Naomi Oreskes: fierce defender of climate change science – and scientists
Naomi Oreskes has become a leading voice in defense of the science underlying global warming and the scientists who are researching it.
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She followed her Science paper with commentaries in major newspapers, while global warming skeptics bashed her findings, accusing her of ignoring research.Skip to next paragraph
" 'Whoa,' I thought, 'this is really weird,' " Oreskes recalls. "All I did was describe the state of scientific debate. I didn't recommend carbon taxes or comment on emission-trading schemes. All I said was, 'Hey guys, scientists have told us this is happening. Given that it's happening, we should do something about it.' "
Oreskes has since expanded her research beyond climate change. In the 2010 book "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming," she and coauthor Erik Conway, a historian at the California Institute of Technology, link global warming deniers to a longstanding tradition of science-bashing.
"It's not just about global warming," Oreskes says. "It's really a book about how democracy gets undermined by these doubtmongering campaigns that undermine our ability to understand new problems and find solutions."
Scientists have praised the book, too. Her work reveals a "sustained disinformation campaign against legitimate climate change science that is well funded, professionally run, and unfortunately, very effective," says Richard Somerville, a professor emeritus at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Oreskes has done more than expose the motivations and strategies of science skeptics, Dr. Abraham says.
"She has provided scientists a well-needed jolt of confidence and energy by showcasing how they are standing up to powers that are unbridled in their attempt to delay climate action," he says. "She has shown how brave these scientists are; she has shown what costs are inflicted upon these scientists; and she has shown that they are not alone."
Abraham himself encountered intense criticism, along with many messages of support, after engaging in what minnpost.com (a website that covers Minnesota news) called a "scientific smackdown" with a British critic of global warming in 2010.
Critics remain unpersuaded by her work. A blogger at americanthinker.com calls Oreskes a "conspiracy queen" who promotes "junk science."
But she continues to dispute the claims of climate change deniers.
"When people say things that are demonstrably false," she says, "you shouldn't be afraid to say that."