Sound familiar?

21 04 2007

Take a look at the tactics listed below, used in a well-known global environmental crisis.  Maybe not the one your thinking of though.

  • Launch a public relations campaign disputing the evidence.
  • Predict dire economic consequences, and ignore the cost benefits.
  • Find and pay a respected scientist to argue persuasively against the threat.
  • Use non-peer reviewed scientific publications or industry-funded scientists who don’t publish original peer-reviewed scientific work to support your point of view.
  • Trumpet discredited scientific studies and myths supporting your point of view as scientific fact.
  • Point to the substantial scientific uncertainty, and the certainty of economic loss if immediate action is taken.
  • Use data from a local area to support your views, and ignore the global evidence. 
  • Disparage scientists, saying they are playing up uncertain predictions of doom in order to get research funding.
  • Disparage environmentalists, claiming they are hyping environmental problems in order to further their ideological goals.
  • Complain that it is unfair to require regulatory action in the U.S., as it would put the nation at an economic disadvantage.
  • Claim that more research is needed before action should be taken.
  • Argue that it is less expensive to live with the effects.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m referring to climate change but in fact these techniques were used to argue against action on the hole in the ozone layer.  The list is quoted verbatim and was put together by a meteorologist at the website below (which covers the issues in detail):     www.wunderground.com/education/ozone_skeptics.asp

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2 responses

25 04 2007
John Feeney

Amazing.

Lately, I’m seeing some parallels between climate change denial tactics and population growth denial tactics: predict dire economic consequences if populations decline, disparage as “doomsayers” environmentalists who say it’s a problem, rely on non-experts (in this case economists and other non-environmental-scientists) to refute notions that population is a problem, etc. One big difference, though, is that environmental writers have, for the most part, caved in and opted not to talk about population. Not good.

25 04 2007
Verdurous

I guess taboos in society change over time. Just look at our words. One time blasphemy was the worst you could do, then it was words relating to bodily functions and sex. Now the most unacceptable taboo words relate to ethnicity. What does the future hold? Maybe in the future swear words will take the form of insults relating to ecological harm. Similarly I think there are prevailing ideas in academic discourse that seem to drift into a “no-go zone” for various reasons. Perhaps there is a view that these ideas are in some way dangerous. I certainly feel that the truth should prevail, however distasteful it seems. Many have said that the worst form of censorship is self-censorship, which is what you are referring to above. It is particularly insidious and harder to idenitfy than external censorship. It is a tricky area. I’m sure that climate sceptics feel they are being censored and pressured heavily not to speak. The good thing about truths is that they can only be suppressed or denied for a set time. They have a way of shining through. Al Gore says about the climate change argument; “We have a powerful ally on our side – REALITY!”. Perhaps this is true of population and economic growth too.

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