Perspectives on global warming
It is likely that Merchants of Doubt will have a significant impact on public debate about global warming and science policy. Not so much because what it argues is completely new, for example, a number of studies already exist which document attempts by industry funded think tanks and politically conservative lobby groups to inhibit and shape the regulation of science and medicine in the US and beyond, but because of the persuasive way that its case is presented.2 Oreskes and Conway write beautifully and the book is hard to put down. It is extremely well documented and as we enter a period of critical reflection on the excesses of the George W. Bush era— from lies over weapons of mass destruction to the GFC—their political timing is impeccable. They make devastatingly effective use of the ‘Legacy Tobacco Documents Library’ to guide the reader down the road along which collusion between a small number of key scientists, big tobacco, and various politically conservative think tanks has created roadblocks to regulation for more than four decades and in multiple debates, from tobacco to nuclear winter, acid rain, ozone, DDT, and now global warming. (I call this the ‘tobacco road’.) Part of what I imagine will make this story so engaging to the general reader is that while the contributions of various institutions and ideologies are described (with an emphasis on free-market fundamentalism failing the environment (240–265)), the focus never moves far from documenting the (mis)deeds of a small coterie of individuals—the ‘merchants of doubt’.