Naomi Oreskes defeats the merchants of doubt

Naomi Oreskes has written a new book. It is titled ‘Merchants of Doubt’, and it is about people who are selling ‘doubt’ etc etc -we’ve heard this all before. The story line developed in the book is summarized by the authors in, where else,  Nature magazine.

If you try to watch the Oreskes videos on Youtube, let me warn you – your brain might fall off your head, and you might need to go looking for a brain-whisperer to coax it back into your skull.

What is it, we are told, is new in her book? Apparently the latest argument is…, brace yourself — that the skeptics have borrowed techniques from…the tobacco industry (!).

After being blown to bits by that devastating revelation, we pull ourselves together to carry on with the rest of the article.

Ms Oreskes also states that similar strategies have been pursued, to combat the idea that ‘the pesticide DDT should have been banned’.

Let us just attribute that to poor sentence construction for now.

Oreskes and her co-author take issue with the now-famous Gleick letter to Science — you know, the one with the fake polar bear, the letter in which he and his hundreds of co-authors admonished us saying “All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts”. Oreskes characterizes the letter’s approach, as

  1. being framed with ‘care and nuance’,
  2. ‘intellectually scrupulous’
  3. ‘admirable’

only to accuse the authors of being coy about brainwashing the public about the ‘fact’ of anthropogenic global warming.

Could you please tell me – what exactly is new about this? Climate science ‘communicators’ have been whipping up climate frenzy for a good amount of time now. Each communicator leapfrogs the previous communicator but it is all within the same sandbox. Look at what Susan Joy Hassol, another communicator, had to say in 2008:

Clearly state the settled scientific conclusions. Do not overdo “weasel words” and caveats. We know it is warming and we know it is due primarily to human activity. Say so.
(Eos, Vol. 89, No. 11, 11 March 2008)

That’s right – it is the same thing. It is the same thing, over and over again. Oreskes herself informs us, that we have all ‘been here before’. So one cannot help reach the obvious conclusion – there is nothing new going on here.

Imagine how frustrating it must be to be a ‘climate change communicator’. The stupid climate scientists keep using weasel words. The stupid public keeps ‘continually muddling the facts’. In fact they are thinking that the ozone hole is letting the warmth in. Aaargh!

The main point of Oreskes’ article, their thesis, is they have figured out why climate scientists have not gotten their ‘message’ across — tampering by the ‘merchants of doubt’. The authors state:

One reason that the public is confused is that people have been trying to confuse them, in large part by intentionally waging campaigns of doubt against climate science.

You cannot help but ask

“You are telling me that after climate scientists have been hacking away at their science and measurements for decades, after billions of dollars have been poured down the gaping maw of climate change communication, publicity, advertisements and conferences, after a Nobel prize has been given away to a pair of global warming acolytes, after many a government committee meeting and US Congressional hearing, after all this, that a few people sowed, what is it that you call it – ‘doubt’ and the whole edifice of anthropogenic global warming has come crashing down?”

That’s right – that is the main reason why public belief in the theory of AGW is so low.

To think of it, global warming alarmists label those who are skeptical as kooky conspiracy theorists.

Here is my explanation: One can be sure Oreskes and her co-author, being the learned individuals they are, as we are told repeatedly by Oreskes’ admirers,  have a more  sophisticated understanding why the project to educate the public on global warming has failed. But they do not present it to us because that would be ‘nuanced’ and too much for a ‘continually muddled’ public to handle. Remember how the American presidential candidate John Kerry undid his own campaign by merely using the word ‘nuance’.

“Let’s just make up something nice and simple, and easy to swallow” – they must have thought.


Desmogblog: Oreskes, Conway exposing the merchants of doubt
Deltoid: Naomi Oreskes on Merchants of doubt
EcoAmerica: From tobacco to climate change, ‘merchants of doubt’ undermined the science
NoTricksZone: Naomi Oreskes Denial of a Non-Consensus: A look at a failed historian


One comment

  1. klem

    SO Naomi Oreskes has written a book designed to expose the ‘merchants of doubt’ for all to see. And she actually provides nothing new, nothing that the public does not already know. The only explanation for the existance of book is to make a buck. What else is new?

    For the life of me, I have no idea why this person gets so much attention.