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Populism and Climate Change in the Era of Post-Truth


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Post-truth (PT) and post-factual politics (PFP) has increasingly been core pillars of our public and media sphere. This can be analyzed in the broader context of the politics, which shows that the core nature of politics has changed: emotions, enemies, political personalities have been moved in to the center of the politics. Facts, institutions, experts, law- and right-based approach begin to lose their importance. On the one hand, populist forces felt this political shift; on the other hand, they have begun to force and push these tendencies. I will put forward here a hypothesis concerning the relationship between the populist turn of politics and the climate change. Climate skepticism and climate change denial were existing and flourishing phenomena before the populist era of PT and PFP, but the law- and expert-based neoliberal politics tried to handle this situation with transnational agreements (most recently with the Paris Agreement). Unfortunately, populist (mainly on the political right) forces are attempting to use PT and PFP techniques to attack environmental measures and self-evident facts concerning the climate change. According to my hypothesis this combat can not only be seen as result of a political strategy to support industry donors, but also the massive anti-climate policy based on the concept of political sovereignty. The nationalist populist right (from Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán) recognized that the adaptation and mitigation in the context of the Anthropocene and climate change need to have a new concept of sovereignty. I will investigate here the roots of PT/PFP and fake news politics and I am elaborating the concept of biopopulism concerning the climate change. After all I will conclude some assumptions how to protect the climate against the populist post-truth regimes.

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Populism and Climate Change in the Era of Post-Truth

  1. 1. Current Populism in Europe and the Role of the Media 3rd International Populism Conference in Prague 22 – 23 May 2017, Prague Populism and Climate Change in the Era of Post-Truth Regimes of Post-Truth and Biopopulism Attila Antal Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Law Institute of Political Science and Institute of Political History Social Theory Research Group
  2. 2. Overview I. Climate Change, Trust, Anthropocene II. Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics III. The Roots of Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics and Fake News in Climate Change IV. Climate Change Populism: Biopopulism V. How to Protect the Climate against Biopopulism? VI. References
  3. 3. I. Climate Change, Trust, Anthropocene 1. Facts on Anthropogenic Climate Change IPCC, 2014
  4. 4. I. Climate Change, Trust, Anthropocene 2. Public Trust and Climate Change • Anthropogenic climate change as a scientific fact • Social and political challenges • Public trust according to climate relates sciences
  5. 5. I. Climate Change, Trust, Anthropocene 3. Anthropocene • A new epoch • Human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems • The Earth system processes are now altered by humans
  6. 6. II. Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics 1. History of PT/PFP • The backlash of politics or the Political • Disconnected from the policy • Ignore factual rebuttals • Facts have been losing their importance • PT or PFT dominates the contemporary political discourse since 2016 (Trump, Brexit)
  7. 7. II. Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics 1. History of PT/PFP
  8. 8. II. Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics 2. Regimes of PT/PFP • Regime of truth (Foucault, 1976/2000) • Distinguish true and false • Fundamentally changes • A breakdown of fiduciary status in truth-telling (Harsin, 2015) • The regimes of truth are deteriorating – the public trust plays crucial role
  9. 9. II. Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics 3. Beyond Post-Truth: Fake News • The most significant contemporary representation of PT/PFT • Yellow journalism • Little or no legitimate well-researched news • Deliberate misinformation or hoaxes • Post-truth propaganda
  10. 10. III. The Roots of Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics and Fake News in Climate Change 1. Political Divide and Climate Change • Fundamental divisions between political left and right • Notable political cleavage on climate change views (McCright et al., 2015) • A significant ideological divide in citizens’ climate change views in Western European countries
  11. 11. III. The Roots of Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics and Fake News in Climate Change 2. Climate Change Denial • The consequence of the elaborated political divide • Huge impact on the global climate systems • Rhetorical tactics • Conservative economic policies and industrial interests (Klein, 2011) • The climate change is a left-wing conspiracy
  12. 12. III. The Roots of Post-Truth/Post-Factual Politics and Fake News in Climate Change 3. The Dilemmas of Sovereignty • Totally redesigned the concept of sovereignty • The old Westphalian ideal has been exceeded (Eckersley, 2004) • New actors of sovereignty • Greening of sovereignty • The populist political actors remians the nationalist concept of sovereignty • To restrict the boundaries of the moral community
  13. 13. IV. Climate Change Populism: Biopopulism 1. Climate Change Implications of PT/PFP and Fake News • To combat climate changes to benefit industry donors • Fake news politics about the climate change (Kay, 2017) • Several negative consequences • The strategy are applicable to other fake news campaigns • Referendum on the moral characters • Identity discourse
  14. 14. IV. Climate Change Populism: Biopopulism 2. A Biopolitical Framework • State increasingly took as its task the care and regulation of biological, human life (Foucault, 1990 and 2003) • The sovereign power is itself already biopolitical (Agamben, 1998 and 2005) • The main distinctions of the political is the separation of bare life (zoé) and political existence (bíos) • The symbol of homo sacer • The populist nature and techniques (PT/PFP, fake news) of contemporary climate deniers as a form of (radicalized) biopolitics
  15. 15. VI. How to Protect the Climate against Biopopulism? 1. Ecopopulism • Environmental justice movements concerned and restricted themselves one issue • Populist framework of climate change • Ecopopulism which based on shared view of solidarity • Biopolitical and PT/PFP/fake news-based approach endangers the humankind • Vertical and horizontal solidarity structures • Reinterpretation of environmental and climate justice challenges in a populist way
  16. 16. VI. How to Protect the Climate against Biopopulism? 2. Actions against Misinformation about Climate Change • Significant changes in individual and collective human behavior • Normative agreement among experts • Attitudinal inoculation (Linden et al., 2017)
  17. 17. VI. References Agamben, Giorgio (1998): Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Agamben, Giorgio (2005): State of Exception. Translated by Kevin Attell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Eckersley, Robyn (2004): The Green State. Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty. Cambridge Massachusetts London, England: The MIT Press. Foucault, Michel (1990): The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. London: Penguin. Foucault, Michel (1976/2000): Truth and power. In: J. D. Faubion (Ed.): Power: Essential works of Foucault, 1954–1984. Vol. 3. 111–133). New York, NY: New Press Foucault, Michel (2003): “Society Must Be Defended”, Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76. Translated by David Macey. Eds.: Alessandro Fontana, Mauro Bertani. London: Penguin.
  18. 18. VI. References Harsin, Jayson (2015): Regimes of Posttruth, Postpolitics, and Attention Economies. Communication, Culture & Critique. 8 (2): 327–333. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014): Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers. Kay, Jonatan (2017): How Climate Change Denial Set the Stage for Fake News. The Walrus. 1 May 2017. Klein, Naomi (2011): Capitalism vs. the Climate. The Nation, 9 November 2011. McCright, Aaron M. – Dunlap, Riley E. – Marquart-Pyatt, Sandra T. (2015): Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union. Environmental Politics, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2015.1090371 van der Linden, Sander – Leiserowitz, Anthony – Rosenthal, Seth – Maibach, Edward (2017): Inoculating the Public against Misinformation about Climate Change. Global Challenges, DOI: 10.1002/gch2.201600008.