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Naomi Oreskes, THE Merchant of Doubt herself, uses tactics of the tobacco lobby

Naomi Orsekes’ big intellectual contribution to the climate debate is her fantasy that skeptics copy tactics from the tobacco lobby. It’s a trick to reframe real criticism — Dr A spots a real error, but Oreskes waves the “Tobacco tactic!” red flag. Stop the conversation!

Not only are these ad hom attacks tactics as old as the stone age, bone obvious, and used in every political hot-potato debate, but “tobacco tactics” are the stock and trade of Prof Naomi Oreskes.  She’s make a whole career out of mimicking the tobacco industry.

Oreskes wrote an entire book designed to denigrate scientists based on tenuous links on unrelated topics with 20 year old documents. She is The Merchant of Doubt — it’s what she sells — “doubts” about the motivation of skeptical scientists. Her fantasies about skeptics using tobacco tactics is pure psychological projection. Perhaps she isn’t aware?

In a science debate about the climate, the only things that matter are evidence and reasoning about the climate. Those who can’t point out flaws in the science debate launch personal attacks from the gutter instead. What has tobacco got to do with Earth’s Climate? It’s not a forcing or a feedback, but the smoke sure clouds the public discussion.

A. O. SCOTT, NY Times,unwittingly writes a parody of Oreskes:

The pro-tobacco strategy also called for smearing critics and invoking noble ideals like personal freedom against inconvenient facts like nicotine addiction.

Oreskes “smears critics” and invokes the noble ideal that believers in man-made climate change are doing it to help the poor and the planet. That doesn’t fit the facts, where believers get paid three thousand times more than skeptics, and don’t care  when the poor starve, or when their pet projects end up chopping and frying the wildlife they were meant to save. Hey, accidents happen, but it’s the response (or lack of) to the unintended consequences that telegraphs their real intentions.

The reference is to the long campaign to obfuscate and undermine attempts to make the public aware of the dangers of cigarettes. As early as the 1950s, tobacco companies were aware — thanks to their own research — that their products were hazardous and habit forming, but they waged a prolonged and frequently successful campaign to suppress and blur the facts. Their tactics included sending dubiously credentialed experts out into the world to disguise dishonesty as reasonable doubt. “We just don’t know.” “The science is complicated.” “We need more research.”

Who suppresses and blurs the facts in the climate debate? Could that be people who talk about tobacco instead of clouds and humidity?

Who sends out dubiously credentialed experts? Sounds like the Nobel Prize winners, who got “Peace” prizes because they weren’t smart enough to win a Physics prize (like these skeptics did). Or worse, is it like people who didn’t even win a Nobel Peace Prize but like to pretend they did? Is that dubious enough?

As for telling the world the cop-out “the science is complicated” — it’s not what skeptics do, instead it’s the alarmist modus operandi. The science is so “complicated” only certified approved climate experts can see the future, and riff raff like brain surgeons, nuclear physicists, and Fourier mathematicians are too stupid to be able to form an opinion on something as complex as a climate model. Besides, thousands of these independent “non-climate-experts” are being paid by Phillip Morris to seed doubts. You’ve never seen a conspiracy theory as big as this one.

What’s remarkable is that Orsekes is playing the weakest of hands, yet some journalists, columnists, and “scientists” can’t see through it.

From a post I wrote about The Merchant of Doubt in 2012:

Oreskes, the Queen of Climate Smear, ignores the big money, has no evidence, throws names

The skeptics seed doubts by questioning the evidence and pointing to contrary results (isn’t this known as “discussion”?). Oreskes seeds doubts by digging through biographies, analyzing indirect payments of minor amounts, hunting through unrelated topics and tenuous associations from 20 year old contracts.

  1. Oreskes can name virtually no significant funding for skeptics. Skeptics are almost all unpaid volunteers, working out of professional and patriotic duty, appalled by the illogical, anti-science sentiments of people like Oreskes.
  2. The enormous “vested interests” are well over a thousand to one in favor of alarmism as measured by funding, yet Oreskes has not even considered them. The largest proactive skeptical organization (Heartland) has a budget that is one hundredth of Greenpeace and WWF’s combined.  Funding for alarmist research since 1990 is at least $79 billion, and probably a lot higher. Funding for skeptical research is so small, no one can add it up. The oil giants like Shell and BP mostly support alarmism and carbon markets. The global carbon market was worth $176 bn in 2011, about the same as the global wheat trade, and the renewables investments added up to $243 bn in 2010. These are very large amounts of vested interest. Because Oreskes is blind to the real money in the debate we can only assume she is an activist rather than a historian.
  3. She resorts to twenty year old documents about tobacco funding to smear by association because she has so little real evidence of actual funding or misbehavior of skeptics. As it happens, Fred Singer was never directly paid by a tobacco company, has never doubted that smoking causes cancer, but corrected a scientific statistical error in a paper on passive smoking. He deserves thanks. Oreskes owes him an apology.

While skeptical scientists always criticize the scientific claims of the Climate-Fear Lobby, Oreskes can’t fight back on that front, because she’s completely out of her depth. She wrote that a pH of 6.0 denotes neutrality (p. 67) and that Beryllium is a heavy metal (p. 29) and she blames “Oxygen-15” in cigarette smoke for being the cause of lung cancer, though she could not explain how this radioactive isotope is generated in cigarettes.  She doesn’t realize it has a half life of 122 seconds. No wonder she trawls through the gutter instead of debating a guy like Fred Singer on the science. She wouldn’t stand a chance.

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