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home : opinions : letters to the editor
March 24, 2018

3/8/2018 7:30:00 AM
Reader enlightened by recent film showing

To the Editor:

The film "Merchants of Doubt" was recently shown by Citizens' Climate Lobby at the Minocqua Public Library. It was eye-opening and compelling, and it relates information everyone should know.

The film documents the long history of corporate interests funding a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign to cast doubt on various scientific truths.

It all started with the tobacco industry in the 1950s, when medical science confirmed the close link between smoking and cancer. The industry hired a public relations firm, which wrote a virtual playbook on how to confuse the public: denying the existing scientific consensus, attacking scientists as being politically motivated, publishing pseudo-science, all with the help of a handful of compliant scientists and a cadre of well-paid pundits and well-funded think tanks to make the campaign appear reputable.

"Doubt is our product," declared one memo from the public relations firm. They realized they didn't need to prove smoking was safe, only suggest that the science wasn't settled, even though their own research showed that it was. (A court case exposed thousands of internal documents that confirm this.)

The campaign continued for nearly 50 years and was so successful that other industries played by the same rulebook on other issues, such as asbestos, fire retardants, and acid rain. That playbook is now being used even more intensely and stridently by those who want to cast doubt on the very real danger of human-caused global warming. So we are hearing the same disinformation now about climate science that we heard about medical science about smoking.

How many people died of lung cancer because the tobacco industry put their profits over the health of the people? We will never know. But we do know that many more people will die from the increasing climate disruption.

The military has been warning us for 10 years that global warming threatens national security. Financial institutions are warning us that the climate crisis threatens the global economy.

It took 50 years to overcome the tobacco industry's doubt campaign. With global warming, we simply can't wait 50 years.

Phyllis Schuit,


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