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Climate Change Deniers Like Conspiracy Theories, Fresh Study Unsurprisingly Finds

13/07/2015 18:18 BST | Updated 13/07/2015 18:59 BST

People who deny climate change are given to believing in other conspiracy theories, according to a beefed up study of online blog comments published last week. The research, carried out by Bristol University’s Stephan Lewandowsky, follows on from a previous study published in 'Frontiers of Psychology' in 2013, but later withdrawn by the magazine over fears it could lead to legal challenges from climate change deniers.

The research, which includes fresh behavioral studies, concludes that deniers of global warming often have a strongly conspiratorial mindset. As news, this may appear old as the Internet, however the psychologists conducted the study in an interesting way.

The work built on two previous research papers, one looking at “conspiratorial discourse in the blogosphere,” the second looking at the “motivated rejection of science.” The research studied the online comments posted in response to those previous papers, concluding that there is a strong link between climate change denial and a person’s propensity to look at the world as ordered by a giant plot, often by commanding individuals or groups.

They also asked students to look at anonymous skeptical blogs and scientific papers and highlight any conspiratorial thinking. Unsurprisingly, the students found a high level of "conspiracism" in the skeptical critiques allied to a lack of scholarship.

"These results add to a growing body of research on the nature of internet discourse and the role of the blogosphere in climate denial,” wrote Lewandowsky in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology. “It also confirms that conspiratorial elements are readily identifiable in blogosphere discourse.”

"The Internet -- as a platform for everyone to voice any opinion and make any claim, however unsupported by evidence -- will not go away,” he added, “and the positives associated with a ‘free for all’ medium should not be under-estimated. However, we need to protect the evidence-bound sphere of scientific arguments from the largely unconstrained buzz outside that sphere.”

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