Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




C. Lawrence Evans

Committee Members

Chris Howard

Andrew Fisher


Climate policy at the federal level has failed since 1988, when James Hansen first testified to Congress about climate change. I take an interest group approach and ask why climate policy has so persistently failed. I identify a “denial machine”, organizations and individuals who have fought policy and the science behind climate change and have sought to derail efforts to pass comprehensive climate change legislation. I look at the denial machine’s effect at the grassroots level in affecting public opinion in section one, highlighting how successful this loose coalition was at undermining belief in climate science from 2008-2010, during the cap and trade debate. In section two, my quantitative analysis of historical environmental trends shows clear focus on the 2008-2010 period and exemplifies a real interest group involvement during this period that is worth exploring. Section three involves a comparative case study of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and the Acid Rain Program, and the 2009 House American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as Waxman-Markey, and the 2010 Senate American Power Act. I find that interest groups were very influential in the process of turning policymakers and citizens alike against the idea of cap and trade, and this shift was extremely abrupt considering there was a significant build up to cap and trade before 2008. Overall, my thesis emphasizes how important this coalition of fossil fuel companies, think tanks, right-wing billionaires, and other individuals and organizations have been in American politics, a trend that is likely to become even more prevalent over time.