Okay, so it's not exactly a new metaphor. But it is a good one, and one with enough parallels to make anyone queasy. Which is why Obama's Secretary of Energy, Nobel laureate Steven Chu, is fond of employing it. He likened the ongoing efforts to confuse the public about climate science in order preserve the status quo--the United States' reliance on fossil fuels--to the efforts the tobacco industry used to confuse the public into thinking the science proving that smoking causes cancer was 'unsettled.' Here's what he said in a recent interview:Here's an excerpt of that interview with the San Jose Mercury News
SJMN: Are you worried that the political will to enact a national policy or somehow tax or price carbon emissions is gone now? If you look at recent polls, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is real and man-made is declining. The political trends are not in your favor.That last sentence is oh so painfully true, as I bear witness to in the comment section of posts like this one nearly every day. Charging that trying to reduce carbon pollution leads to socialism or communism, fear-mongering by claiming global warming is all a ruse to usher in some 'energy tax', we see the tactics by this camp every day.
Chu: Americans were believing because of sound bites, and now they're disbelieving because of sound bites. One can honestly say that if we don't do this, we will not be economically competitive. Ten and 20 years from now, the price of oil will likely be higher -- this is not a stretch of the imagination. The debate for whether smoking causes lung cancer and emphysema was actually in the first decade among scientists, but they muddied the waters for 2½ more decades. Climate change, on a global scale, is a much bigger deal, and people are trying to muddy the waters, particularly people who think they might lose. Unfortunately, it's easier to propagate fear than seeing a vision of prosperity.
And believe it or not, many of the same kinds of charges were thrown at the scientists who dared say that smoking was bad for your health--pundits claimed they were jumping on a bandwagon to get funding, critics said they were un-American for trying to obstruct their freedom to smoke, and so on.
Fear of change can be counted on to take a predictable shape--but it's the scientists who help chart the once-unpredictable and give us the information we need to create a better world. Not the armchair experts and talk show pundits.
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