Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Killing goats to appease the climate gods: Negative framing of climate science as religious faith

Myra Gurney's picture
Gurney, Myra
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Scholarly papers

In an increasingly toxic and fractious Australian political debate, many self-labeled political and media ‘climate sceptics’ repeatedly resort to religious metaphors to rhetorically frame their attacks on climate science and on advocates of carbon reduction policies. While the ideological wellsprings of climate change denialism have been well researched (Campbell & Kay, 2014; Carvalho, 2007; Fielding, Head, Laffan, Western, & Hoegh-Guldberg, 2012; Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Smith, 2010), the common discursive conflation of climate science ‘scepticism’ and the rhetorical pejorative of religious ‘faith’ remains a curious and paradoxical anomaly. This paper examines speeches by key Australian public figures to explore the manner in which politicians and conservative media commentators use language borrowed from religion, theology and morality as a rhetorical vehicle through which to construct doubt about the veracity of scientific evidence and to cast aspersions on the authority of scientists. It then reflects on the broader historical connections between environmental advocacy and the tenets of religious faith and the extent to which current politically-centred sceptical discourse accurately reflects this relationship.