Feb. 24, 2011-According to a recent study from the Yale Project on Climate Change, 40 percent of Americans believe there is major scientific disagreement as to whether global warming is real. Yet most climate scientists agree that global warming is happening, and has been for some time. Ever since researchers began examining the evidence that our planet is heating up-and that human activities are probably to blame-people have questioned that data, doubted the evidence and attacked the scientists who collect and explain it.
On Feb. 28 at 12:15 p.m., Naomi Oreskes, will explain what – or rather, who – is to blame for this misperception of scientific opinion. The event, in the SJ Quinney College of Law Sutherland Moot Courtroom, is sponsored by the college’s Wallace Stegner Center. It is free and open to the public. No pre-registration is required.
A professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego, Oreskes recently co-authored the book “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” with Erik M. Conway.
“Merchants of Doubt” details the story of how a cadre of ideologues clouded the public interpretation of scientific facts to advance a political and economic agenda for over four decades. The book contends that this loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established science.
Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly in the book. Some of the same figures who claimed the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, argued that acid rain and the ozone hole was caused by volcanoes and charged that the Environmental Protection Agency had rigged the science surrounding secondhand smoke.
The book attempts to answer why scientists would deliberately misrepresent the work of their own colleagues and willfully distort the public record; why they would refuse to admit their mistakes; and why the press continued to quote them, year after year, even as their claims were shown to be false.
Oreskes’ study “Beyond the Ivory Tower,” published in the journal Science, was a milestone in the fight against global warming denial and was cited by Al Gore in his movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Erik Conway has published four previous books, including “Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History.” “Merchants of Doubt” is their first book together.