The industry of climate change denial, and a warm Alaskan winter

The scene at a UN climate change conference
People attend a session during United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris.
Christophe Ena | AP 2015

We're tackling climate change denial this week on Climate Cast. MPR News chief meteorologist Paul Huttner talks to three expert researchers who study many facets of the so-called climate change denial industry. Plus, we'll hear about some extra warm temperatures in the northernmost city in the country. Here's what else you can expect on this week's episode:

• Who's really driving climate change denial? We pose this question to Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University professor and co-author of "Merchants of Doubt," and Michael Mann, a renowned climate scientist and meteorology professor at Penn State University. According to Mann, it started with a small number of people who created "a facade of what looks to be widespreads grassroots denialism when in fact it's Astroturf. It's manufactured denial funded and organzied by a small number of vested interests." In fact, as Oreskes' book finds, the movement began from a small group with links to the tobacco industry.

• The political right's focus on attacking climate science. Riley Dunlap, a political and environmental sociologist at Oklahoma State Universtity, says that people who follow conservative politics may be more likely to hear climate change deinal themes more often than they hear mainstream climate science. That type of thinking has become a main part of the right's platform, he says. "As people see more extreme weather events ... will they accept the message of the scientific community that human behavior is actually a key factor in this or will they continue to follow the denial message?"

• North Alaska is so warm, it's confusing computers. December is running 20 degrees warmer than average in parts of Alaska. The Weather Channel's Kait Parker elaborates: "Temperatures are warming so fast in Alaska, computers think it's a mistake. ... Temperatures were running so much warmer than the surrounding area that the computer thought it was bad data. But the folks from the National Centers for Environmental Information found that the numbers were accurate. What's happening in Utqiagvik, also known as Barrow, Alaska, is rapid warming from melting sea ice."

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