‘Merchants of Doubt’ by Naomi Oreskes: [Essay Example], 672 words GradesFixer
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‘Merchants of Doubt’ by Naomi Oreskes

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The book ‘Merchants of Doubt’ by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway puts forward the common fibre that links lung cancer, nuclear weapons, acid rain, the ozone hole, pesticides like DDT, and climate change together. They’ve all been the victims of an anti-environmentalist program that has for decades contradicted scientific facts and hence has decelerated our response to these dangerous environmental situations. And they all revolved around the same bunch of people like Singer and Seitz. In each case they tried to keep the controversy alive by spreading confusion around the country so that the industries kept running the business while any jurisdiction was delayed.

The statements of the eminent people if observed are flawed with faulty reasoning, mainly using Appeal to ignorance throughout, and conjured the confusion by claiming that there was doubt within the scientific community.

In context of global warming:

  • Thomas Schelling, the economist who stated that adaptation or immigration was the solution to environmental change and he also mentioned in the letter to Academy that the scientists were uncertain, and therefore, the policy makers should do no regulation yet to save the potential cost. He claimed that they should rather fund more research. [Red herring]
  • Changing climate: Report of the Carbon Dioxide assessment committee, was a two-sided report of 5 chapters of natural scientists claiming that the climate change was severe and 2 chapters of economists who emphasized on waiting to see what could have happen. Even the implementation of carbon tax was difficult. Nierenberg, like Schelling, stressed upon on the solution of migrating to another place, and that no political reforms were needed. [Red herring]
  • EPA prepared two reports, both alarming the seriousness of the accumulation of CO2, which was discounted by Keyworth’s monthly report in October for NAS report. Evidently the people who weren’t the experts (economists) in the field were given more heed, and they set forth policies.
  • Then GMI, founded by Seitz, on its report blamed majority of the warming on the Sun, rather than the effects created due to burning of fossil fuels and industrial revolution. They cherry picked the data (Keeling curve out of 6 other graphs) from Hansen’s team and presented it, show casing the linear curve and ignoring the exponential growth of CO2 in the environment.
  • Fred Singer, a physicist then did used the same playbook that he used for the American tobacco industry; doubted the alarming effect of global warming and increasing effect of C02 like the cancerous effect of cigarettes. Acid rain and ozone depletion, too. Then in 1990s, Singer tried to create Strawman fallacy again when he said that global warming was the greatest global challenge facing mankind.
  • F. Seitz blamed Santer and the research work of IPCC of the major human impact on nature and claimed that it should be abandoned by government, hence rely on GMI for the data. [Ad hominem, slippery slope]. Over the decades, Singer and Seitz repeated their charges that they’d already made, but singer also took the opportunity to turn the IPCC’s caution about it.
  • Seitz, had used the strategy to persuade people to tobacco smoking was safe was doubt mongering, and therefore claimed that it was incorrect for the government to limit smoking in public places. And was applying the same method global warming, acid rain, ozone hole, nuclear winter and pesticide to ultimately letting the respective industries run their business.
  • Another important benchmark was Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and freedom shared his strong belief in free-market capitalism, political freedom and economical freedom go hand in hand. The environmentalists in those times were insisting government upon the regulation of tobacco, fossil fuel, pesticides etc., to which Friedman argued that regulation would eventually lead to socialism. The contrarians in the book, merchants of doubt hence regarded environmentalism would ultimately lead to socialism. [slippery slope]

Tyndall, Arrhenius, Revelle, Keeling and all other numerous scientist’s work were discounted for the work of handful of scientists like Singer and Seitz, delaying any action against the human activities and industrial revolution. They were selling uncertainties for decades, and emphasising doubt to prevent political action by the government.

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