Nicotine and AGW: 'teach the controversy'

Let’s look at what happened with tobacco and cigarette smoking. Firstly, it was promoted enthusiastically by the tobacco industry. Typically, only church groups protested against it at first (yes, what can you expect from those wowsers). The Biblical concept of our bodies as temples which should be free from pollution helped convince Christians of earlier centuries that there was something fundamentally wrong with filling your lungs with smoke and your mouth with soot. You’d think this was common sense, but apparently not. Christians were opposing the use of tobacco as early as the sixteenth century.

It wasn’t until around the early 20th century that the first science based objections to smoking arose. The industry responded vigorously in its own favour, and the ‘controversy’ commenced. The industry tried denying the medical claims, and even claimed smoking was health promoting. Later it was unable to support these claims, and had to simply deny the harmful effects of smoking. Then the industry realised it had to focus on ‘the controversy’, the fact that it could always find someone who contested the anti-smoking case on some apparently scientific or medical grounds. It was argued that the data wasn’t complete, the science was misunderstood, the studies weren’t broad enough, or long enough, there were competing theories suggesting alternative explanations for the harm associated with smoking. Anything to convince the public that there was a genuine ‘controversy’.

And that’s what was pushed for the next 60 years, ‘the controversy’. This was manufactured doubt. Unbeknown to the public, the ‘controversy’ was typically the product of industry shills, scientists and doctors in the pay of the tobacco industry, which poured literally millions of dollars into research attempting to find a credible alternative explanation for the data. The tobacco industry CEOs affirmed in public, under oath, that they believed nicotine was not addictive. Unfortunately however, their own scientists and studies had consistently discovered the opposite.

In fact tobacco industry scientific studies were literally decades ahead of government sponsored medical and scientific research into tobacco. The tobacco industry knew that nicotine was addictive over 10 years before anyone else did, and they kept this information secret. They were at the cutting edge of knowledge of the effects of tobacco and nicotine on the body. They were the first to confirm beyond doubt that nicotine was a carcinogenic and that cigarette smoking was a serious cancer risk. They were the first to discover the highly complex chemical reasons for nicotine addiction. They were the first to detail the pharmacological and neurological impact of tobacco on the human body. All the research they did in secret to try and discover an alternative explanation behind which they could hide, only came repeatedly to the same conclusion.

The following are excerpts from private industry documents. Remember that publicly the industry was saying the exact opposite to what you read here:

  • 1962: ‘We now possess a knowledge of the effects of nicotine far more extensive than exists in published scientific literature. . . for good reasons the results of Battelle’s work have been kept at a high level of secrecy

  • 1963: ‘Moreover, nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms’

  • 1969: ‘We have, then, as our first premise, that the primary motivation for smoking is to obtain the pharmacological effect of nicotine

  • 1972: ‘In a sense, the tobacco industry may be thought of as being a specialized, highly ritualized, and stylized segment of the pharmaceutical industry. Tobacco products uniquely contain and deliver nicotine, a potent drug with a variety of physiological effects

  • 1976: ‘The rush of nicotine into the blood stream and nervous system is short-lived; therefore, reducing consumption would cause withdrawal and all of its unpleasant side effects so long as the smoker is restricted from smoking. Nicotine vacates the system in 30 minutes or so and at that time withdrawal starts’

  • 1978: ‘Very few consumers are aware of the effects of nicotine, i.e. its addictive nature and that nicotine is a poison

  • 1982: ‘Let’s face facts: Cigarette smoke is biologically active. Nicotine is a potent pharmacological agent. Every toxicologist, physiologist, medical doctor and most chemists know that. It’s not a secret

  • 1985: ‘The view has been elaborated that nicotine is the primary reinforcer of continued smoking, and that this reinforcement value is in large part due to the functional contribution that the arousal modifying properties of nicotine makes to the negotiation of everyday life (coping)’

All this time the tobacco industry was vigorously ‘selling the controversy’, arguing that the testimony of certain specialists, scientists, and medical professionals in defense of tobacco and cigarette smoking was clear evidence that at best ‘the jury is still out’, that the case was undecided, that the science wasn’t certain, the studies weren’t reliable, that the scientific community itself was still in doubt. This was a lie, plain and simple. Not only did they know for a fact that they were lying, but they also knew that the only ‘controversy’ was being produced by their own hired hands, the ‘researchers’ they had given thousands of dollars to come up with papers and documents which would give the false appearance that the scientific question was as yet unsettled.

Exactly the same tactic is being used by the ‘fossil fuels’ industry to try and ‘sell the controversy’ with regard to anthropogenic climate change. The tactics are identical.

So much for the tobacco industry and its manufactured controversy. What about the climate change ‘controversy’? How is it different? It isn’t. It’s exactly the same.

Let’s look at some history. In the 1824 it was discovered that atmospheric CO2 produced an insulating effect, the ‘greenhouse effect’. By the end of the 19th century it had been proposed (and scientifically demonstrated), that an increase in atmospheric CO2 would warm the planet. This was recognized as significant, since the Industrial Revolution was in full force and it was well known that atmospheric CO2 levels would increase as a byproduct of human industries. However, back in those days it was considered that this increase in temperature would be slow and gradual, and that it would even have beneficial effects. Now, we know different.

By the 1930s, it was discovered that the US and the North Atlantic had warmed significantly. The significance of this was almost completely overlooked, but Guy Stewart Callendar (an engineer), interpreted this as the commencement of Anthropogenic Global Warming AGW). Like Arrhenius before him, Callendar thought that the effects would ultimately be positive.

However, the estimates of Arrhenius and Callendar were considered largely inconsequential. Scientists did not believe that CO2 could be produced by human activity in quantities which would result in significant global climate change, still less widespread negative effects. In any case, there were too many other variables to take into account before accurate predictions could be made. Unfortunately even the estimates of Arrhenius and Callendar underestimated completely the rapacious appetite of human industry and its staggering capacity to produce destructive waste.

We can see therefore that by the 1930s the fundamental science behind AGW had not only been proposed theoretically, but observed objectively. At this point there was genuine scientific skepticism of the ultimate results of the model, though the basic principles were recognized. Still, it was not considered a serious problem nor a completely settled scientific matter.

That changed in the 1950s. Increases in scientific funding, and massive technological advances (especially in computing), suddenly resulted in the ability to collect far more data, assess it far more accurately, and process more of it faster. Significant breakthroughs were made during this time, especially with regard to the question of how much CO2 would be absorbed by the ocean, which had previously been considered a carbon sink large enough to alleviate and offset any anthropogenic CO2 increase. Unfortunately it was discovered that the ocean was not absorbing CO2 at the rate which had been anticipated, and the realization that this massive ‘safety valve’ was in fact not going to be any such thing, was a cause for concern. However, even at this stage it was generally assumed that the effects would not become problematic for hundreds of years.

The science was good. The theories had been vindicated, and now the scientific community was taking serious notice. At this point it was understood that AGW could be ‘a serious problem to future generations’ (Gilbert Plass), and warnings were beginning to filter through to the government and public media (Roger Revelle, Bert Bolin). During this time Gilbert Plass made three predictions with regard to climate change due to CO2 increase (global warming, CO2 levels, and the temperature of the planet).Just over fifty years later, all of them were proved true.

Throughout the 1960s, independent research was carried out by a range of different groups. Their studies repeatedly converged on the same conclusions, that global warming was taking place, and was the result of human industrial activity. In 1965 it was estimated that by the year 2000 global warming would have discernible and measurable effects on climate. Despite this, the general feeling in the scientific community was still largely complacent with regard to the long term effects of global warming. The science, however, was less debated than in previous decades, although skepticism still remained.

By the 1970s a new shift in scientific research resulted in another dramatic development of knowledge. At this point interdisciplinary studies became involved in the subject of AGW. Now it wasn’t simply climatologists who were involved, but a wide range of different scientific disciplines, each of them confirming a small part of a highly complex scientific puzzle. As each new scientific insight was uncovered, the picture became steadily clearer and more difficult to ignore. Economists were able to assess more accurately the annual human production of CO2. Radiologists assessed the relevant issues involved with the insulation of radiation within the earth’s atmosphere. Oceanographers addressed the potential of the ocean as a carbon sink. Ice core sampling provided previously inaccessible long term data on global temperatures and atmospheric conditions.

In the 1980s the computer climate models started to produce significant results. A 1981 report on a range of climate change models made a sober pronouncement on the facts of climate change, and the need to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions (see here). There was no denying that the climate model predictions had produced undeniable results. This was confirmed by the latest ice core samples, which ‘turned the tide in the greenhouse gas controversy’. Throughout the 1990s public awareness of the problem grew, as the scientific data was confirmed at every turn:

It was in the 1990s that governments started proposing action to reduce the causes of global warming. It was around this time that the industry and its allies started to raise their ‘controversy’.

One political party’s memo advised staff thus:

  • ‘Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate

Of course there was no lack of scientific certainty, the ‘controversy’ (as with the cigarette issue), had to be manufactured. Thus the same memo continued:

  • ‘You need to be even more active in recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view, and much more active in making them part of your message’

You may have heard that the term ‘climate change’ was coined by scientists embarrassed by the lack of evidence for ‘global warming’, and who had to scrabble to find a new term to maintain their basic position whilst retreating from their previous claims. This isn’t true. The term had been in use for a decade before this false claim was first made. In fact when it was coined, the term ‘climate change’ was seized on by the Republicans, precisely to play down fears of global warming. They were forced to do this when their previous campaign of ‘controversy’ had failed:

  • ‘‘Climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming’’

  • ‘While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge

  • ‘Indeed it can be helpful to think of environmental and other issues in terms of ‘story.’ A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth

  • The facts are beside the point. It’s all in how you frame your argument’

Ironically, years later the author of this very same memo very honestly admitted that he had since changed his views:

So the ‘fossil fuels’ industry conducted precisely the same campaign which the tobacco industry had used successfully for decades, ‘teach the controversy’. In 1998 a collaborative document produced by members of Exxon, Chevron, and Southern, drafted a plan for promoting ‘controversy’ which was a carbon copy of the tactics used by the tobacco industry earlier:

  • Unless “climate change” becomes a non-issue, meaning that the Kyoto proposal is defeated and there are no further initiatives to thwart the threat of climate change, there may be no moment when we can declare victory for our efforts’

  • ‘The environmental groups know they have been successful

  • ‘Develop and implement a national media relations program to inform the media about uncertainties in climate science’

  • ‘Identify, recruit and train a team of five independent scientists to participate in media outreach. These will be individuals who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate

Their clearly stated aims speak volumes:

[quote]Victory Will Be Achieved When

* Average citizens "understand" (recognize) [b]uncertainties[/b] in climate science; recognition of [b]uncertainties[/b] becomes part of the "conventional wisdom"
* Media "understands" (recognizes) [b]uncertainties[/b] in climate science
* Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current "conventional wisdom"
* Industry senior leadership understands [b]uncertainties[/b] in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy
* Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extent science [b]appears to be out of touch with reality[/b][/quote]

As the tobacco industry before it had done, the ‘fossil fuels’ industry created its own ‘scientific’ group to propagate its views:

  • ‘Establish a Global Climate Science Data Center’

Sounds like a reasonable idea. But who would be running this center? Would it be genuinely independent and impartial?

  • ‘The GCSDC will be led by dynamic senior executive with a major personal commitment to the goals of the campaign and easy access to business leaders at the CEO level’

Ah. No. The scientific group would be run by a company executive with ‘a major personal commitment to the goals of the campaign’, namely to generate as much ‘controversy’ as possible, not to produce unbiased scientific results.

So, the ‘fossil fuels’ industry copied the tobacco industry’s tactics, and have been using them ever since. However, like the tobacco industry before them they became unfortunately caught out by their own game. The ‘Global Climate Coalition’ is an industry funded group supposed to be generating ‘controversy’. In public they maintained the predictable industry line:

  • ‘The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood

However, privately its own scientists were producing reports admitting the painful truth:

  • ‘The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied

As with the tobacco industry, when we follow the money we find out who is really responsible for distortion of the truth. As with the tobacco industry, the very scientists hired to do their utmost to defend the industry’s preferred position ended up coming inexorably to completely the opposite conclusion. However we may doubt the evidence produced by ‘environmentalists’, or anyone else we think is too unpleasant different to be correct, when the very industry which has literally the most to lose from a particular scientific conclusion ends up contributing to the evidence supporting it, there can be no talk of collusion, prejudice, or bias towards any preferred results.

Most importantly of all, we must learn to recognize the agenda typically lying behind any apparently forthright and reasonable appeal to consider ‘the controversy’. As soon as we hear ‘teach the controversy’, alarm bells should sound.

So in effect you’re saying that the 60 I smoke per day is HARMFUL? :astonished:

Jim, if I were you I would try to smoke as little as possible. Ideally, don’t smoke at all. Nicotine is not doing you any good. There is no ‘safe minimum dose’.

Excellent posts, Fortigurn. Tobacco is one of the many products the corporate anti-science crowd has worked on behalf of; a number of the current denialists are veterans of the ozone/CFC, GM, and other campaigns.

You’re welcome Vorkosigan. I was actually inspired by the connection you drew in the main AGW thread.

Any proof to back up this claim?

Or just more conspiracy mongering?

Excellent work, Fortigurn!

And I’d like to thank Vorkosigan for being the poster with the moster (up-to date, accurate, and clear information on climate change).

I guess it’s not a surprise that the methods are much the same if they are using the same public relations firm (Hill and Knowlton) that seemingly specializes in manufactured doubt. Isn’t it the same firm that tried to convince people that the jury was out about if smoking was dangerous or if asbestos and CFCs were dangerous? I assume H&K get hired repeatedly because they are good at what they do.

[quote=“zender”]Excellent work, Fortigurn!

And I’d like to thank Vorkosigan for being the poster with the moster (up-to date, accurate, and clear information on climate change).[/quote]

Thanks zender. I would like to point out that Mick has for a long time been a tirelessly patient presenter of informed commentary on the subject, and has made many excellent posts which have condensed the issues for the benefit of the less technically minded, such as myself. I have learned a lot from Mick’s posts.

Yes! I should have added a thanks to Mick. :blush:

[quote=“zender”]Excellent work, Fortigurn!

And I’d like to thank Vorkosigan for being the poster with the moster (up-to date, accurate, and clear information on climate change).

I guess it’s not a surprise that the methods are much the same if they are using the same public relations firm (Hill and Knowlton) that seemingly specializes in manufactured doubt. Isn’t it the same firm that tried to convince people that the jury was out about if smoking was dangerous or if asbestos and CFCs were dangerous? I assume H&K get hired repeatedly because they are good at what they do.[/quote]

A person can agree with the science on issue A while disagreeing with the science on issue B. That much should be obvious.

For instance, I am in agreement with the science that asserts evolution rather than creation. I agree with the science that claims that smoking is harmful. I am aware that there are arguments that second hand smoke is not as harmful as some assert… I don’t have an opinion on the matter. I agree with the science that says asbestos, when in a particulate state and inhaled is harmful. I do not agree with the claims that asbestos is always harmful. I am currently not convinced that man is responsible for the warming of the Earth. I’m somewhat amused that some of you who assume yourselves intellectuals get your panties all a twist because I am not convinced by the science that claims man is responsible for the warming of the planet. Get over yourselves… :laughing:

Back in the 1950s scientists proclaimed that we should eat margarine rather than butter. This was gospel truth for many years, until a year or so ago when scientists came out and told us we should probably eat butter rather than margarine.

Some of you need to take a deep breath and back off a bit.

Very interesting reading, there, Fortigurn – thanks!

You’re welcome DB.

My panties are untwisted. I just feel like I’m going by the best available scientific evidence for this.

I guess I trust the IPCC more than some others. When I read that 97 percent of climate scientists believe in man-made global warming, I guess that’s enough to where I don’t think there is a big controversy amongst the experts.

The main purpose of this thread is to make people aware of what typically lies behind ‘teaching the controversy’. If you are not convinced by the science that claims man is responsible for the warming of the planet, that’s a matter for the other thread. It would probably help the participants in that thread if you identified the criteria which must be met in order for you to be convinced.

Back in the 1400s scientists proclaimed that the sun moved around the earth. This was gospel truth for many years, until later in that century, when scientists came out and told us that the earth moves around the sun.

I don’t think that is true either. But if it’s your opinion, it’s okay.