Title: Constellations of Scepticism: Contesting Climate Science with Hyper-Knowledge Codes
Mathew Toll, PhD Candidate, LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building
Abstract: Report after report assessing climate science details a growing mountain of evidence that climate change is indeed happening and that it is human caused. Considering this: how do climate sceptics maintain their scepticism? What can the LCT concept of constellations reveal about their belief systems and inform strategies of engagement with climate sceptics? This roundtable will employ constellations analysis to three central climate sceptic blogs and propose an extreme form of knowledge code that impedes knowledge-building. The climate sceptic blogosphere is a key venue for the development and distribution of climate misinformation. Recent political events have underscored the importance of understanding how climate denial is cultivated and legitimated online. Malcom Robert’s maiden speech to the Australian Senate, for instance, acknowledged the contribution to the public debate made by climate sceptic bloggers. While in the U.S. the election of Donald Trump has seen a concern with a new ‘post-truth’ politics online and an embracing of climate denial. Rather than a rejection of truth or science, central climate sceptic blogs position themselves as ‘auditors’ of climate science and demand technical competence as the basis of legitimacy, while the presence of any social features that deviate from an idealized conception of scientists is condemned. They therefore construct a form of knowledge code that establishes idealized – and potentially unattainable – standards of legitimate knowledge and knowers which provide a basis to contest knowledge without providing alternative explanatory power. Climate sceptics construct a constellation in which climate scientists are alarmist who fail to meet the norms of science, while climate sceptics defend these displaced norms with a hyper-knowledge code.