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New Video: What Climate Deniers Learned from Big Tobacco

Posted on 27 February 2015 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Climate Crocks

Above, my newest “This is Not Cool” video focuses on the backstory behind “Merchants of Doubt”, the new documentary inspired by Naomi Oreskes’ and Eric Conway’s book of the same name.  The centerpiece of the book is the story of how techniques of science denial perfected in the tobacco industry have been adapted to the broader war on inconvenient science.

This week’s media firestorm centering on Dr. Willie Soon, a high profile prop at many a gathering of climate deniers, was kicked off by Justin Gillis’ piece in the New York Times on Sunday:

It’s not insignificant that Gillis put the affair in a larger context, something that happens rarely in media coverage of the climate issue.

The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

I was able to include parts of detailed interviews from scientists who were very much a part of the story, including Dr. Oreskes’, who was the target of a massive climate denier attack after she published a key paper on the scientific consensus around Climate Change, in 2004.  In addition, I include part of our interview with Dr. Ben Santer, who sheds light on the role of Tobacco and Climate Science denier Fred Singer – and Stanton Glantz, who appears in the film and was an early, and combative, critic of the tobacco industry’s war on reality, and connects the tactics, and even the combatants,  to the climate issue.

The movie adaptation of Dr. Oreskes’ book is due in theaters next week. I’ve seen it, and I think, especially in light of the recent revelations, it will become a starting point for a lot of conversations.  I’m sure that editors and reporters at the New York Times would have seen the movie and been aware of it too, so it causes one to wonder if there is a bit of calculation behind the recent story.

Merchants of Doubt trailer below.

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. It's been about 37 years since Dr. James Hansen (NASA) warned the US Congress about the threat of AGW.  In the olden days of schoolhouse curricula design, educators established courses designed to respond to, among other things, new sciences.  The science of anthropogenic climate change has been pretty solid for a couple of decades, but where are the courses in this subject area?  I teach a class which I call, "Global Warming: Proof or Politics?" for an entity called: Citizen's Climate Lobby Education Corp, a tool of  I use SKS and other credible sources and literature in my presentation.   Should we promote, aggressively, the creation of mainstream secondary and college level courses so that we can offer our children an opportunity to avoid climate hell?  Can we do that? ...or, do we have time left to do that?  

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  2. Recommended supplementary reading:

    In 1998 major fossil fuel companies put $2m behind a plan that would effectively fuel the fires of climate science scepticism among the American public. We reveal where the 12 people behind that plan are now.

    What happened to the lobbyists who tried to reshape the US view of climate change? by Graham Readfearn, The Guardian, Feb 27, 2015

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  3. swampfoxh@1

    It's been about 37 years since Dr. James Hansen (NASA) warned the US Congress about the threat of AGW

    A typo sneaked into your sentence. Jim Hansen published his first general circulation model in 1988, followed by a famous "Global Warming has begun" testimony. So that was 27 years ago. 10y earlier than that would be when Stephen Schneider started his campaign to debunk "it's colling" myth.

    But, sadly, the way we are going, I forsee, in 2025, your comment will become accurate.

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  4. Lookup "Lessons from Past Predictions: Hansen 1981" on this very website.

    If someone was able to make accurate predictions as far back as 34 years ago, perhaps we should take their current predictions seriously.

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  5. Thanks guys,  for the correction.  I marched off to take my wife to the opera before proofing my comment.  

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