Merchants of Doubt

How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

2020-12-28 — 2021-01-07


Since the end of World War II, humans have possessed both the knowledge of how to measure the health of the planet and to destroy it. Oreskes and Conway describe the willful ignorance and cruelty at work in ignoring the damage caused by industry. Between smoking, acid rain, the ozone hole, second-hand smoke, and global warming, the playbook is largely the same: stoke controversy, manufacture pseudoscience, and evangelize the product to the public and elected officials.

Review ★★★★☆

I was surprised at how long we’ve known about climate change. The actions of a few connected people have been able to hold back progress on a solution for decades. This book describes why we still don’t have a plan for avoiding the looming inflection point. But if they’re selling doubt, were we paying them with attention, money from the trade organizations they represented, or fame? I’m still not sure why they did it when they should have known better. The link tying the merchants together as weapons scientists turned free market proponents is hard to square with my frame of reference.