Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2016


John Van Buren


Climate change is a serious threat to the continued existence of human civilization. Despite this, the United States has yet to pass meaningful legislation to cub greenhouse gas emissions. Although tackling environmental issues once had a broad bipartisan support, the issue of climate change has driven a wedge between Democratic and Republican voters and politicians. Consequently, the United States finds itself deadlocked in the political sphere, unable to come together on any real strategies to adapt to the realities of a changing world. The driving force behind the lack of American action on climate change is the persistence of denial. Climate change denial appeals to those who hold a privileged position in American society. They see climate action as threatening to their lifestyle and thus have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Corporate interests with high carbon emissions have had great success partnering with conservative white males in a union of the privileged elite to form a coalition of denial. Climate change denial has been skillfully developed by fossil-fuel interests and has come to dominate the environmental policy of the Republican party. Analyzing a history of the environmental movement in the United States, this thesis examines the climate change denial movement’s origins. It also considers the psychological reasons climate change denial has taken root among the privileged. It then considers the 2016 United States political climate to demonstrate how entrenched denial has become in the lead-up to the presidential election. Finally, this thesis proposes deniers can be taught to support action on climate change by giving them a more thorough understanding of nature at a young age and then showing them that climate change threatens the Earth with which they have developed a deep attachment.