A sophisticated campaign to manufacture doubt about climate change and discredit climate scientists has used a similar “how-to handbook for fact fighters” and a familiar lineup of some of the same professional “doubtmongers” involved with the tobacco industy’s denial of the science linking its products with cancer in the 1960s. Merchants of Doubt, written in 2010 by Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway and to be released as a documentary film this week, exposes the strategies of the “public relations exercise” of pushing the “product of doubt” to maintain industry profits.
Some of the campaign’s recycled talking points take direct aim at the agendas, ethics, and honor of our civic leaders, policy makers, and public servants – ultimately intending to undermine the public trust – for example, by claiming that: “Too often, science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda; Government agencies, too often, betray the public trust by violating principles of good science in a desire to achieve a political goal; Public policy decisions that are based on bad science impose enormous economic costs on all aspects of society.”
Oreskes explains, "But this is part of the strategy, too. These people put words in other people's mouths, and then they act all outraged about it, and they spread the claim that you said something that you never said. And then they threaten to sue you for it."
As suggested by Graham Readfearn, it’s up to each of us – especially our civic leaders – to “lift the hood on the climate denial machine to reveal its hidden workings.” Because as age-old wisdom has taught us, the devil is in the details. And these details will have a monumental effect on the future of our children and generations to come.
It’s a product that you can find in newspaper columns and TV talk shows and in conversations over drinks, at barbecues, in taxi rides and in political speeches.
You can find this product in bookstores, on sponsored speaking tours, in the letters pages of local newspapers and even at United Nations climate change talks.
This product is doubt - doubt about the causes and impacts of climate change, the impartiality of climate scientists, the world’s temperature records, the height of the oceans and basic atmospheric physics.
There’s doubt too about the “agenda” of policy makers and government environment agencies and a continued attempt to politicise climate science as “leftist”.
There’s also doubt over the role renewable energy might play now and in the future.
Yet where it matters most, in the leading scientific journals in the world, any doubt that burning fossil fuels is causing the planet to heat up is almost nowhere to be seen.
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