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Essential reading to understand misleading propaganda
on 29 July 2014
Recently there has been a growth in contrarian claims that major environmental problems just aren't real. If you read the Mail, Telegraph and, sadly, even the Times in recent years you might think there was a debate about whether or not global warming/climate change was really happening.
There is no debate: the basic principles were established long ago. Science is never complete, there is always scope for debate about the details, the rate at which various things will occur, models can always be improved. And this is where confusion is spread. 'Free market fundamentalists' as this book ends up defining the main players in this story use the nature of science; that there is always some uncertainty and more needs to be researched to deliberately confuse issues; to suggest that not knowing precisely how pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will affect the climate in minute detail is the same thing as not knowing that it will cause the world to heat up overall.
This book shows how an anti-science movement began when the tobacco industry recruited scientists to help obscure the harm cigarette smoking caused. (Oddly most of the scientists in this story began as cold war rocket scientists.) There was a calculated strategy of distortion and misleading the public about the harm caused by cigarettes, and the same people went on to argue against almost every ecological threat and for nuclear weapons right up to the present day. It's the same people, the same "think" tanks, the same techniques, the same funders (though in recent years the fossil fuel corporations have played an increasingly large role.)
And it all stems from wishful thinking. 'The invisible hand of the market' will create the 'best of all possible worlds' and any regulation is a bad thing. They are even trying to re-write history and claim DDT was benign!
Sadly this nonsense is now spouted widely, by Viscount (Matt) Ridley, James Delingpole, Lord Lawson and, most incredibly by Owen Paterson, until recently the Secretary of State for the Environment. Whenever a threat to the environment is identified the kneejerk reaction of the political far right is to deny the science. The market is perfect: if science tells us the market is devastating the environment it must be the science that is wrong. (Compare this with badger-culling and neonicotinoids today for example - not in this book but following the tradition and style of argument developed here.)
Read this book: learn how a handful of scientists in the pay of large corporations and billionaires have betrayed science, spread distortions and misrepresentation and obstructed environmental protection; get angry and take action to counter the lies before the damage to our planet is irreversible.