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Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement's Counter-Claims

Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlap
Social Problems
Vol. 47, No. 4 (Nov., 2000), pp. 499-522
DOI: 10.2307/3097132
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3097132
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement's Counter-Claims
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Abstract

The sociological literature on global environmental change emphasizes the processes by which the problem of global warming is socially constructed. However, the opposing efforts to construct the "non-problematicity" of global warming advanced by the conservative movement are largely ignored. Utilizing recent work on framing processes in the social movements literature and claims-making from the social problems literature, this paper analyzes the counter-claims promoted by the conservative movement between 1990 and 1997 as it mobilized to challenge the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. A thematic content analysis of publications circulated on the web sites of prominent conservative think tanks reveals three major counter-claims. First, the movement criticized the evidentiary basis of global warming as weak, if not entirely wrong. Second, the movement argued that global warming will have substantial benefits if it occurs. Third, the movement warned that proposed action to ameliorate global warming would do more harm than good. In short, the conservative movement asserted that, while the science of global warming appears to be growing more and more uncertain, the harmful effects of global warming policy are becoming increasingly certain. In order to better understand the controversy over global warming, future research should pay attention to the influence of the conservative movement by identifying the crucial roles of conservative foundations, conservative think tanks, and sympathetic "skeptic" scientists in undermining the growing scientific consensus over the reality of global warming.

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