Merchants of Doubt (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 93 minutes.
OK for children.
This is an impressive piece of political propaganda, and I don’t use
that as a term of opprobrium. Camouflaged as an examination of public
relations, it is, in reality, a seemingly effective argument in favor of
the theory that global warming is caused by mankind and not a natural
progression of the earth.
It explains how PR campaigns are run and spends a good deal of time on
the tobacco companies’ dishonest campaign to refute the health effects
of smoking. But it quickly segues into the battle about global warming
and its cause, which the people behind this film fervently believe is
mankind, and not a progression of natural forces. The point of the film
is to do what it criticizes climate change skeptics of doing, influence
public opinion by attacking the skeptics. It cleverly starts out with
attacking people who tried to insist that smoking was not injurious to
health, a topic that probably has universal appeal. But there’s a method
here. It’s not just to point out the tactics used by the smoking
naysayers, but to first paint them as liars and then, when talking about
climate change skeptics, to point out that two of them were paid
lobbyists to give their scientific opinion to the “smoking causes no
harm” crowd, thereby painting them as untrustworthy.
To its apparent credit it gives a lot of air time to the people who
oppose the idea that global warming is caused by human activity. Most of
the spokespeople are discredited, but they are given plenty of time to
tell their positions and extrapolate because, let’s face it, the people
chosen are arrogant, useful idiots who can’t see the forest for the
trees. Says director Robert Kenner:
“The big question was who would be willing to talk to us. Generally,
they were all willing. I made it clear I really wanted to understand
their points of view. I wasn’t interested in doing gotchas, because
that’s just not as interesting as hearing what these guys have to say.
They were all very smart and often very, very funny. It takes a lot of
talent and polished to do what they do. I truly enjoyed being with many
of them, even though I disagreed with most of what they were saying.”
It is clear that Kenner has a point of view. One of his main
interviewees is Naomi Oreskes, who is the co-author (with Erik M.
Conway) of the book “Merchants of Doubt” upon which the film is based
(or “inspired”). She talks at length and disputes most of what the
climate change naysayers say. I
have not fact-checked her allegations.
Two others who receive wide exposure are Michael Shermer, editor of
Skeptic Magazine, and former Republican Congressman Bob Iglis, both
of whom changed their positions from skeptics to believers in Kenner’s
The filmmakers claim, without specific evidence, that all the
scientific evidence supports the idea that the earth is warming. The
question is, what is causing it, nature or man? Kenner and Oreskes vote
for man. Despite scenes of smokestacks spewing smoke in the air, this
film does not prove beyond the shadow of doubt that man is causing
global warming, and that’s the big question.
So if you pay attention to this well-made movie, you will see that the
filmmakers are using the same techniques to influence you to buy into
the theory that climate change is caused by actions of mankind as those
they criticize in the film used to influence people to believe that
smoking is harmless to health and the idea that climate change caused by
mankind is a hoax.
One claim made in the film is that there is not one reputable scientist,
literally, who disagrees with the claim that global warming is occurring
and is caused by actions of mankind.
Their claim, however, is hogwash. Because it destroys their premise,
there is no mention in the film of legitimate scientists like
Dr. Roy Spencer, a former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA
who now works as a climatologist at the University of Alabama in
who told Fox News,
“It's easy to believe in the religion of global warming. It takes
critical thinking skills to question it.” As quoted by Alex Newman in
to the alarmists as ‘global warming Nazis,’ Dr. Spencer warned that
their ‘pseudo-scientific ramblings’ and support fascist-style ‘radical
policies’ literally threaten the lives of millions of people-especially
You want more? Here’s a quote from an article by Robert Wilde in
Dr. Matt Briggs, who has a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics from
Cornell, was assistant editor for the
Monthly Weather Review,
and is widely published on matters concerning climate. He explained that
for decades “the computer climate models on which the IPCC and others
rely, make forecasts where the temperature will be way up there. But,
the reality is the temperature has been way down here. So these models
are running hot!” The reason that the models are running hot is based on
a “firm scientific principle,” says Briggs. “If a model is making bad
predictions, which these climate models are, the theory that underlies
them must be wrong. So these models must be wrong.”
Briggs explained that atmospheric reaction to carbon dioxide, known as
climate sensitivity, is probably too high for these models. “If you take
this climate sensitivity model and tone it down, you get a much closer
match to reality.” He contends that the computer models are
overcompensating for the addition of CO2’s to the atmosphere.
Further, Wikipedia has posted a list of 57 reputable scientists who
don’t buy into Kenner’s and Oreskes’ position. So Drs. Spencer and
Briggs and 57 other scientists seem to have sufficient scientific
credentials to debunk the filmmakers claim that “all the scientific
evidence supports the idea that the earth is warming.” None of this is
mentioned in this film.
Kenner and Oreskes throw out facts that are impossible for the layman to
dispute out of hand, but this list on Wikipedia, which is easy enough
for anyone to find, challenges their veracity and makes
them appear just as dishonest as they paint those they attack.