Merchants of Doubt

Imbolc                                                            Valentine Moon


Spent yesterday doing the Climate Change course.  A fascinating series of lectures titled Merchants of Doubt.  Primary author of the book, Naomi Oreskes, is a historian of science at U. Cal. San Diego and a lecturer in this course.  This book and her lectures make a compelling and important case that climate change denial has its roots in the work of a small group of distinguished scientists, three initially:  Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz, and William Nierenberg.  All three were cold war physicists working on nuclear arms.  All three distinguished themselves.  Jastrow became head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Seitz was president of the National Academy of Science and Rockefeller University, Nierenberg headed the Scripps Institute for almost two decades.

Read Great Wheel for the expanded story. The three of them worked on an advisory panel for Reagan’s Star Wars Defense Initiative.  When 6,500 scientists refused to take SDI money or work on it in any way by signing a petition stating their intentions, it caused great concern among these three cold war physicists.

The three created the George C. Marshall Institute to challenge the scientific consensus against Star Wars.  Seitz also worked for RJ Reynolds as a consultant.  In 1989 the cold war ended. The U.S. had won the cold war.  This deflated the rationale for the Institute; but, using the strategies developed by the tobacco industry, “doubt mongering”, the Institute went on to attack the science behind acid rain, ozone holes and eventually, global warming.

This methodology, honed in tobacco wars and practiced against acid rain and ozone (unsuccessfully, as it turned out), has been blisteringly effective against climate change science and its policy implications.  Why?  Read the rest of the story on Great Wheel later today or early tomorrow.


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