Thought Piece

Naomi Oreskes, the Harvard University science historian

[I must admit that it is hard being called a denier, just because some of us don’t see a black and white world, especially from a single political Chicago political voice. The fact that Rep. Quigley did it in front of group of well-meaning businesses and environmental groups seems unseemly.

Then, there is the matter of a Harvard science historian, Naomi Oreskes (who has a decade long record of environmental extremism and name-calling) stating that the “good news is in the technology sphere, and particularly in the area of green and renewable technology,” Oreskes said. “The technologies we need to fix this problem largely already exist, so with the right policies we can get rapid private-sector deployment of renewable energy.”

Has Professor Oreskes never heard of the Internet of Things and its remarkable opportunity to make the world much more energy efficient, with or without renewable energy?

In good faith, I think that “clean energy” needs a much broader definition, which is less political and more environmentally practical for a planet whose population includes almost 3 billion people without clean water, political freedoms or reliable electricity.  Steve]


Lawmaker says ‘majority’ of House Republicans are ‘deniers’

Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter

Published: Monday, March 6, 2017

CHICAGO — Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) offered a pointed critique of the “climate deniers” now leading Congress, occupying the inner sanctum of the Trump White House and holding sway over the nation’s chief environmental enforcement agency.

The four-term representative from Chicago’s Northside told business leaders, public officials and climate advocates gathered in the city last week that the days of reasoned, fact-based debate about climate change are over in Washington.

“We truly live in a post-truth, post-science, post-intelligence world,” the 59-year-old lawmaker said in remarks to the annual Climate Leadership Conference, the first major gathering of U.S. climate change organizers since the Trump administration took office Jan. 20.

“I don’t know that I can tell you anything more about climate change than you already know,” Quigley added. “But I can tell you about the world we live in and how that impacts all that we’re trying to accomplish in what can only be described as painful times.”

Quigley, a former Cook County commissioner who taught environmental policy at Loyola University Chicago before winning the 5th District seat vacated by Rahm Emanuel in 2009, said he was especially disheartened by lawmakers’ disregard of fact-based knowledge, especially when the world’s scientists are generating so much valuable information.

“We have no excuse to not know the factual answers. We have access to all of them,” Quigley told the conference. Yet in spite of that, “I would say the majority of the members I serve with in the House are climate deniers, while the president of the United States calls climate change a Chinese hoax.

“I’m not saying this to be hyperbolic,” Quigley added. “Come with me sometime and talk to them, watch our hearings and the testimony. If you want to sleep at night, don’t watch the hearings in the Science Committee. It’s extraordinary.”

Quigley also allotted some blame to the modern media culture, where individuals can tailor news and information to consume only messages that reinforce predisposed beliefs or ideas while filtering out dissenting ideas. “How people are getting their information — that’s a problem that’s becoming even more difficult to solve,” he said.

The injection of realpolitik into a conference where organizers worked hard to downplay the Trump administration’s dismissal of climate change as a national priority touched on what could be one of the most difficult challenges facing climate activists over the next four years.

Naomi Oreskes, the Harvard University science historian and co-author of the 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt,” which drew parallels between the anti-science agendas of prominent climate deniers and the misinformation campaigns waged by the tobacco industry during the 1980s and ’90s, and pesticide makers in the ’60s and ’70s, gave a similarly bleak assessment of U.S. climate stewardship in 2017.

“Things are not looking good. The science is bad, and the politics are bad,” Oreskes said, citing many of the same challenges as Quigley, including a myopic media culture and the election of a president who is dismissive of climate science. Yet, she added, “this is a much larger phenomenon than the election of our 45th president.”

Just as with earlier disinformation campaigns, Oreskes said opponents have cultivated a core group of scientists and policy experts to rebut and obfuscate new climate knowledge, even as the raw data suggest warming is advancing with serious consequences for billions of people around the world.

“Climate change deniers like to accuse scientists of being alarmist. They like to say scientists exaggerate the threat to get attention or to get money for their research. The fact is our research shows that scientists have not exaggerated the threat. They have understated it,” Oreskes said.

However, rather than succumb to a political stalemate, Oreskes implored business and nonprofit leaders to find alternate means to move their agenda forward.

These include pumping private investment in low-cost renewable energy, creating more public-private partnerships to retrofit older homes and buildings with energy efficiency technologies, and encouraging large banks and financial institutions to become more fully engaged in the clean energy transition.

“The good news is in the technology sphere, and particularly in the area of green and renewable technology,” Oreskes said. “The technologies we need to fix this problem largely already exist, so with the right policies we can get rapid private-sector deployment of renewable energy.”

Oreskes also encouraged climate leaders to “change the conversation” in a way that debunks the entrenched fossil fuel industry narrative that climate change is a hoax, that warming’s negative effects are grossly exaggerated and that fixing the problem would be extremely expensive.

“I think the private sector has a lot of credibility to do that,” she added. “We need to show there are good solutions, likable solutions, solutions that create jobs and that don’t require tax increases or more big government. And who better to make that argument than the private sector — the very people who are creating those new jobs?”