“Merchants of Doubt” is a 2014 documentary inspired by the 2010 book of the same name written by Naomi Oreskes professor of Science History from Harvard University, and Eric Conway the historian at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA.
The book identifies parallels between the global warming controversy and earlier controversies over tobacco smoking, acid rain, DDT, and the hole in the ozone layer. The book, and movie in turn, expose the strategy of ‘keeping the controversy alive’ by spreading doubt and confusion after a scientific consensus has already been reached.
The movie takes a hard look at what arguments climate deniers are making and what tactics they use to propagate their message. These tactics have been used successfully by the same people on previous issues and are now being cultivated to prevent the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in response to the risk of global climate change – regardless of scientific consensus.
PART I: Assignment
Watch the movie “Merchants of Doubt” and respond to the following questions. Make sure to read the questions before watching the movie.
A goal of this class is to help give each of you the ability to discuss Climate Change with others who do not have the same knowledge or who have different viewpoints. This assignment will provide a challenging and rewarding opportunity for you to practice this. With everything you have learned to this point, write an essay/discussion post of how you would explain the climate change controversies discussed in this movie to an interested high school senior who has heard of global warming and the various debates, but is not familiar with the science of Climate Change.
Be sure to explain all parts of each of the following questions and use different paragraphs for different topics.
1) General Discussion (4 pts)
a) What is the goal of the climate change deniers in the movie (hint – use title of movie)? Describe how this goal is achieved using two examples from the movie.
b) Describe two unethical practices of climate change deniers that were highlighted in the movie. How do you think these practices have affected the climate change discussion?
2) Oregon Petition & Climategate Discussion (4 pts)
Just before the Kyoto Negotiations, the Oregon Petition was created to attack the climate change science. Just before the Copenhagen Summit, there were the attacks from Climategate.
a) What was the Oregon Petition as described in the movie? How many “scientists who specialize in climate science” actually signed this document? See the first paragraph at this link https://skepticalscience.com/OISM-Petition-Project-intermediate.htm (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
b) What was Climategate as described in the movie or in your textbook? Which of the tactics explained at the following link is used to promote the Climategate allegations? How so?
3) Deniers that Switched (4 pts)
The movie discussed two climate change deniers that changed their views and became important spokesman in the fight against climate change.
a) Who was the Director of Skeptic Society and what caused him to change his views on climate change?
b) Who was the very conservative Congressman from South Carolina and what caused him to change his views on climate change?
4) Think Tanks and Institutes (4 pts)
The movie discussed several “think tanks” that were created specifically to promote specific views, often so their founding organizations could be anonymous.
a) The Cato Institute created the NIPCC. What does NIPCC stand for and why was it created? Did they do any new scientific work?
b) Who was the CEO of the George C. Marshall Institute? What industry was he a registered lobbyist for? What was the goal of this institute?
5) Russian Arctic (4 pts)
Near the end of the movie, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was the CEO of ExxonMobile at the time was shown shaking hands with Vladimir Putin. What actions were planned to take place as a result of this agreement? How did Climate Change allow this to occur? While this particular deal is no longer intact, there is much contention between nations over who will have access to arctic drilling rights.
6) Personal Review of “Merchants of Doubt” (6 pts)
After watching “Merchants of Doubt”, discuss how we can move beyond the questions and controversies that this movie brings out. (100-200 words minimum)
1. Remember to use separate paragraphs for each of the points listed above, make sure there is a logical flow to your arguments and that it is written as though you are telling a story to a high school senior. This will make it more fun!
2. We are looking forward to reading your essay to a high school senior!