By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.Merchants of Doubt dust cover 2010

Title: Merchants of Doubt
Authors: Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway
ISBN: 978-1-59691-610-4
Published: 2010, Bloombury Press
Price: $27.00
Length: 355 Pages
Book Website: http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/index.html

In the past, tobacco use was socially acceptable and was allowed in most public places, including work and schools. When researchers learned that the scientific evidence was clear that tobacco use dramatically increases the chance of developing various cancers, they alerted the public and the government. In response, special interests mounted a PR campaign challenging that tobacco was bad for your health. Think tanks published papers refuting tobacco and cancer were related, ads aimed at placating people were run on radio and television; scientists and scientific data was attacked on a regular basis.

Why? Because the fact that ingesting tobacco products can cause cancer is inconvenient to companies making money selling tobacco products. Companies in the tobacco industry fought lawsuits for years, attacking the scientists and data and sometimes the victims themselves, in a bid to avoid accountability. Finally the US Government became involved, since the costs of treating cancer were costing so much money, and there was a settlement with the tobacco companies. That battle is over.

The new crisis our planet faces today is global warming. We have temperature records, using satellites and land-based and ocean-based temperature gathering sites around the planet, and that temperature data is readily available for scientists of every nation to examine. The data shows an important truth: the Earth is getting warmer. The Earth warmed up and cooled down in the past, but the data that concerns climate scientists today is the vastly elevated levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – help trap heat on the Earth, reducing the amount of heat we radiate back into space, resulting in a warmer planet.

Why is a warmer planet a concern? Ice caps. Ice caps on Antarctica and Greenland contain a lot of ice, which, if melted, will raise sea levels around the globe. Why is that a problem? Because the majority of people on our planet live fairly close to a coastline, so rising water levels can harm or require relocation of many millions of people. Can you imagine how much it will cost to move millions of people from our coastlines to the interior of our country? And the cost to upgrade the existing infrastructures of cities far from the coasts to support much larger populations? Let’s just approximate it for now: a lot.

Another reason a warmer planet is a concern: weather. Meteorology 101: warm air holds more moisture than cooler air. Climate scientists predict that weather systems like hurricanes and monsoons, will increase in force as our planet warms. On average, one category 5 hurricane occurs every three years in the Atlantic. In 2017 alone, three Atlantic cat 5 hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – made landfall, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars of damage affecting millions of people in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. As of November 1st, 2017, months after Maria hit Puerto Rico, over half of the people there still lack electrical power, cellular phone support is spotty, and many people still have no clean drinking water.

The dangers of global warming are clear, and we need to act now to slow down the accumulation of global warming gases. We need to burn less fossil fuel, use alternate power sources with little or no carbon footprint, and use cleaner products like natural gas instead of coal. During the terms of President Obama, alternate power sources – wind, water and solar – were promoted and less clean fossil fuels like coal was de-emphasized. Unfortunately, the current US government under President Trump is actively suppressing and denying global warming. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under President Trump removed climate change data from their websites, instructed scientists to not appear at conferences discussing global warming, and even replaced qualified advising scientists with fossil fuel advocates. Why? Because fossil fuel special interests have friends in the Trump administration.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, and Erik Conway published a book in 2010 called “Merchants of Doubt.” This book has been identified as a classic for people interested in global warming, so I want to review it now, seven years after it was published. From what I saw, the material is not dated and it is still relevant. Let’s get started.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Ch 1. Doubt Is Our Product
Ch 2. Strategic Defense, Phony Facts, and the Creation of the George C. Marshall Institution
Ch 3. Sowing the Seeds of Doubt: Acid Rain
Ch 4. Constructing a Counternarrative: The Fight Over the Ozone Hole
Ch 5. What’s Bad Science? Who Decides? The Fight Over Secondhand Smoke
Ch 6. The Denial of Global Warming
Ch 7. Denial Rides Again: The Revisionist Attack on Rachel Carson
Conclusion: Of Free Speech and Free Markets
Epilogue A New View of Science

 

INTRODUCTION

There is good information in this section, so don’t skim over it. Two very relevant quotes:

“Why did they <climate change deniers> continue to repeat charges long after they had shown to be unfounded? The answer, of course, is that they were not interested in finding facts. They were interested in fighting them.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes, page 5

“Santer was reading the morning paper and came across an article describing how some scientists had participated in a program, organized by the tobacco industry, to discredit scientific evidence linking tobacco to cancer. The idea, the article explained, was to “keep the controversy alive.” So long as there was doubt, about the casual link, the tobacco industry would be safe from litigation and regulation. Santer thought the story seemed eerily familiar.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes, page 5

I’ve studied and followed science for nearly fifty years, and I’ve never met nor communicated with scientists that were not interested in the truth. Science is a self-correcting profession: when mistakes are found, they are corrected and our knowledge advances. The idea of scientists helping discredit valid data seems incredible, yet I remember how science and scientists researching tobacco and cancer links were attacked by people. It seemed incredible that, once science proved it was right the raised issue remained relevant to many people, but it did. At the time, it didn’t dawn on me that someone was trying to keep a controversy alive to fight the facts, but it makes sense in hindsight.

I am sure the scientists helping discredit climate change science have their reasons, but I don’t know what they are. I believe truth in science is mandatory, and that it is wrong to promote facts that are expedient to some political party or special interest or big business. I do not believe the bottom line is the most important thing in life. And in my opinion, any position that must be based on misinformation or falsehood is built on a wobbly foundation that will fail apart as soon as it is exposed.

When statements are proved false, why do the wrong statements still convince people. Let’s see what the authors of this book can show us.

CH 1. DOUBT IS OUR PRODUCT

This chapter shows that the tobacco industry used advise from a PR firm to create doubt about tobacco use being linked to cancer. They (the tobacco industry) used doubt to manufacture a debate to mass media that there two sides to the tobacco and cancer link, and the mass media needed to provide both sides equal time to argue. The mass media agreed and gave the tobacco industry a way to challenge scientific finds on tobacco use links to cancer.

A tactic used to counter prevailing science that tobacco use and cancer were linked was to cherry pick data and focus on unexplained or anomalous details. The purpose of this approach was to convert scientific consensus into scientific debate. Even when evidence mounted in 1964 that smoking increased the changes of developing cancer, the tobacco industry continued to fund research casting doubt on the facts.

Even into the seventies and eighties, when research that tobacco use was harmful, the tobacco industry was still quite profitable. It continued to market doubt by funding more research to counter scientific consensus on tobacco use links to cancer. Eventually, mass media realized that the argument that ‘the research raising doubts about tobacco use being linked to cancer’ deserved equal time to research showing ‘a correlation between tobacco use and cancer’ was wrong: it was not necessary to allow equal time to both sides. Why?

“While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense for a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence. It is about claims that can be, and have been, tested through scientific research – experiments, experience, and observation – research that is then subject to critical review by a jury of scientific peers. Claims that have not gone through that process – or have gone through it and failed – are not scientific, and do not deserve equal time in a scientific debate.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 32

The tobacco industry started fighting against the cancer links to tobacco use in the early 1950s, and didn’t start losing lawsuits until the 1990s. It is sad to note that:

“although the FDA sought to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug in the early 1990s, it was not until 2009 that the U.S. Congress finally gave them the authority to do so.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 33

An interesting correlation: the FDA didn’t get regulatory powers over tobacco until there was a democratic president and democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2009. In 2017, there is a pro-business republican president and pro-business republican majorities in the House and Senate, and the US government denies that global warming is real or a threat to our planet – even though the scientific data and the rest of the world disagrees. Could that be part of the problem having a pro-business political party in power? I think you can be pro-business without attacking inconvenient scientific facts that prove some businesses are not good for people or our planet.

One point the authors make about doubt and science also should be mentioned:

“Doubt is crucial to science – in the version we call curiosity or healthy skepticism, it drives science forward – but it also makes science vulnerable to misrepresentation, because it is easy to take uncertainties out of context and create the impression that everything is unresolved. That was the tobacco industry’s key insight: that you could use normal scientific uncertainty to undermine the status of actual scientific knowledge.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 34

If you had a relative that used tobacco products and die from cancer, this chapter is an eye opener. And the sad thing, is that other industries continued to use the same tactics developed by the tobacco to counter science in other issues affecting our world. Next up, President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative.

CH 2. STRATEGIC DEFENSE, PHONY FACTS, AND THE CREATION OF THE GEORGE C. MARSHALL INSTITUTION

SDI – Strategic Defense Initiative – aka Star Wars, was Ronald Reagan’s ballistic missile defense system. It was predicated on the false believe that nuclear war was winnable. I remember the SDI, and how scientists said it wouldn’t work, and how the Reagan administration was determined to implement it regardless what the experts said. Scientists like Cars Sagan were actively against it and vocal in their opposition, and Reagan and his cabinet were just as determined to install it. It was another case of science being attacked because it presented inconvenient facts.

“The crux of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was to install weapons in space that could destroy incoming ballistic missiles. This would “shield” the United States from attack, making nuclear weapons obsolete.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 43

As Naomi and Erik point out in this chapter, there were a number big reasons SDI should never have been promoted. One, it was technically impossible to work 100% of the time, so some bombs would get through. Two, if the Russians believed it would work, they would build more bombs to be sure they could win, meaning the arms race would escalate. Three, if Russia believed SDI would work, they might launch a pre-emptive attack before SDI was implemented to win before SDI could protect the US. Fourth, SDI was not testable, since we would need to launch many missiles at ourselves to test it.

A PR campaign, like the one used by the tobacco companies, resulted in Congress approving and budgeting $60 billion dollars for Star Wars. Crazy but true. Star Wars really was a major military buildup. Then scientists studying the atmosphere of Mars realized their model could be used to study Earth and began examining the chance that an asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They thought dust in the atmosphere would cut off light to plants, killing off the dinosaur food supply and killing off the dinosaurs. The scientists realized they could test the effects of a nuclear war, and discovered something chilling: nuclear winter. If we have a nuclear war, we could wipe ourselves out like the dinosaurs. Thus the TTAPS paper was written.

TTAPS, a nuclear winter paper, was examined by scientific peer review and only minor revisions were made, so it was considered valid. Before the TTAPS article was published in the scientific magazine Science, Carl Sagan published articles in Parade and Foreign Affairs, showing that we had too many nuclear weapons – enough to cause climate catastrophe. We needed to reduce, not increase, our nuclear arsenals from 80,000 soviet/US weapons to 2000 total. Some scientists were not happy Sagan published his Parade/Foreign Affairs articles before publishing the paper in Science, and some felt he left out important information that showed a more succinct picture of nuclear winter. Unfortunately, other scientists published papers criticizing the issues with the publications – Sagan’s decision to go public early was a problem for TTAPS.

Pro-SDI forces decided to counter the TTAPS nuclear winter paper, attacking the data and science and scientists. Following the same process as the tobacco companies, pro-SDI forces demanded equal time for their views and the media agreed, giving them an equal voice in the issue. These pro-SDI people attacked scientists credibility, as well as denying the validity of their views and data. This was when scientists were painted as left-wing political activists, instead of seekers of truth. They were making this into a political issue, which meant anyone disagreeing with it could dismiss it as political. This was the time that right-wing turned against science. This was when the Wall Street Journal started publishing articles critical of science.

CH 3. SOWING THE SEEDS OF DOUBT: ACID RAIN

The same time science was being attacking by Pro-SDI forces, a new issue – acid rain – was coming to light. The opponents of acid rain used the same argument as pro-tobacco forces: not enough was known, so nothing should be done about the problem.

INTERESTING FACTS: President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and signed the following important legislation: the Clean Air Act Extension, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. President Reagan moved the Republican party away from environmental concerns and started the war on science. These days, the republican party is against environmental laws and rules, shown by Scott Pruitt attempts to change the EPA into the EDA (Environmental Destruction Agency).

What is Acid Rain?

“Collateral damage is what acid rain is all about. Sulfur and nitrogen emissions from electrical utilities, cars, and factories could mix with rain, snow, and clouds in the atmosphere, travel long distances, and affect lakes, rivers, soils, and wildlife far from the source of the pollution.”
— Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 68

acidrain

How did Acid Rain Become a Problem?

“… the acidity was due to dissolved sulfate and the rest mostly to dissolved nitrate, by-products of burning coal and oil. Yet fossil fuels had been burned enthusiastically since the mid-nineteenth century, so why had this problem only arisen of late? The answer was the unintended consequence of the introduction of devices to remove particles from smoke and to reduce local air pollution.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 68

The environmental damage caused by acid rain includes leaching nutrients from soils and plant foliage, acidification of lakes and rivers, damage to wildlife, and corrosion of buildings. Studies showed that acid rain reduces forest growth as well as impact fish mortality.

Acid rain was studied for twenty-five years, then a summary article was published in Scientific American in 1979, introducing the science to the general public. The problem with acid rain, was that it was not restricted to the area or country where pollution originated. It affected neighboring areas and other countries, so it was a global threat. Under President Jimmy Carter, the US worked towards reducing pollutants that caused acid rain, but that was about to change.

Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, and Reagan wanted to: reduce regulations, decrease the reach of the federal government, and unleash the power of private enterprise. Sound familiar? It’s the same stuff touted by republicans today, and they have the same disregard for the environment. Acid rain was as acceptable a subject during the Reagan years as global warming was during the George W. Bush years – meaning not at all.

There was research into acid rain, and scientific views that immediate actions was needed, but the government took the side of the power industry and wanted more studies done and less concern raised to the public. Sounds like the situation with global warming these days, doesn’t it?

The only scientific research into acid rain reviewed by Reagan’s administration was modified to make the issue seem less critical than it was. There was no legislation during Reagan’s administration to fix acid rain, as

“the problem was too expensive to fix.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 101

Sadly, regardless of twenty-one years research on acid rain, the official position of the Reagan administration in 1984 was:

“We don’t know what’s causing it <acid rain>.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 101

Eight years after the Reagan administration suppressed the seriousness of acid rain, it was finally acted upon by the George H.W. Bush administration, which implemented a “cap and trade” plan that reduced sulfur emissions by 54% between 1990 and 2007. Sounds promising doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Are you ready for the bad news? Acid rain is still a problem. “Cap and trade” DID NOT FIX IT, and the same pro-business forces that fought against action during the Reagan years continue to downplay the issue, which is getting worse. The reason that is a problem, is that deforestation impacts global warming (reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide removed by trees, means more in the air).

Acid rain was a concern during the Obama administration, but sadly it is no longer during the Trump administration. On 11/11/2017, a search for “acid rain 2017” on Yahoo yielded a link to the EPA. I went to the EPA link and selected “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” under “What EPA is Doing” and got: “Page not found”. It has been removed from the EPA site, a common tactic Scott Pruitt has implemented to obfuscate science that threatens the technologies he and President Trump embrace. Apparently using more coal and gas is too important to allow people to see that the EPA knows that Acid Rain is still an issue. If this concerns you, please write, email and call your state and local representatives and ask them to investigate why the government is suppressing science to support industry.

CH 4. CONSTRUCTION A COUNTERNARRATIVE: THE FIGHT OVER THE OZONE HOLE

The public first became aware that our protective ozone layer was in danger was in 1970. This was a concern, because the ozone protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which is known to cause skin cancers, and a decrease in ozone meant an increase in cancer.

Initial research investigating the possible danger from Supersonic Transports (SSTs) looked at the impact of water causing problems with the atmosphere, but it was determined there wasn’t enough potential traffic to be an issue. Another venue studied was nitrous oxide compounds, which was a possible issue for ozone and it led to studies on emissions by the space shuttle, which used propellants that released chlorine into the upper atmosphere. Further studies focused on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which could degrade into chlorine and fluorine, which could reduce atmospheric ozone. CFCs were common, used in spray cans and air conditioners and refrigerators, and there were billions of pounds of CFCs produced every year for these uses.

CFCmolecule

Who would find this science threatening? How about the industries that used CFCs? And whom do you suppose mounted a PR campaign against the findings on CFCs? Yes, you are correct. Big business. Companies using CFCs argued against regulating or jumping to conclusions, but people eventually decided to use alternative products (roll-on deodorants, spray bottles) which made a difference. Then, in 1985, a hole was found in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

The ozone hole was verified by data from a satellite, but the amount of ozone depletion was unexpected. While people didn’t live on Antarctica, if the hole grew then it could affect people living in Australia and South America. NASA and NOAA began research in 1985 and sent researchers to McMurdo Bay in 1986 – the initial results confirmed the loss of ozone but failed to account for meteorological effects. NASA and NOAA conducted additional tests in 1987 to look at meteorological effects and found the weather conditions did speed up chlorine and ozone interactions.

Science studied the ozone hole and CFC issue, provided recommendations to cut back and eventually eliminate CFCs (thereby restoring Ozone coverage over time), and regulations were introduced to bring this about. It worked as it should, but there was still resistance from the CFC industry and skeptics, who continued to challenge ozone depletion after the science was settled. This resistance continued to propose that volcanos were the source of chlorine and that there was no need to regulate industry – the intention was to delay any action on CFCs to the benefit of the CFC industry.

The counter narrative to ozone depletion was driven by a pro-business group that decided to use their own facts to obfuscate science data to cause a delay in regulating CFCs. Is that right? Shouldn’t we want a safe environment for ourselves and the life on this planet, instead of merely making more money for some corporations? One of the people involved with producing a counter narrative to ozone depletion attacked the scientific community, and I want to share a quote I found astonishing when I read it in this book:

“It’s not difficult to understand some of the motivations behind the drive to regulate CFCs out of existence”, he wrote. ”For scientists: more prestige, more grants for research, press conferences, and newspaper stories. Also the feeling that maybe they are saving the world for future generations.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 129
NOTE: The “he” quoted above was neither of the authors – it was written by a skeptic.

EXCUSE ME?? It’s bad to want to save the world for future generations?? If that’s the case, I guess I’m in the same wrong camp, as I believe it is ethically and morally right to care what kind of world we leave our descendants. Perhaps I need to re-read Dantes’ Inferno to see where God sends people who care to save the world for future generations.

CH 5. WHAT’S BAD SCIENCE? WHO DECIDES? THE FIGHT OVER SECONDHAND SMOKE

In 1986, a new Surgeon General’s report concluded that second and smoke could cause cancer even in otherwise healthy non-smokers. When the EPA implemented regulations to limit indoor smoking, the pro business movement once again moved to attack, this time science and the EPA was the target.

In 1981, Takeshi Hirayama, chief epidemiologist at Japan’s National Cancer Research Institute did a study showing that wives of smokers had a much higher cancer rate than wives of non smokers. His study did as any good scientific study does: it demonstrated an effect and ruled out other causes. And, as you might expect, the study and the scientist was attacked by industry special interests. Health advocates responded to the attacks on Takeshi’s study and within five years forty states passed restrictions on smoking in public places.

The tobacco industry argued against second-hand smoke dangers, using studies to challenge the dangers to people around smokers. The EPA produced a report on the dangers of second hand smoke, linking it to lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma in infants and young children. One thing left out of the EPA report was the link of second hand smoke to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as there was uncertainty at what point in development or life infants were actually exposed to second hand smoke.

To counter the science, special interests decided to attack EPA science as junk science. The intent: to slow or stop regulation of second-hand smoke. This counter narrative meant that the media should cover skeptics that fight science on the same level as science. Special interest also released a book “Bad Science: A Resource Book” aimed at challenging the authority and integrity of science. I did a search on Yahoo and easily found it. It appalls me that science and scientists should be attacked, and that more people are not outraged at the insinuations. In my personal experience with science and scientists, I found both far more truthful than any politician or business, and I hope that people without any science education would be less susceptible to accepting claims attacking the scientific community.

This book lists six key points that “Bad Science” uses to challenge and attack science and scientific findings. To sum up these six points: bad, bad scientists. Wow. Special interests want to be the authority figures to scold scientists and hold them accountable. Like, special interests have no “special interests” in the stakes. Right. And I have a nice bridge for sale, you can have it cheaply if you have cash and act now.

In addition to attacking science, special interests decided to attack the EPA. Using pro business scientists, they challenged that the EPA was fair and promoted the view that the EPA was motivated by environmentalists with a hidden agenda, not science. They also attacked how data was studied and suggested other approaches that would favor skeptics over science. Attacking EPA guidelines let special interests control the fight and slow down the EPA’s ability to regulate second-hand smoke.

It’s hard to do your job, when your credibility is constantly being attacked. If people doubt your credibility, they doubt your defense of yourself and your work. To attack science as being anti-business because of their work, means that people believe business cares as much about their welfare as about their spending. Do you believe that?

CH 6. THE DENIAL OF GLOBAL WARMING

I’ve read good, authoritative books on global warming – The Madhouse Effect, Dire Predictions, Unstoppable – so I understand global warming is real. Scientific research on climate change has been going on for over 150 years, so the science isn’t new. The lead organization on climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it was formed in 1988 and published its first report on global warming in 1990. IPCC released their 3rd assessment on climate change in 2001, their 4th in 2007, their 5th in 2014, and the 6th assessment is scheduled for release in 2019.

In 2007, I worked with a self-proclaimed global warming skeptic. He proudly stated that “the only law I accept is the law of gravity.” He chose to accept the propaganda of his political party instead of actually reading any of the four IPCC reports. Why? Because it’s easy to be a skeptic when you believe in conspiracies. In 2008, Barack Obama became president of the U.S. and during the eight years he led the government, President Obama focused the government on the dangers of climate change – he signed the Paris Climate Accord, joining all but two countries of the world.

In 2016, Donald Trump became president, and he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accords, and when the two remaining holdouts signed the accords, the U.S. was left as the only country in the world not to sign the Paris Accords.  As of November, 2017, 170 of the 197 nations that signed have ratified the accord.  That will be Donald Trump’s legacy, which is sad.

The facts are, 97% of scientists in the world accept evidence that humans are affecting our global climate and we must make changes to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce the impact to our planet. With the science settled, why are papers and websites still publishing articles that attack climate change science and scientists?

Why do we have climate change skeptics twenty-two years after the initial IPCC climate change assessment? Why does the current U.S. government want to erase the improvements we made reducing carbon emissions under President Obama? As you probably guessed, we can once again thank special interests for delaying action to reverse the effects of climate change.

To reduce global warming, we need to reduce greenhouse gases, which increase the greenhouse effect. What are greenhouse gases? Primarily carbon dioxide and methane. Both come from natural sources, but the increased dependency on fossil fuel energy sources has released a lot both gases into our atmosphere, causing the Earth’s temperature to increase over time until it is climbing at unacceptable rates, which will cause the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps to melt and raise sea levels so much that people living near our coasts will be forced to move inland.

a-3.greenhouse_effect

A sad fact about acceptance of global warming in the book:

“Yet many Americans remained skeptical. A public opinion poll reported in Time magazine in 2006 found that just over half (56 percent) of Americans thought that average global temperatures had risen – despite the fact that virtually all climate scientists thought so. An ABC News poll that year reported that 85 percent of Americans believed that global warming was occurring, but more than half did not think that the science was settled: 64 percent of Americans perceived ‘a lot of disagreement among scientists’.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 169

A TRAIL OF PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTABILITY ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The first official report on global change was given to President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, and the information was also made available to President Nixon when he came into office in 1968. Both Johnson and Nixon had more pressing matters at the time (social issues, Vietnam war), so climate change didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I would point out that Republican President Nixon did create the EPA and sign several important acts concerning climate change.

President Jimmy Carter was president from 1976 to 1980, and drought-related climate issues affected food supplies for Africa, Asia and the Soviet Union, demonstrating how our global food supply is affected by climate. In 1977 the Department of Energy (DOE) had an advisory committee look into carbon dioxide and climate, which recognized that:

“the acute sensitivity of agriculture, and thus society in general, to even small changes in climate: ‘The Sahelian drought and the Soviet grain failure … illustrate the fragility of the world’s crop production capacity, particularly in those marginal areas where small alterations in temperature and precipitation can bring about major changes in total productivity’.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 171
(referencing MacDonald et al., The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide)

This advisory committee developed a climate model that showed that doubling the preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide from 270 ppm would result in an increase in surface temperature of 2.4 degrees C. The model suggested that warming would be at the poles, with a temperature increase of

“10 to 12 degrees C – a colossal amount.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 172

NOAA knew and discussed this as early as 1977, and President Carter’s science advisor asked National Academy of Science president Handler to review the advisory committee study. Handler gave the study to MIT Professor Jule Charney to review, and he assembled a panel of eight scientists plus two climate modelers (Syukuro Manabe and James E. Hanson) that had created the most advanced climate models at that time. The new models showed there could be natural processes providing negative feedback, that could slow down global warming some, but these wouldn’t affect a substantial warming. The small things like negative feedback didn’t address the problem caused by the villain: carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas.

Charney’s group prepared a report which concluded:

“If carbon dioxide continues to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 173
(referencing Verner E. Suomi in Charney et al., Carbon Dioxide and Climate viii)

Charney’s group knew they needed more data, as they didn’t know how fast the oceans absorbed heat, as:

“the more the well mixed the oceans are, the more heat would be distributed into the deep waters, and the slower the warming of the atmosphere would be.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 173

Essentially, the oceans act like a heat sink, delaying surface temperature increases. A positive from this news was global warming would be delayed. A negative from this news, was that the delay might mean people wouldn’t accept global warming until it was too late to change it.

The next report on global warming was written in 1980, and it focused more unsocial and political impacts – the authors suggested doing nothing, until more data was available, so we could continue burning fossil fuels. This report suggested that natural market corrections (voluntary reduced use of fossil fuels, alternative fuel sources) would be enough to address climate change – no need to regulate anything. Sound familiar? Yep, the same argument we hear today.

The next study on global warming had scientists and two economists. As you might guess, they had very different views to the dangers and facts of global warming. The report was written as chapters by each expert, including those by the economists. The chapter on sea level rise predicted a rise of 5 and 6 meters (1 m = 3.28 ft, so that meant 16.4’ to 19.6’ increase of sea levels). All chapters written by scientists reported that increased levels of carbon dioxide was bad and needed to be addressed immediately. The chapters by the economists disagreed – they argued that changes were too far into the future to matter at that time. The problem was this study, was that is focused on the chapters of the economists, not the scientists, and so it was not a true synthesis of ideas from all of the authors.

It may have appeared to be balanced, but it was not. The paper also downplayed the issues involving with moving people from affected areas to other locations – it is not trivial, but the paper presented that it was not an issue. When reviewed, the paper was criticized for failing to provide evidence to back the recommendation of doing nothing, which was contrary to scientific views on the issue. The comments from the reviewers were ignored, and the report (leaning 100% to the economists view) was published.

The problem with this new study, was that it was used to refute real scientific evidence about global warming, from scientists and from the EPA. It gave climate change deniers a report to back their stance and to attack climate change science. This paper gave the Reagan administration an excuse to do nothing for the years 1980 to 1988, while Reagan was president.

In 1988, the first organized effort to deny global warming began during the presidential election. James Hansen, climate modeler, testified at a congressional hearing that climate change was now visible and affecting the world. Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush promised to use the presidency to address global warming and sent Secretary of State James Baker to the first IPCC meeting. Unfortunately, deniers began attacking climate science in 1989 and climate scientists a few years later.

The deniers first blamed the sun as the source of increased surface temperatures on Earth. The deniers published a white paper denying global warming, and presented it to departments of the U.S. government – this caused the George H.W. Bush administration to deny climate change. This report suggested the Earth was near the end of a 200 year heating cycle and should soon begin to start cooling off. The problem with this paper, was it misrepresented the actual data and cherry-picking valid data to support the position of no global warming.

The first IPCC assessment, published May 1990, rejected that the sun caused the temperature increases as shown in the report by the deniers. Unfortunately the deniers continued to say the sun was the source of global warming and presented their stance on the road in 1991 and 1992, attacking the IPCC.

In June 1992, leaders of many governments went to Rio de Janeiro for the U.N. Earth Summit. President George H.W. Bush also attended and signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which came into effect in 1994. The framework was an agreement in principle on limiting emissions, and the real limits would be set at Kyoto Japan. Unfortunately, adoption of the Kyoto accord was blocked in the U.S. Senate by Senators Hagel and Byrd in 1997.

CH 7. DENIAL RIDES AGAIN: THE REVISIONIST ATTACK ON RACHEL CARSON

Rachel Carson revealed the dangers of industrial pesticides, leading to the ban of DDT in 1972. Since it was banned, Ms. Carson and her work has been attacked by deniers trying to create a scenario where any regulation is bad. This has gone on into the 21st century and is part of the new denial culture.

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CONCLUSION

I decided to leave out the individual players in the different chapters because the authors did such a good job with the details and references. This review isn’t meant to replace the book, but to encourage you to read it, as it is very powerful, compelling and honestly somewhat frightening. When you see the link between the deniers of tobacco and the deniers of climate change, you may be as shocked and angry as I was.

I’ve always maintained that, if you need to lie to promote your views, your views are wrong, you lack the courage or wisdom to accept the facts, or you are more interested in protecting something than doing what is right.

I understand that special interests have an obligation to support their industries – I disagree it should be necessary to misrepresent or distort facts or attack researchers, but I understand the motives. They are interested in the success of their industries; the bottom line rules.

I find it terrible that the people we elect to protect us – members of Congress and some presidential administrations – failed to support science, the EPA, and their constituents. Our elected government should have our best interests at heart, not the interests of companies that donate a lot of money to their election campaigns. I cannot see how history will view the actions of politicians that helped special interests affect the viability of life on our planet. Perhaps they hope to rewrite the history books.

In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico respectively. Of the three, I only recall one climate change denier say he would stay in his house that was in the path of Irma, but he “changed his mind and moved to be able to continue his broadcasts”. If climate change is so wrong, why do these deniers not line every shore that scientists predict will be hit by hurricanes? Those predictions, based on science, are good enough reasons for climate change deniers to move to safety, so why do they choose to ignore predictions of rising sea levels and increased air and water temperatures? Choosing which facts you believe and which you deny, based on what costs the least money, is indefensible. Unfortunately it is a common tactic of science deniers.

HOW TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES

The truth is, we need to change how science raises concerns to adapt to the attacks by special interests. There will be more scientific findings in the future that will affect businesses, and special interests will continue to use the same type of attacks that worked for tobacco, ozone depletion and global warming.

SCIENCE: As long as some scientists are willing to put their economic or political interests ahead of the facts, more education isn’t the answer: we need an easy way to prove that science is right and has addressed some concerns already. There is a site online that contains a list of issues raised about global warming – I’ve not seen it mentioned on social media or in articles, but referring the media to it when skeptics attack should be done automatically.

THE PRESS: I cannot see how the press allows attacks on the scientific community, without questioning what attackers have to gain by these assaults. How can any members of the press promote that politics and big business as more trustworthy and reliable than people dedicated to seeking out the truth? Doesn’t make sense to attack the scientific community for having a political agenda, without questioning the political agendas of the people attacking science. The press needs to stop taking the view that there are two sides to every scientific issue and stop being used to slow down regulations that help people and the environment.

INTERESTED NON-TECHNICAL PEOPLE: Far too often people with little or no science background challenge scientific findings in newspapers and on the Internet. If you lack a basic science background in a topic, why do you believe you can challenge scientists? If you doubt climate change, read “The Madhouse Effect” by Dr. Michael Mann or “Unstoppable” by Bill Nye – both clearly explain the science, and neither author is making billions of dollars by selling books. They both want to educate people so people can make informed opinions on climate change. Curious people need to educate themselves, not with stories on the internet, but with solid information from people without a stake in the topic. Read a book, don’t watch a short YouTube video and consider yourself informed.

INDUSTRY: The government should reward companies that report issues with their products. If a company received a tax credit for coming forward about an issue, they would be compensated for their honesty. If they received a fine for failure to report, they also have financial motivation to be honest. If companies are shown to know about an issue but they decided to delay regulation, they should be massively fined and all people associated with that act sent to prison.

GOVERNMENT: Due to the complexities of science, we could use a special court to focus on science issues – this could lead to a new area of law in the near future. And regulatory portions of the government should be lead by non-partisan people that new political administrations can change, as Scott Pruitt has done with the EPA.

MY RECOMMENDATION ON THIS BOOK

I enjoyed this book – tremendous job by the authors on compiling so much relevant data and presenting it clearly and at a level most people can understand. The writing is logically organized and flows well, and it is easy to read. I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It is worth buying and keeping in your library. Buy a copy of this book for yourself and extra copies for family and friends that are interested in the subject.

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