Text excerpted from the book: PROTECTING THE PLANET-Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change (ISBN 978-1-63388-225-6)
Budd Titlow & Mariah Tinger
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BG98CCWF / http://www.buddtitlow.com
In 2010, Science Historian and Harvard Professor, Naomi Oreskes released her boldly eviscerating book, Merchants of Doubt. Later made into a movie, Merchants exposed the anti-Climate Change lobby for exactly what they are—paid naysayers posing as professional scientists to line their own pockets with money from the fossil fuel industry. Remarkably, the same scientists who stated—for the record—that “smoking was not detrimental to human health” and that the “ozone hole didn’t exist” were now proclaiming to the world that Climate Change was a “liberal-inspired hoax”. Their main ploy involved capitalizing on real climate scientists’ reluctance to state their findings with 100% certainty—hence fabricating an ongoing pall of doubt over the Climate Change debate.
Naomi Oreskes—Professor / Oracle
The instant we walked into Professor Naomi Oreskes’s office, her office mates knew exactly whom we sought. Naomi “Engaged Scholar” Oreskes has been lighting up the media. The media attention burgeons from her irrefutable courage to throw herself squarely and vociferously into the climate debate that most career-minded scientists give a wide berth.
Dr. Oreskes is a Professor of the History of Science and an Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 1990 in the Graduate Special Program in Geological Research and History of Science. Oreskes’ career as a historian led her to an in depth examination of the role of dissent in the scientific method. To investigate the legitimacy of the climate science reports, she did a search of 1,000 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific literature over the past ten years—a novel action in regards to global warming. Out of all of the reports that she pulled, not a single paper provided dissent against the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) statement: “Most of the observed warming over the past fifty years is likely to have occurred due to greenhouse gas emissions”. When Oreskes published these results in Science in 2004, titled “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change”, she found herself under immediate political attack. In regards to the article, she said, “It ignited a firestorm. I started getting hate mail….at the same time, Al Gore talked about my paper in An Inconvenient Truth. Suddenly, I was a hero to the left because of Al Gore and a demon to the right because I was now part of the conspiracy to bring down capitalism. I thought I’d entered a parallel universe.”
The wild backlash to her paper made Oreskes realize that there was something weird going on. She explains how in the hate mail she received, “I would be accused of all kinds of strange things [e.g. being a Stalinist and a Communist]”. That was her first clue that there was something more to the story than just public misunderstanding of the science. “Most scientists thought that this was a problem of scientific illiteracy… People had no idea that the reason there was so much confusion and doubt was because there had been an organized, well financed, well structured, professional campaign to create confusion and doubt.” she explained, shaking her head. When she realized that there was enormous public debate about something so important, she knew she needed to tell the full story in a big way.
Dr. Oreskes critics were scientists, but not climatologists, nor did they study any form of climate science, yet they spoke on the issue of climate change as if they were experts. These were the same folks that engineered doubt for the “tobacco wars”, as well as ozone depletion. They worked off of a “playbook” of strategies—“insist that the science is unsettled, attack the researchers whose findings they disliked, demand media coverage for a ‘balanced view’”.
Why would they go to such great lengths, you might ask? These “merchants of doubt”, as Oreskes named them, intentionally targeted and undermined science cited to support new government regulations. The battle that this group waged against Climate Change, a destructive force that threatens the livelihood of all of us, was not about science, but economics. These physicists were strong believers in the unfettered free market and felt that without free markets we could not have democracy. What was the link between the topics they were doubt-mongering? Oreskes said, “Each was a serious problem that the unregulated free market didn’t respond to”. To stop any of these problems, tobacco use, acid rain or climate change, regulation is required—and that is anathema of this group of doubt-mongers.
To compound the problem, the community of climate scientists did very little to speak out against these myths. According to Oreskes, when asked why they didn’t do more, the scientists she spoke with said “’we knew it was garbage so we just ignored it’. Well that does not really work you know. You have to take out the garbage…and that’s where the scientific community has been a bit slow.” So Oreskes did. Her prime target was to educate the broader scientific community. The secondary target was journalists, “because journalists were presenting the issue as a big debate and I wanted to say to the journalists, look this is wrong, you are misrepresenting what is actually going on in the scientific community” said Oreskes.
She thinks that the climate challenges we face can be solved, but as we hear often from our heroes, “the hour is late”. To solve the problem, she says, “nearly all economists agree that we need a price on carbon. I would like to see that as a first step, and see how far it takes us”. Also, market-based mechanisms have the potential to appeal to a wide variety of people, including those who fear that Climate Change is an excuse to dismantle capitalism. In the long run though, she thinks we need to change the way we think, “We have deified markets, and made the profit motive not only the dominant one, but the only one that the right wing does not consider suspect. This is a strange state of affairs. Once upon a time altruism was honored, greed was suspect. In the past 30 years, the ideologies of neo-liberalism have turned that on its head”.
Author’s bio:For the past 50 years, professional ecologist and conservationist Budd Titlow has used his pen and camera to capture the awe and wonders of our natural world. His goal has always been to inspire others to both appreciate and enjoy what he sees. Now he has one main question: Can we save humankind’s place — within nature’s beauty — before it’s too late? Budd’s two latest award-winning books are dedicated to answering this perplexing dilemma. PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, a non-fiction book, examines whether we still have the environmental heroes among us — harking back to such past heroes as Audubon, Hemenway, Muir, Douglas, Leopold, Brower, Carson, and Meadows — needed to accomplish this goal. Next, using fact-filled and entertaining story-telling, his latest book — COMING FULL CIRCLE: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America — provides the answers we all seek and need.Having published five books, more than 500 photo-essays, and 5,000 photographs, Budd Titlow lives with his music educator wife, Debby, in San Diego, California.