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Defeating Kyoto: The Conservative Movement's Impact on U.S. Climate Change Policy

Aaron M. McCright, Riley E. Dunlap
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2003.50.3.348 348-373 First published online: 1 August 2003

Abstract

In this article, we argue that a major reason the United States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to ameliorate global warming is the opposition of the American conservative movement, a key segment of the anti-environmental counter-movement. We examine how the conservative movement mobilized between 1990 and 1997 to construct the "non-problematicity" of global warming. After we describe how conservative think tanks mobilized to challenge the global warming claims of mainstream climate science, we examine how these countermovement organizations aligned themselves with prominent American climate change skeptics known for their staunch criticism of mainstream climate research and their affiliations with the fossil fuels industry. We then examine how the efforts of these conservative think tanks were enhanced by the shift in the political opportunity structure created by the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. This study demonstrates how a powerful countermovement effectively challenged the environmental community's definition of global warming as a social problem and blocked the passage of any significant climate change policy.

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