New Video: What Climate Deniers Learned from Big Tobacco
February 26, 2015
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.