Climate change deniers adopt similar strategies to tobacco industry of the 1950's

March 1, 2014
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What are the similarities between climate change deniers and the tobacco industry?

This week the Supreme Court heard argument to limit the power of the EPA.

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  As Congress has been unable to agree on any meaningful environmental regulation, President Obama has relied upon the EPA to address carbon emissions.  While the Court has previously ruled that the EPA could regulate carbon emissions in Massachusetts v EPA (2007), this case looks to narrow the extent of EPA control.  Based upon the questioning, as well as the justices’ votes in 2007, this case is most likely to be decided by Anthony Kennedy.  Unfortunately, despite overwhelming evidence to support the role of carbon dioxide in climate change, many conservatives are still unwilling to acknowledge the connection.  Interestingly, the strategies used to deny global warming are strikingly similar to those used in the 1950s and 1960s to deny that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.  Rather than discuss the scientific studies that linked cigarette use to lung cancer, the cigarette industry actively conducted a campaign of deception and misinformation.  They repeatedly tried to introduce doubt where none existed.  They hired scientists to work for them, controlling the data that they could publish.  They actively lobbied to prevent or delay regulations.  And, for decades they succeeded.  Even as recently as 1995, five trillion cigarettes were sold annually.  In 1998, big tobacco lost several class-action lawsuits and the incidence of smoking in now on the decline, however, millions of Americans died over five decades while deception to preserve corporate profit was a cornerstone of executive strategy.  What is different about the fossil fuel industry’s efforts today?  As Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway address in their book “Merchants of Doubt,” manufacturing doubt is an effective corporate strategy.  In fact, a 1969 tobacco industry memo acknowledged that “doubt is our product.”  Is doubt still being sold today?

What do you think?

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