Right-wing populism and the political feasibility of climate policy

This project seeks to understand the relationship between right-wing populism (RWP) and opposition to climate science and policy, and to identify climate policy options that are politically feasible even in electorates inclined to support RWP.

hand holding phone with stark desert background juxtaposed by luscious grass on phones screen

The consortium is led by Dr Håkon Sælen, Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO) and includes Research Director Marianne Aasen (CICERO); Associate Professor Guri Bang, Norwegian University of Life Sciences; Professor Aaron McCright, Michigan State University; and Professor Robyn Eckersley, University of Melbourne.


The rise of RWP has contributed to political polarisation over climate policy in many countries, which has generated or exacerbated political gridlock and thwarted the development of climate policies that are consistent with the Paris Agreement 2015.  This project investigates the nature of the linkages between RWP and opposition to climate science and policy as well as the drivers of this association through a cross-national study of Norway, Germany, the USA and Australia.  Combining both quantitative and qualitative methods, the project integrates both bottom-up psychological explanations and top-down structural and mobilization explanations to explain the performance of different predictors of opposition to climate science and policy.  The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Explore and explain the relationship between RWP and opposition to climate policy among voters
  2. Explore and explain the opposition to climate policy in RWP parties
  3. Explore the relative importance of privileged versus marginalized groups as drivers of RWP supporters’ opposition to climate policy
  4. Propose options for responding to RWP opposition to climate policies based on POPCLIM’s diagnosis and research results.


Six refereed journal articles and plus a set of briefs for policymakers in Norway, Germany, USA and Australia that provide a summary of the key research findings with policy options for responding to RWP opposition to climate policies based on the research results.


The project will test both structural, ideological and psychological explanations that seek to account for RWP political opposition to climate science and contribute to the scholarly debate on the drivers of political opposition to climate action. It will also provide insights for policymakers on understanding and responding to RWP opposition to climate policies.

Project details

Project team

Dr Håkon Sælen – Project Leader (Centre for International Climate Research)
Professor Robyn Eckersley (The University of Melbourne)
Associate Professor Guri Bang (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)
Professor Aaron McCright (Michigan State University)


Norwegian Research Council:
Project number 324844 (NOK 8,000,000)


Dr Håkon Sælen (Project Leader)
Professor Robyn Eckersley