Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

Thu, 2011-05-26 13:52Brendan DeMelle
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DeSmog Interview with Curt Stager, Author of 'Deep Future' - Answer Trivia Qs To Win A Free Book!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Curt Stager, author of Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life On Earth.  Here is Part 1 of the interview, stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2. Answer the trivia questions at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a free copy of Deep Future.

Brendan DeMelle (BD): Your book is about the impacts of climate change far into the future, and as you point out, that means very far into the future, not a 5-year plan that seems far away in the lifespan of a human, but thousands, millions and billions of years from now.  What advice do you have for people who struggle to comprehend the time scale of these impacts? How can people alive today attempt to relate to the deep future?

Curt Stager (CS): We live our lives on short time scales, in which even the end of the work day can seem like “forever” in the future, and we rarely deal with extremely large numbers or quantities on an immediate personal level.  As a result, facing a legacy of climatic effects that stretches many thousands of years into the future can be mind-boggling, even for a scientist.  But that’s actually one of the important points to recognize in this amazing story; our ecological impacts on the planet are mind-boggling in scope. 

We can become more comfortable in handling large sweeps of time with practice, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to grasp exactly what 100,000 years means in order to understand that the changes we’re setting in motion today are far larger than we once thought, any more than it’s necessary to know the exact weight of a bull elephant in order to realize that you’d better not mess with it.

Wed, 2011-01-19 11:06Chris Mooney
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Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?

UPDATE: After posting this, I realized that the idea that climate denial is ideological, rather than corporate driven, is also the explicit and central argument of Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt. There was no intention to slight them–it’s just that I’d read Dunlap and McCright more recently, so their work was at the front of my mind. I’ve added a reference below, and my apologies to Oreskes and Conway.

Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US, and in particular, on the role of conservative think tanks in driving this resistance.

In a series of 2010 papers, however, I’m detecting a theme that runs contrary to what many often assume about the driving forces of climate denial. It is this: McCright & Dunlap argue that while corporate interests may once have seemed front-and-center in spurring resistance to climate science, at this point it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ideological motivations are actually the primary motivator. Or as they put it: “conservative movement opposition to climate science and policy has a firm ideological base that supersedes the obvious desire for corporate funding.”

Tue, 2010-03-09 14:18Richard Littlemore
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New Naomi Oreskes Talk Available

University of California (San Diego) science historian Naomi Oreskes has a new lecture on line, promoting her upcoming book: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

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