Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Merchants of Doubt

In a previous post I mentioned the deliberate attempt at inventing "scientific debate." The culprits, and methods used, are extensively debated and explained by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. They posit that from smoking to global warming, and other manufactroversies, there has been a concerted effort to invent doubt. As I wrote then:
We were first shown that tactic by the tabacco industry (PDF) , which despite increasing evidence smoking is detrimental to our health, made it possible to stall legislation. Their trick: manufacturing scientific doubt.
We have just been given proof that these claims are indeed not merely speculation. As it happens Exxon appears to have proven the existence of global warming decades ago yet chose to counter their own scientists by generating an industry of denialism. According to The Nation:
"... from months of careful reporting by two separate teams, one at the Pulitzer Prize–winning website Inside Climate News, and other at the Los Angeles Times (with an assist from the Columbia Journalism School). Following separate lines of evidence and document trails, they’ve reached the same bombshell conclusion: ExxonMobil, the world’s largest and most powerful oil company, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the mid-1980s, and then spent the next few decades systematically funding climate denial and lying about the state of the science."
They continue:
"But though we know now that behind the scenes Exxon understood precisely what was going on, in public they feigned ignorance or worse. CEO Lee Raymond described global warming as “projections are based on completely unproven climate models, or, more often, on sheer speculation,” and insisted—in a key presentation to China’s leading officials in 1997—that the globe was probably cooling."
The image I used in the aformentioned post aptly captured these revelations:

Another article by The Nation suggests a possible criminal case:
“The revelation that Exxon knew about the link between climate change and carbon pollution as early as 1981, and yet continued to support the decades-long campaign of denial described in the [Union of Concerned Scientists] report, strengthens the parallel with the tobacco-industry conduct that led to a civil RICO verdict against tobacco,” Senator Whitehouse told The Nation.
Which is also discussed by Greg Laden:
"The timing of this expose is interesting because it comes at about the same moment as a call to use US RICO laws to investigate and possibly prosecute those who seem to have been conspiring for a long time muddy the waters about the science of climate change in order to put off taking action that might financially hurt Big Petrol. (See also this.) "
He reanalyses their results and presents the results, showing that Exxon was amazingly accurate. As an aside I quote The Progressive:
"Greenpeace's investigation of the role of ExxonMobil in funding climate change deniers led to an interactive website,, where visitors can select people and organizations and view the charted connections between dozens of organizations, funding streams, and climate-denying experts active in the decades-long, $30 million effort."
The Guardian has the following to say:
"Recently, 11 House Republicans broke ranks with their party leadership to call for action against climate change. Thus far, dependency on fossil fuel industry campaign donations has played a major role in the Republican Party’s efforts to obstruct national and international climate policies. "
Which, coincidentally, underscores my point that politicians might not always have an honest and objective incentive to make realistic decisions.

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