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.

MODsmallThis 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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18 Responses to “New Video: What Climate Deniers Learned from Big Tobacco”


  1. […] Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, on finding out that she was being attacked on the floor of the Senate by James Inhofe, the Strom […]

  2. andrewfez Says:

    Phillip Morris is picking up steam in Indonesia. On minute 8:00 onward, ABC reports that the smoking/health debate of the American yesteryear is currently happening in that country. The problem is we have a $128B company throwing its ‘free market’ weight around in a country with a GDP that is only $868B. It pretty much does what it likes with little resistance, and what it likes is propaganda and advertising, especially to youngsters. Also check out the quackery around the 9 minute mark where some doctor is trying to cure illnesses with cigarette smoke.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      That is some of the most discouraging 12 minutes ever seen on YouTube.

      It’s proof that Wetiko exists and the human race is not worthy of continuing much longer on the planet. As far as Indonesia goes, they are fast losing my sympathy. With this coming on top of their fossil fuel and rain forest destruction issues, I will turn away when they have their next Krakatoa, tsunami, or typhoon. F’ em all—-they can smoke themselves into oblivion.

      And in case anyone needed any more evidence of the evil that unbridled free market capitalism brings to the world, look no further.

      • andrewfez Says:

        I’d say there is a strong chance that those kids’ guardians initially encouraged them to start smoking, firstly from smoking themselves, but further by instructing them in a detailed manner on their first few cigarettes: If you’ve ever seen someone try a cigarette the first time, they choke, gag, and cough from the noxious air being introduced to their respiratory system. It’s not a natural, or enjoyable process at first (unless their not inhaling it into their lungs). They push forward mostly for the social return it affords them: they think they are behaving in a socially attractive manner (or possibly they are luxuriating in the throes of contrarianism). But for a 2 year old, all they want is to be accepted by their parents and family. I could imagine one of those kid’s parents instructing their child to ‘hold the smoke in and try not to cough’ and to ‘get used to it’ on their first few cigarettes, and the child complying because the act seemed to cause their guardians great pleasure or amusement.

  3. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27.


  4. […] New Video: What Climate Deniers Learned from Big Tobacco | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]


  5. […] fossil fuel and tobacco industry have their template for poisoning the dialogue. Something like this could be the template for healing […]

  6. Brad Keyes Says:

    How many Naomi Oreskes are there?

    Is it a common name in the US?

    The Naomi Oreskes above admits “debate” is a denier myth:

    “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.

    But another historian of science—also called Naomi Oreskes—claims “debate” is real:

    Well, this thing about the peer review process being closed, that’s just false. Because I’ve reviewed the scientific literature on climate change, and there’s all kinds of debate going on.

    [Source http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s3042314.htm%5D

    Will the real Naomi Oreskes please end the debate by standing up?


  7. […] Merchants of Doubt about to drop, no time like the present to repost one of my most popular videos, detailing the […]


  8. […] some clips that didn’t make the cut in my most recent video, a review of “Merchants of Doubt”, which opens today in cities across the […]


  9. […] the case of Merchants of Doubt, the new movie has exposed a large new audience to the ugly historical fact that key members of the […]


  10. […] Dr. Naomi Oreskes is the science historian whose book “Merchants of Doubt” was the take off point of the new must-see movie of the same name. […]


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