Heartland Institute documents reveal strategy of attacks against climate science
Documents illegally leaked from the Heartland Institute, one of the most active groups engaged in attacking the science of climate change, provide an unprecedented look into how these groups operate. The story was broken Tuesday by DeSmogBlog, a website dedicated to exposing false claims about climate change science. The documents reveal that donors to Heartland included oil billionaire Charles Koch, and Heartland has spent several million dollars over the past five years to undermine climate science. Tens of thousands of dollars are slated to go this year to well-known climate contrarians S.Fred Singer, Craig Idso, and Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That? website. Naturally, the leaked documents have lit up the blogosphere, but none of the revelations are particularly surprising. The U.S. has a very successful and well-funded climate change denial industry, primarily funded by fossil fuel companies, that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few decades on a PR campaign against climate change science. I made a lengthy post on the subject in 2009 called, The Manufactured Doubt industry and the hacked email controversy. I won't say more here, but getenergysmartnow.com has compiled a long list of blogs that have interesting posts on the Heartland Institute affair for those interested in following this story.
Eight books challenging the Manufactured Doubt industry
Important scientific findings should always be challenged with the goal of finding flaws and improving our scientific understanding. But there's nothing a scientist hates more than to see good science attacked and the reputations of good scientists smeared in name of protecting corporate profits or ideology. A number of scientists have fought back against the recent unfounded assaults on climate change science by publishing books calling attention to the Manufactured Doubt industry's tactics and goals. Anyone priding themselves on being a open-minded skeptic of human-caused global warming should challenge their skepticism by reading one of these works. I thought so highly of Unscientific America, Merchants of Doubt, and Climate Coverup, that I donated 50 copies of these books to undergraduates at the University of Michigan last year. Here's a short synopsis of eight books published in the past three years defending climate change science against the attacks of the Manufactured Doubt industry:
Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. If you're going to read one book on the attacks on climate science, this should probably be the one--Dr. Oreskes, a history professor at UC San Diego, was voted climate change communicator of the year in 2011. A review of Merchants of Doubt and a video of her defending her book against skeptics is at climateprogress.org, my favorite website for staying current on the politics of climate change. From the review: "Make the journey with them, and you’ll see renowned scientists abandon science, you’ll see environmentalism equated with communism, and you’ll discover the connection between the Cold War and climate denial. And for the most part, you’ll be entertained along the way."
Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, by desmogblog.com co-founders James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore. The main author, James Hoggan, owns a Canadian public relations firm, and is intimately familiar with how public relations campaigns work. It's another fascinating and very readable book.
Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, by science writer Chris Mooney. He writes a blog focusing on science communication called the intersection. This is a fantastic book, and should be required reading for all college science majors.
Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand, by Haydn Washington and John Cook. John Cook writes for one of my favorite climate science blogs, skepticalscience.com, which focuses on debunking false skeptic claims about climate science. The book does a great job debunking all the classic climate change denial arguments.
Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, by George Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels, who now heads the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). This meticulously-researched book has just one chapter on climate change, and focuses more on tobacco and hazardous chemicals. About the the tobacco industry's Manufactured Doubt campaigns, Michaels wrote: "the industry understood that the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad. Create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. Throw mud at the anti-smoking research under the assumption that some of it is bound to stick. And buy time, lots of it, in the bargain". The title of Michaels' book comes from a 1969 memo from a tobacco company executive: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy".
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, by climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann. Dr. Mann is the originator of the much-debated "hockey stick" graph of global temperatures over the past 1,000 years, which looks like a hockey stick due to the sharp increase in temperatures in recent decades. This book just came out last week, and I hope to write a review on it this spring. Dr. Mann is one of the main contributors to my favorite web site for staying current on climate change research, realclimate.org. John Cook of skepticalscience.com wrote a review, calling it "an eye-opening account of the lengths the opponents of climate science will go to in their campaign to slander climate scientists and distract the public from the realities of human caused global warming."
Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America by Shawn Lawrence Otto. I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but it looks interesting. A review by Katherine O’Konski of Climate Science Watch called the book "a fascinating look at the status of science in American society."
The Inquisition of Climate Science, by Dr. James Lawrence Powell, a geochemist with a distinguished career as a college teacher, college president, museum director, and author of books on earth science for general audiences. I haven't read it, but John Cook of skepticalscience.com wrote a review, calling it "a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the full scope of the denial industry and their modern day persecution of climate science."
Have a great weekend, everyone! I'll be taking a few vacation days next week, and wunderground meteorologist Angela Fritz will probably be doing most of the blogging for me during the coming week.