Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists have Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change

Date

03-11-2015

Time

7:30–9 p.m.

Location

Presidents Hall, Franklin Hall

Description

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life.  In particular, American scientists, dating back to Roger Revelle and Dave Keeling in the 1950s, pioneered research on anthropogenic climate change. Yet, today we lead the world in climate change denial.  Nearly half of American citizens aren’t sure that climate change is caused by human activities, and a large part of leadership of the Republican Party refuses to accept that climate change is happening at all.

This talk explains how this strange state of affairs came to be. It tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists, with effective political connections, ran a series of campaigns to challenge well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly; some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled,” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, sulfuric emissions to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it.  This talk explains both how and why.

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