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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

Speaking the Truth about Climate Change: Reflections of US Climate Denialism in European Political Discourse

European Union
Climate Change
Frank Wendler
Universität Hamburg
Frank Wendler
Universität Hamburg

Climate change is a primary example of a policy field in which the truthfulness of claims about the origins, nature and consequences of a problem of collective action is a focal point of political contestation in its own right. Historically, the denial of climate change is more politically salient and intellectually elaborated in the United States, as demonstrated by statements of President Trump and his political allies but also in publications by authors such as James Imhofe (‘The Greatest Hoax’) or Rupert Darwall (‘Green Tyranny’). In this context, the truthfulness of political actors and arguments is disputed not just as an argument against policy but to cast doubt on the legitimacy of institutions and epistemic communities, as exemplified in the claim that global warming is invented or dramatized and used for highly immoral intentions and purposes. Considering the dual challenges of a rise of populist parties in Europe and the increasing politicization of policies against climate change, the paper investigates the reflection of US climate denialism in European political discourse: Is there a significant political current of climate denialism in key arenas of European public discourse, and (to what degree) does it mirror typical claims and (pseudo-) arguments made in denialist US discourse? Investigating this question, the paper consists of two main parts: First, a framework for the analysis of climate denialism is presented Second, the framework is used for an empirical analysis of two key arenas of political discourse in Europe that are hypothesized to represent an emerging and least likely arena for the rise of climate denialism: namely, public political discourse between party representatives since the 2013 Federal Election in Germany, and debates in the European Parliament covering the most recent elective period since 2014.
The paper will contribute to the overall topic of the panel in two ways: First, by reflecting on the boundaries and tipping points between the discussion of uncertainty, the de-legitimization of political opponents by way of casting doubt on their truthfulness, and the deliberate use of lies and false claims of truthfulness to establish political claims and positions; and second, by shining a light on how both lies and false claims of truthfulness are used against policies addressing the problem of climate change, aiming at political actors and scientific communities, and to de-legitimize multilateral institutions and frameworks on a regional and global scale.
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