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Why conservative white men are more likely to deny climate change

Let's say you're a highly educated white male who voted for Stephen Harper – and would gladly join the Tea Party if only you were blessed with American citizenship.

Chances are you think global warming is a load of bunk.

A study of climate-change denial suggests it's so: 48 per cent of "confident" conservative white men believe the effects of global warming will never happen, versus 9 per cent of other adults, Scientific American reports.

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By "confident," researchers referred to conservative white men who self-reported a high understanding of global warming. Among conservative men less familiar with the science, almost 30 per cent were skeptical of climate change, compared with 15 per cent of conservative white women ( with Sarah Palin leading the pack).

That puts "confident" conservative white men at the top of the heap of people who think climate change is a hoax (like that other scientific heresy – evolution).

"It's not surprising," said Aaron McCright, sociology professor at Michigan State University and co-author of the study.

But the study conclusion, based on data from 10 Gallup surveys from 2001 to 2010, may have less to do with climate change than what researchers call the "white male effect."

White men fear all kinds of risks less than women and minorities do, according to Riley Dunlap, who co-authored the study, printed in the October 2011 issue of Global Environmental Change.

For conservative white men – who tend to benefit most from the current socio-economic system – recognizing climate change would be against the status quo, Mr. Dunlap explained to the Huffington Post.

The study findings echo a Yale University report, which identified that groups who dismiss climate change tend to skew male and conservative.

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Reaction to the study from the conservative camp has been one of – you guessed it – denial.

"This paper is a transparent effort to take the focus off the actual scientific debate and instead engage in race baiting, class baiting and other sociological devices to win a science argument," James Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, told Scientific American.

The battle for the hearts and minds of Americans continues.

What do you think of the link between climate change skeptics and conservative white men? Do you know any liberal-minded women from minority backgrounds who deny that climate change exists?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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