Module 3

Climate Change Controversy

Why and How People Reject Environmentally Sustainable Motives

Tensions In Sustainability Forum Series, Center for Ethics, Emory University

Module Goals

This module helps participants understand and constructively address climate change denial. To this end the following overarching goals have been identified for this module.

  • Participants recognize various forms of climate change denial.
  • Participants understand some of the incentives that drive climate change denial.
  • Participants are equipped to respond to climate change denial constructively.


To prepare for this module kindly take some time to familiarize yourself with this guide. If possible, spend some time reviewing the resources listed in the following section to get a more nuanced understanding of climate change denial. In addition to this, spend some time researching climate change denial in your region, state, or community (if available). Other preparatory activities are noted below.

  • Print the Role Play Assignments in the Teaching Materials and cut into strips. You will hand these out to participants during the “Types of Climate Change Denial” section of the module.
  • Print copies of the Three W’s Handout in the Teaching Materials. Try to ensure that each participant has a copy.
  • If facilitating this module without a projector:
    • Print copies of the Types of Climate Change Denial Handout in the Teaching Materials for people to share in groups of two
    • Print copies of the Survey Questions Handout for participants
  • If facilitating this module with a projector:
    • Download the Climate Change Controversy PowerPoint


Preparation time will vary across individuals but should take about 2 hours . The implementation of the module will take 1 hour . Throughout the guide suggested times are provided for sections and sub-sections to assist the facilitator with time management.

Module Outline

  • Forms of Climate Change Denial
  • Three W’s (The Why, the Who and the What of Climate Change Denial)
    • Who are the propagators of climate change denial and why do they do it?
    • Who believes climate change denial and why?
    • What are the costs of climate change denial?
  • Next Steps: Constructively addressing climate change denial

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module, participants should:

  • Be able to identify the types of climate change denial.
  • Be able to identify the propagators of climate change and understand why people propagate climate change denial.
  • Practice aligning the economic and social incentives of those who propagate climate change denial with environmental sustainability.
  • Understand incentives that drive the acceptance of climate change denial.

    Recognize the many costs of climate change denial.

Materials Needed

  • Writing implements
  • Whiteboard or large flip chart on which to use writing implements
  • AV equipment (projector, screen, and laptop) — optional
  • One printed copy of the Role Play Assignment
  • Copies of the Three W’s of Climate Change Denial Handout for each participant
  • Copies of the Types of Climate Change Denial Handout and Survey Questions OR access to the Climate Change Controversy PowerPoint