The scientific community has established that the burning of fossil fuels is significantly and negatively changing earth’s climate; however, the fossil fuel industry is challenging this in order to protect their profits. They are using a strategy which is not new and was previously used first by the tobacco industry and then by the chemical industries with regard to acid rain, the ozone hole and DDT. Since it was used for the first time by the Tobacco Industry, Naomi Oreskes coined the term “The Tobacco Strategy” in her book entitled “Merchants of Doubt”.
The Tobacco Strategy is predicated upon buying time by sowing doubt. Given enough time, the truth must prevail so it is impossible to win these battles and the Contrarians are fully aware of this. However, if the inevitable is delayed by several decades, that is several decades of profit in the coffers of the industries that sponsor this strategy. Thus, profit is the motive and “The Tobacco Strategy” has been shown to be a very profitable strategy.
Sowing doubt is extremely easy since there is always a lack of certainty in the scientific community. Scientists state hypotheses and develop evidence to support the hypotheses but can never state with 100% certainty that a hypothesis is true. However, even when the confidence expressed by the scientific community is established to be 98%, there remains a two percent uncertainty with which doubt can be sowed among the gullible public.
The scientific community itself is manipulated to sow doubt against itself. There are always elements in the scientific community on the fringes who oppose mainstream science and these scientists, oftentimes with legitimate scientific credentials, are recruited to write pseudoscientific articles and give lectures to the unwary. Sham institutions such as the CATO Institute and the Heartland Institute are created to give the pseudoscience a facade of legitimacy.
In addition to the scientists on the fringe that are recruited, there unfortunately are those that prostitute themselves for financial gain. The financial gain is significant since these scientists knowingly embark upon a cause which ensures them of a negative legacy.
As discussed earlier, the Tobacco strategy is not new and has been used several times in the past. There is thus a wealth of experience from which to draw upon and unfortunately it is being used by the Climate Change Contrarians with consummate perfection. Unfortunately, the consequences of using this strategy to argue against Climate Change will be far more serious than past “Tobacco Strategy” campaigns.
Robert J. Guercio, October 11, 2010
*The information and ideas for this blog come from the book “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes
Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill/190269751
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