Friday, March 20, 2015

The Film that Reveals How American ‘Experts’ Discredit Climate Scientists

A proposed pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to the US has ignited protests on climate change grounds. (Credit: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
For Naomi Oreskes, professor of scientific history at Harvard, there’s no more vivid illustration of the bitter war between science and politics than Florida’s ban on state employees using terms such as “climate change” and “global warming”.  No matter that the low-lying state is critically vulnerable to rises in sea level, or that 97% of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is occurring and human activity is responsible, the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, instructed state employees not to discuss it as it is not “a true fact”.

In one sense, news of the Florida directive could not have come at a better time – a hard-hitting documentary adaptation of Oreskes’s 2010 book Merchants of Doubt is just hitting US cinemas. In another sense, she says, it is profoundly depressing:  the tactics now being used to prevent action over global warming are the same as those used in the past – often to great effect – to obfuscate and stall debates over evolutionary biology, ozone depletion, the dangers of asbestos or tobacco, even dangerous misconceptions about childhood vaccinations and autism.

Scott’s de facto ban is, she tells the Observer, “a grim state of affairs straight out of a George Orwell novel.  So breathtaking that you don’t really know how to respond to it.”

It is also a display of just the kind of prevarication and intransigence that Oreskes studied to establish her formidable scholarly reputation.  Each argument – if that is the correct term – has followed a strikingly similar path, and in each case, scientists have been drawn into debates that have little to do with a sound-science, rigorous exchange of knowledge.

Read more at The Film that Reveals How American ‘Experts’ Discredit Climate Scientists

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