Riley E. Dunlap

Regents Professor and Laurence L. and Georgia Ina Dresser Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, Oklahoma State University

About Riley

Dunlap has studied the social and political dimensions of environmental issues for decades. His current work focuses primarily on climate change, particularly political polarization over the issue and the nature and sources of the organized climate change denial movement. He is chairing the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change, and involved in efforts to promote greater understanding of the roots of the debate over anthropogenic climate change.


The Polarization of U.S. Public Opinion on Climate Change

    Aaron M. McCright

The Climate Change Denial Campaign

    Aaron M. McCright

In the News

Riley E. Dunlap quoted by Zack Colman, "Skeptics Feel Empowered to 'keep pushing' under Trump" E&E News, April 6, 2018.
Riley E. Dunlap quoted on historical context of climate polarization by Rajiv Sicora, "The Real Solution to Climate Polarization: Defeat the GOP Denial Machine" Common Dreams, October 8, 2016.
Riley E. Dunlap quoted on partisanship and climate change by Nathan Collins, "Climate Change is becoming a More Polarizing Topic" Pacific Standard, September 7, 2016.
Riley E. Dunlap quoted on politicizing climate change by Chelsea Harvey, "Science Confirms It: Denial of Climate Change is All About the Politics" The Washington Post, February 23, 2016.
Riley E. Dunlap quoted on the campaign to discredit climate science by Heather Smith, "The Right-Wing Climate-Denial Machine is Churning Faster than Ever" Grist, January 25, 2016.
Riley E. Dunlap quoted on the climate change denial movement by Graham Readfearn, "Era of Climate Science Denial is Not Over, Study Finds" The Guardian, January 7, 2016.
Riley E. Dunlap's research on social scientists and climate change (with Robert J. Brulle) discussed by "New Book Argues That Social Sciences are Critical to Climate Conversation: Climate Change is a 'People Problem'," Drexel NOW, August 20, 2015.
Riley E. Dunlap quoted on party identification trumping weather data by Pete Spotts, "Americans Would Rather Adapt to Extreme Weather than Curb Climate Change" Christian Science Monitor, November 24, 2014.
Riley E. Dunlap's research on the political polarization of climate change discussed by Chris Mooney, "Do Democrats and Republicans Actually Experience the Weather Differently?," The Washington Post, November 24, 2014.
"Global Warming or Climate Change: Is There a Difference?," Riley E. Dunlap, Gallup Politics, April 22, 2014.
Riley E. Dunlap's research on climate-denial books' ties to conservative funders discussed by Cristine Russell, "Attack of the Climate-Denial Books," Columbia Journalism Review, March 12, 2013.


"Climate Change Skepticism and Denial" American Behavioral Scientist 57 (forthcoming).
Presents a symposium, edited by Dunlap, consisting of current research on climate change skepticism and denial. Besides an introductory essay, it includes articles analyzing: the link between conservative think tanks and books espousing climate change denial; early schisms in the field of meteorology that led some mainstream scientists to become “skeptics,” and their differences with the true “contrarian” scientists who deny global warming; the treatment of climate change and climate science by conservative syndicated newspaper columnists; how constant challenges from critics leads climate scientists to underestimate the degree of likely climate disruptions; how and why news media give undue visibility to “outlier” voices in climate debates; and the impact of the “climategate” controversy on American’s views of global warming.
"Organized Climate-Change Denial" (with Aaron M. McCright), in The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, edited by John S. Dryzek, Richard B. Norgaard and David Schlosberg (Oxford University Press, 2011), 144-160.
Draws on a wide range of academic analyses and journalistic investigations to provide an overview of the key actors in the “climate change denial machine” along with their primary strategy of attacking climate science by “manufacturing uncertainty” about its findings in order to undermine calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"The Politicization of Climate Change: Political Polarization in the American Public’s Views of Global Warming" (with Aaron M. McCright). Sociological Quarterly 52 (2011): 155-194.
Examines political polarization over climate change within the American public between 2001 and 2010, and finds that liberals and Democrats are more likely to report beliefs consistent with the scientific consensus and express personal concern about global warming than are conservatives and Republicans - and that these differences increased over the decade.
"Anti-Reflexivity: The American Conservative Movement’s Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy" (with Aaron M. McCright). Theory, Culture and Society 26 (2010): 100-133.
Analyzes the U.S. conservative movement’s efforts to undermine climate science and policy by mounting an anti-environmental “counter-movement,” and outlines the manner in which conservatives (especially during the George W. Bush Administration) employed non-decision-making to achieve its ends while minimizing public backlash.
Sociological Theory and the Environment: Classical Foundations, Contemporary Insights (edited with Frederick H. Buttel, Peter Dickens, and August Gijswijt) (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).
Provides a comprehensive survey and assessment of sociological theories regarding the relations between modern societies and the biophysical environment. Chapters touch on and address most of the major perspectives, focal points, and debates in environmental sociology through the end of the last century.
Handbook of Environmental Sociology (edited with William Michelson) (Greenwood Press, 2002).
Consists of chapters on key topics in the field of environmental sociology written by leading experts in the field.