Stephen Leahy interviews science historian NAOMI ORESKES
PARIS, Mar 24, 2010 (IPS)
Even though 2009 was the fifth warmest year since 1850, and 2000-09 the warmest decade ever, according to the World Meterological Organisation, surveys show that public concern about global warming in the United States and Canada has dropped sharply in the past 18 months.
Why? Because of a relentless disinformation effort from an unlikely cabal of fossil fuel interests, Christian evangelicals and the media, says Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego.
“They have managed to reopen the debate over global warming in people’s minds,” she told IPS.
Oreskes and co-author Erik Conway, a science historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, document similar efforts to manufacture doubt around the science on acid rain, the ozone hole, secondhand cigarette smoke, and the pesticide DDT in their just published book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”. [Tons of excellent reviews — the “eye-opener of the year” says one reviewer.]
In 2004, Oreskes was vilified on TV, radio and in print by commentators for providing clear evidence there was in fact a scientific consensus on global climate change. Her essay in the journal Science examined all of the peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate over the previous 10 years and found none dissented with the theories that climate change was occurring and it was caused by humans. Her survey has never been successfully challenged, despite many attempts.
Q: Where is the vehement opposition to the very idea that we need to do something about climate change?
A: Some of it is ideological, part of a long history in the United States that equates environmental regulation as going down the slippery slope to socialism. And some is religious. Christian evangelicals don’t like science in general and have found common cause with the coal industry as a way to be able to teach creationism. Obviously, the motivation of the coal industry is rather different but now these people have come together to undermine science in general.