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Seminar – Economic identities and the historical roots of climate change denial in the U.S

Tinbergen Institute

Almost half of U.S. citizens doubt the reality of human-made climate change, and this share has remained stable over the last three decades. This paper argues that the roots of this denial are, in part, to be found in the economic histories of communities. Using data on 3.6 million oil and gas wells drilled between 1859 and 2022, I show that long-term exposure to fossil fuel extraction negatively impacts present levels of climate change beliefs — independent of present production and employment. These effects are neither driven by ideological bundling of beliefs, nor by selective migration. Instead, building on archival and, in particular, historical local newspapers data, I document the development of persistent fossil fuel identities, built notably by the public good provision of extractive firms, and show how they interacted with the formation of beliefs, suggesting the importance of economic identities in shaping past and present political attitudes.

Erasmus University Rotterdam, Campus Woudestein, room T3-14


  • Edgard Dewitte (University of Oxford)


Burgemeester Oudlaan 50,
3062 PA Rotterdam