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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly written and meticulously researched book of the utmost importance, 28 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (Hardcover)
In 1988 the United States was on course to take remedial action to slow the pace of man-made global warming. But by the mid 1990s the issue was dead. This change was brought about by a small, loosely connected group of individuals, who used skills and techniques they had honed during earlier campaigns:
> on behalf of tobacco companies to deny the adverse health effects of smoking (when the tobacco companys' own scientists had known the truth for decades);
> on behalf of chemical companies to deny the existence of the ozone hole, and when that was established beyond doubt, to pretend that it was not caused by the release of CFCs;
> on behalf of the fossil fuel industry to deny that the burning of coal was the principle cause of acid rain;
> and other issues.
And again and again the same names, Singer, Seitz and Nierenberg in particular, keep cropping up.

This extraordinarily important book describes the history of each campaign in turn, and exposes the techniques of disinformation which proved, and continue to prove, so devastatingly effective, especially when people were being fed things they wanted to hear which allowed them to continue irresponsible behaviour. The power of a few determined mavericks to successfully undermine the combined expertise and authority of mainstream scientific bodies at the highest level is chillingly apparent.

The authority of the book, with its moderate, scholarly tone and its 64 pages of references, is all too evident. Indeed the reader can only wish that its appalling story were not so obviously true. But it does provide a convincing explanation for the biggest puzzle of all - what on earth it is that motivates these people, who presumably live on Earth like the rest of us, and some of whom must surely have grandchildren too. The answer has something to do with free market zealotry and passionate antipathy to regulation of any kind, but if the argument could be summarised in a review there would have been no need to write the book, or indeed to read it.
It is a gripping and fascinating read. Forget fiction like the Da Vinci Code, this is the real thing. I recommend it without the slightest hesitation.
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