The Politicization of Climate Science
ANCHOR INTRO, Jack MacKay (:25):
In recent years the scientific consensus has grown stronger and stronger that human activity is causing global climate change with severe implications for our planet. Nonetheless, there remain many powerful deniers to climate change.
Supporters of climate denial, led by the fossil fuel industry, are able to propagate their beliefs because of a phenomenon known as the politicization of science.
Ben Perlmutter reports on the politicization of climate science for Emory News Now.
POLITICAL SCIENTIST, DR. TOBY BOLSEN (:32)
EMORY STUDENT, JORDAN KOLPAS (1:42)
POLITICAL SCIENTIST, DR. TOBY BOLSEN (2:21)
SCIENCE HISTORIAN, NAOMI ORESTES (2:53)
AUDIO CLIP, Sen. Ted Cruz (:05):
“the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers.”
REPORTER VOICER, Ben Perlmutter (:28):
Those are the words of Republican Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. While Cruz compares advocates of man-made climate change to flat-earthers, a broad scientific consensus disagrees with him.
Cruz and fellow climate deniers, are able to spread their scientifically questionable claims like this because they “politicize climate science.”
Georgia State political science professor Toby Bolsen defined the politicization of science in a phone interview:
ACTUALITY, Dr. Toby Bolsen (:09):
“Politicization occurs when an actor emphasizes the inherent uncertainly in science by casting doubt on the existence of a scientific consensus.”
REPORTER VOICER, Ben Perlmutter (:59):
Actors, for their self interested reasons, spread doubt about science amongst the public while there is little to no doubt within the scientific community.
Emory University environmental science professor Woody Hickcox explained that climate science is particularly susceptible to politicization because it is so complicated. Hickcox says it requires the contributions of many disciplines, from biology, to astrophysics, to oceanography, to ecology. There are many points at which politicization can occur.
Powerful interests in the fossil fuel industry have been the main funders of climate denial research, especially ExxonMobile, the world’s largest oil company, and the Koch brothers, owners of the petrochemical giant Koch Industries.
They stand the most to lose from taking action on climate change, as their products, fossil fuels, produce greenhouse gasses, which in turn cause climate change.
College senior and environmental science and biology major Jordan Kolpas thinks that is of dubious ethics for the fossil fuel industry’s to fund climate science:
ACTUALITY, Jordan Kolpas (:23.5):
“If you have research like the stuff that the Koch brothers are funding its like illegitimate research, and like as a biology major, I’ve seen a lot of different ways you can skew um scientific studies to portray some sort of picture. But you need funding first off, but if you need funding secondly and its coming from an biased source, its illegitimate.
REPORTER VOICER, Ben Perlmutter (:15):
Fossil fuel companies also try to directly appeal to the public to create a perception of doubt about the scientific consensus on climate change.
Dr. Bolsen elaborated on why politicizing science is such an effective tactic for skewing public perception:
ACTUALITY, Dr. Toby Bolsen (:13):
“When elites do this, when politicization enters the picture, people can’t reason. They can’t know whether or not to trust scientific evidence in particular cases.”
REPORTER VOICER, Ben Perlmutter (:19):
Self-interested elites, in this case the fossil fuel industry, create a public perception of doubt, while there is none amongst climate scientists.
Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science and author the best selling book about politicizing science, Merchants of Doubt, explains how this tactic is so effective in an online interview:
ACTUALITY, Naomi Oreskes (:22):
“A key part of the strategy from the very beginning is to undermine the idea of scientific consensus. And one of the things they discovered in their own market research was that if you can persuade people that there’s no scientific consensus, then people will think that it will be premature to act…and this is why you hear them saying as a kind of mantra, ‘there’s no consensus.’ ”
REPORTER VOICER, Ben Perlmutter (:03):
And thus, the debate rages on in the public forum.
Ben Perlmutter, Emory News Now