Naomi Oreskes: The American Denial of Global Warming

This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through… a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
– Lyndon Johnson, 1965

This extremely well-researched talk given by Naomi Oreskes and posted to Scientific American is generating some discussion online, and should generate much more. It reveals in detail how the same people have used the exact same rhetoric over and over again to prevent political action on a multitude of scientific issues where there was a strong, broad consensus.

Some notes I took while watching it:

  • Frank Luntz 2003 Memo to Republican Candidates urged them to use the phrase “climate change” vice “global warming,” because the former was much less frightening.
  • Scientists knew as far back as 1896 with Svante Arrhenius that human CO2 emissions were warming the globe.
  • The political tactic of manufacturing a fake debate to dispute the scientific consensus on Global Warming has been previously used to dispute scientific criticisms of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), the consensus that sulfur and nitrogen emissions cause acid rain, the consensus that CFCs cause the hole in the ozone layer, the consensus that cigarette smoking causes cancer, and that Environmental Tobacco smoke causes cancer.
  • Dr. S. Fred Singer has been the highest-profile scientists behind many of these efforts, using the same rhetoric each time:
  • “The Tobbacco Strategy”

  • The Science is uncertain
  • Concerns are exaggerated
  • Technology will solve the problem
  • There is no need for government interference
  • There’s much much more to Oreskes’ talk. If you can find an hour, even to let it just play in the background, you’ll be surprised at what you hear:






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