skepticism
Full article ▸