The Inquisition of Climate Science

The Inquisition of Climate Science

James Lawrence Powell
Copyright Date: 2011
DOI: 10.7312/powe15718
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/powe15718
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Inquisition of Climate Science
    Book Description:

    Modern science is under the greatest and most successful attack in recent history. An industry of denial, abetted by news media and "info-tainment" broadcasters more interested in selling controversy than presenting facts, has duped half the American public into rejecting the facts of climate science -- an overwhelming body of rigorously vetted scientific evidence showing that human-caused, carbon-based emissions are linked to warming the Earth. The industry of climate science denial is succeeding: public acceptance has declined even as the scientific evidence for global warming has increased. It is vital that the public understand how anti-science ideologues, pseudo-scientists, and non-scientists have bamboozled them. We cannot afford to get global warming wrong -- yet we are, thanks to deniers and their methods.

    The Inquisition of Climate Science is the first book to comprehensively take on the climate science denial movement and the deniers themselves, exposing their lack of credentials, their extensive industry funding, and their failure to provide any alternative theory to explain the observed evidence of warming. In this book, readers meet the most prominent deniers while dissecting their credentials, arguments, and lack of objectivity. James Lawrence Powell shows that the deniers use a wide variety of deceptive rhetorical techniques, many stretching back to ancient Greece. Carefully researched, fully referenced, and compellingly written, his book clearly reveals that the evidence of global warming is real and that an industry of denial has deceived the American public, putting them and their grandchildren at risk.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52784-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Radio and television broadcasters accuse climate scientists of promoting a global warming hoax, recommending that they be “named and fired, drawn and quartered” (Rush Limbaugh); commit “hara-kiri” (Glenn Beck); and be “publicly flogged” (Mark Morano). The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (Christopher Monckton) calls climate scientists evil and pronounces them as guilty of genocide as war criminal Radovan Karadžic.

    Gerald Warner, a columnist for the UK Telegraph, writes that

    the status of the white-coated prima donnas and narcissists has never been lower. . . . After a period of priest-like authority, the pointy-heads in lab coats have reassumed the role of...

  5. 1 Science and Potemkin Science
    (pp. 7-14)

    Anyone following the controversy over global warming is bound to come away with the impression of two parallel but separate universes: the scientists and the deniers. Two conferences, one held in December 2008 and the other in March 2009, reinforced that impression. The two meetings were outwardly identical, as speakers illustrated their remarks with charts and tables and took questions and comments from their audience. But there the resemblance ended, for the two sets of speakers began with different missions and ended with opposite conclusions.

    The scientists who presented their research at the December 2008 meeting of the American Geophysical...

  6. 2 Adventures in Denierland
    (pp. 15-23)

    To meet a global warming denier and begin to understand their organizations and tactics, let us look in depth at the presentation at the 2009 Heartland Institute Conference by Terry Dunleavy, MBE, JP, titled, “ ‘Consensus’ in Climate Science: An Unsubstantiated Urban Myth.”¹ (MBE stands for “Member of the British Empire,” the most junior of the British Orders of Chivalry; JP for Justice of the Peace.) In probing Dunleavy’s claims, we will wander in and out of the Internet to visit other deniers and their websites.

    Dunleavy, a congenial, 80-year-old New Zealand wine grower and self-professed nonscientist, serves as executive...

  7. 3 The Evidence for Consensus
    (pp. 24-35)

    To understand the case for consensus, we need to know how science operates and how scientists acquire knowledge. They begin by making observations and developing hypotheses to explain them. Next they devise experiments or measurements to test the hypotheses. If enough tests corroborate a hypothesis, scientists may elevate it to the status of a theory. Contrary to popular usage, in science theory is a term of honor used to describe a concept for which there is considerable evidence, though not proof, and which explains enough of the observations to merit further testing and refinement. (One reason scientists never finally prove...

  8. 4 Discovery of Global Warming
    (pp. 36-42)

    We have established that scientists share a consensus on global warming, but why do they? What is the theory of global warming and what is the evidence for it? This chapter and the next two provide the answers.

    Most people likely heard the term global warming for the first time in the 1990s and may be unaware that it is one of the most venerable ideas in science.¹ In 1896, using only pencil and paper, a Swedish chemist and eventual Nobel Prize winner named Svante Arrhenius calculated that if the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere were to...

  9. 5 The Greenhouse Effect: From Curiosity to Threat
    (pp. 43-50)

    How fast and how far could atmospheric carbon dioxide rise and with what effects? One of the fi rst groups to take up those questions was the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), which Dwight D. Eisenhower had upgraded from President Truman’s Science Advisory Committee and relocated to the White House. (Today we know it as the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, or PCAST). In 1965 the Environmental Pollution Panel, a subcommittee of PSAC that included Roger Revelle and Charles David Keeling, reported that “by the year 2000 there will be about 25% more CO2 in our atmosphere...

  10. 6 Global Warming: All You Really Need to Know in One Chart
    (pp. 51-53)

    Why do scientists agree that global warming is real and caused by humans? Because the evidence convinces them. Listen to the deniers and you would believe that the evidence for global warming is so complicated and inconclusive that even specialists rightfully disagree. Not so: the core evidence for global warming is plain and fits on a single chart (fig. 6.1).

    The front frame of the chart shows how, as humans began to burn larger amounts of coal after the Industrial Revolution, carbon emissions rose sharply and have continued to do so into the Oil Age. The middle frame shows how...

  11. 7 Tobacco Tactics: The Scientist-Deniers
    (pp. 54-72)

    According to a Pew Foundation poll conducted in November 2009, twothirds of Americans believe that scientists disagree about global warming. Yet as we have seen, every scientific organization that has spoken, and the vast majority of individual scientists, accept global warming. Oreskes found not a single peer-reviewed paper that expressed doubt. What could have given the public such a misleading impression? There are several reasons, but one is that an industry of denial has mounted a successful public relations campaign, employing the same small set of apostate scientists to claim that global warming is false, or at least nothing to...

  12. 8 Fear of State: The Nonscientists
    (pp. 73-92)

    On September 25, 2005, three-and-a-half weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, host George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s This Week pondered with panelists Donna Brazile, David Gergen, and George Will whether global warming had affected hurricane intensity.¹ Gergen argued that the connection only made common sense: We know that waters in the Gulf of Mexico have warmed. Warmer waters should cause more severe hurricanes. Two new studies had just shown that Atlantic hurricanes had become more severe. Gergen detected cause and effect, but Will begged to differ. With a sigh of ennui, the Washington Post pundit protested:

    I have an alternative...

  13. 9 Toxic Tanks
    (pp. 93-109)

    The Think Tank has become so influential an institution in American politics that it seems almost to constitute another branch of government. Organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Cato Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation, the Rand Corporation, and others less prominent, appear constantly in the media. According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the top twenty-five U.S. think tanks, ranked by media citations, break down ideologically into 37 percent conservative, 47 percent centrist, and 16 percent progressive...

  14. 10 An Industry to Trust
    (pp. 110-120)

    The industry of denial has spent millions of dollars in its campaigns. Most of its front organizations are public charities that have little or no funds of their own. Where did they get the money? Thanks to IRS reporting requirements, we know the answer and one source dwarfs all others: ExxonMobil Corporation.¹ Between 1998 and 2005, the company gave $16 million to more than forty organizations that deny global warming. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) received $1,625,000; Lee R. Raymond, ExxonMobil’s chairman and CEO, served as vice chair of AEI’s Board of Trustees. In February 2007, AEI wrote to scientists...

  15. 11 Balance as Bias: How the Media Missed “The Story of the Century”
    (pp. 121-132)

    In a misguided attempt to be “fair and balanced,” or because of a failure of understanding, outright laziness, or because controversy sells and consensus does not, American media have given the same few deniers equal weight with the world scientific community.¹ The individual deniers, organizations like the Heartland Institute and their funders—none could have succeeded in duping America had the media not aided and abetted. As expected, right-wing media like the Wall Street Journal and Fox News are guilty, but so are the Washington Post and the New York Times. The two-decades long success of the industry of denial...

  16. 12 Science Under Attack
    (pp. 133-147)

    On SkepticalScience.com, John Cook lists and in one short sentence each refutes more than 130 denier arguments against global warming.¹ The site is also available as a mobile application, allowing ready access during a conversation around the family dinner table or at your favorite watering hole. I have already covered some denier claims; in this chapter I will examine several other prominent ones.

    That global warming is natural, not man-made, is one of the earliest and most obvious arguments. Before humans began to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, all changes in climate had to have been natural. We know...

  17. 13 Greatest Hoax in History?
    (pp. 148-158)

    In a speech on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe called the threat of catastrophic global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Two years later, far from recanting, Inhofe hearkened back to that speech with evident pride, adding that “environmental extremists exploit the issue for fundraising purposes, raking in millions of dollars, even using federal taxpayer dollars to finance their campaigns.”¹ By early 2009, Inhofe had lost his position as chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to Californian Barbara Boxer. In another speech on January 8, Inhofe...

  18. 14 Climategate: Much Ado About Nothing
    (pp. 159-169)

    After the release of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in the spring of 2007, international climate conferences under the auspices of the United Nations took place in Bali the following December and in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008. These laid the groundwork for the Copenhagen conference in mid-December 2009, whose goal was to replace the Kyoto Protocol, set to expire in 2012, with steeper, mandatory reductions in carbon emissions. As the UK’s Guardian put it in an editorial, “The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to...

  19. 15 Anatomy of Denial
    (pp. 170-179)

    Global warming deniers use tactics familiar not only because the tobacco companies used them on us or our parents, but because many are rhetorical devices known since the Greeks.

    Adopt the trappings of your opponent. Organizations like the Heartland Institute put on conferences with all the earmarks of scientific meetings. Introduced as experts, deniers present talks, show charts and tables, and take questions from the audience. But such conferences are Potemkin villages of denial, creating a façade of science in its absence.

    Crichton’s State of Fear is a masterpiece of illusion, a fictional polemic disguised as a work of science...

  20. 16 Escalating Tactics
    (pp. 180-187)

    In the last few years, the tactics of global warming deniers have evolved to mimic those of the creationists. Even though they have almost always lost in court, creationists have been able to gain control not only of local school boards, but of state boards of education and even state legislatures. One of their most successful strategies has been to appeal to the good old American notion of fair play. When an issue is in dispute, should we not hear from both sides? This not only seems to represent common sense, it is the foundation of parliamentary democracy and our...

  21. 17 Earning Trust
    (pp. 188-190)

    It comes down to trust. Global warming deniers ask us to trust them and to distrust scientists individually and collectively. But the American public has always trusted scientists, and for good reason. Should it stop doing so now, when we need science more than ever?

    A poll by the Pew Research Center in July 2009 found that 84 percent of respondents believed that science has had a positive effect on society. On the question of which professions contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being, the poll ranked the military first at 84 percent, followed by teachers at 77 percent, scientists at...

  22. Appendix
    (pp. 191-192)
  23. Notes
    (pp. 193-212)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-220)
  25. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 221-222)
  26. Index
    (pp. 223-232)