Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes is best known to climate realists by her 2010 book,Merchants of Doubt and its scurrilous demonization of climate skeptics as paid hacks parroting the fossil-fuel industry’s self-serving opposition to the “consensus view” of man-made climate catastrophe, but that screed doesn’t reveal the flaws in her work.
A short, obscure, error-riddled essay titled, “My Science is Better than Your Science,” that she wrote in 2011 is more significant. It was a chapter in a book titled, How Well Do Facts Travel? The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge, and examined the 1991 origin of the “skeptics are paid industry shills” narrative supposedly found in a legendary set of “leaked Western Fuels memos.”
That short chapter is important because Oreskes totally misinterprets the “memos” as Big Coal’s plan for a vast national campaign with paid climate scientists that created the lasting public doubt about global warming. That’s the very same interpretation repeated endlessly by climate alarmists including Al Gore, Ross Gelbspan (1997’s The Heat Is On), Canadian public relations flak James Hoggan ’s attack website DeSmogBlog, and many others.
Appallingly, nobody in this parade of critics did any fact checking of the memos, not even historian Naomi Oreskes, which is a serious lapse for a historian. In fact, Oreskes and the others were using a garbled conglomeration of nearly a dozen different memos from different sources that were collected by Greenpeace and posted unsorted and in no rational order on one of its websites – because they never checked who they really came from.
Critics had no idea what they were looking at in the hundred-or-so pages of “Western Fuels memos.” They simply took the pieces that made skeptics look the worst and patched them together into an assumption-laden fairy-tale, historian Oreskes most unseemly of all.
Had Oreskes, the renowned Harvard Professor of the History of Science, bothered to interview any of the clearly identified sources of the “Western Fuels memos,” she would have discovered that less than one-third of the jumbled “memos” involved Western Fuels Association at all.
It’s ironic that the “Western Fuels memos” became known as “Orders from Big Coal” because Western Fuels Association is actually just the opposite of what the alarmist critics thought: It’s a small, not-for-profit, member-owned co-op serving 24 consumer-owned rural and small municipal electric cooperatives and other public power systems from Wyoming to Kansas. Oreskes never mentions that, probably because she never researched her sources well enough to know it.