Date of Original Version
The climate change counter-movement (CCCM) deploys a broad repertoire of tactics in its effort to cast doubt on the science of climate change. One important yet understudied tactic is the effort by CCCM groups to use open records laws in scientifically uncertain areas to cast doubt on the accuracy of scientific information. This article explores the use of this tactic by CCCM groups and adds to the legal mobilization literature in three ways. First, it traces the origin of CCCM groups to the broader conservative legal movement of the 1970s that challenged the dominance of the liberal legal network. Second, it shows how CCCM groups waged an open records campaign against climate scientists in Virginia and Arizona, which caused a countermobilization by scientists with their own legal campaigns. Finally, this article provides the first empirical evidence of the effect of CCCM FOIA suits on the activities of university researchers. I find, through in-depth personal interviews with twelve university researchers, that the experience of researchers who have been exposed to open records campaigns has been overwhelmingly negative, has caused them to communicate through different media, and has imposed a new work burden that draws them away from other work responsibilities. I argue that the costs of these tactics are narrowly borne by a concentrated group of scientists whose production of knowledge is a public good that allows us to address the crosscutting and relentless problem of climate change.
Ley, A. J. (2018), Mobilizing Doubt: The Legal Mobilization of Climate Denialist Groups. Law & Policy, 40: 221-242. doi:10.1111/lapo.12103 Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/lapo.12103
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