The Grand Portage Reservation is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Air Quality Program has many ongoing projects in order to maintain healthy indoor and outdoor air. These projects include monitoring for regional haze and particulate matter, indoor air quality, invasive plant removal, public outreach, environmental education, alternative energy, and climate change.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Do Lung Cancer and Climate Change Have in Common?

The answer is that both have powerful propaganda efforts working to deny any human caused link to them. In the case of lung cancer they deny links to smoking, in the case of climate change they deny any links to human-caused CO2 emissions. In both cases they bring out the same arguments from the same think tanks that try to find any small error to discredit researchers or even the scientific peer-review process itself.

From the Guardian:

The fact is that the critics — who are few in number but aggressive in their attacks — are deploying tactics that they have honed for more than 25 years. During their long campaign, they have greatly exaggerated scientific disagreements in order to stop action on climate change, with special interests like Exxon Mobil footing the bill.

Many books have recently documented the games played by the climate-change deniers. Merchants of Doubt, a new book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway set for release in mid-2010, will be an authoritative account of their misbehaviour. The authors show that the same group of mischief-makers, given a platform by the free-market ideologues of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, has consistently tried to confuse the public and discredit the scientists whose insights are helping to save the world from unintended environmental harm.

Today's campaigners against action on climate change are in many cases backed by the same lobbies, individuals, and organisations that sided with the tobacco industry to discredit the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Later, they fought the scientific evidence that sulphur oxides from coal-fired power plants were causing "acid rain." Then, when it was discovered that certain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere, the same groups launched a nasty campaign to discredit that science, too.

Later still, the group defended the tobacco giants against charges that second-hand smoke causes cancer and other diseases. And then, starting mainly in the 1980s, this same group took on the battle against climate change.

What is amazing is that, although these attacks on science have been wrong for 30 years, they still sow doubts about established facts. The truth is that there is big money backing the climate-change deniers, whether it is companies that don't want to pay the extra costs of regulation, or free-market ideologues opposed to any government controls...

But then I recalled that this line of attack — charging a scientific conspiracy to drum up "business" for science — was almost identical to that used by The Wall Street Journal and others in the past, when they fought controls on tobacco, acid rain, ozone depletion, second-hand smoke, and other dangerous pollutants. In other words, their arguments were systematic and contrived, not at all original to the circumstances.

We are witnessing a predictable process by ideologues and right-wing think tanks and publications to discredit the scientific process. Their arguments have been repeatedly disproved for 30 years — time after time — but their aggressive methods of public propaganda succeed in causing delay and confusion.

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