Oreskes and Conway - Study Guide (2015)


1) Who is Ben Santer and who does he work for?

2) What do the initials IPCC stand for?

3) What were the main claims of the 1995 IPCC Report?

4) What part of the report was Santer responsible for? In what way was he 'responsible'?

5) Why was it not only false, but absurd, for anyone in the US in 1995 to accuse Santer of "adjust[ing] data to make it fit with political policy"?

6) What conclusion do you draw from the consistent failure of Santer's critics to either inform themselves about IPCC standards and practice, or to acknowledge their own errors?

Chapter 1

7) Who was Frederick Seitz, and what important position did he hold from 1979?

8) In what decade did US scientists and physicians first become concerned that tobacco smoking caused cancer? What was the response of the tobacco industry?

9) In what decade did US Surgeon Generals first warn the public that tobacco smoking caused cancer? What was the response of the tobacco industry?

10) In what decade did tobacco industry scientists first establish that tobacco smoking caused cancer? What was the response of the tobacco industry?

11) In what decade did tobacco industry scientists first establish that nicotine is addictive? What was the response of the tobacco industry?

12) Overall, in the period from 1950-1990, what was 'the Tobacco Strategy'?

13) In what year was a group of tobacco industry executives first brought to trail for fraud and conspiracy? What was the outcome of the trial?


Chapter 2

1. During the Cold War, what was ‘détente’ and how long did it last?

2. What tactics did think tanks like the Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute and the Heritage Foundation use to undermine détente?

3. Was ‘Team B’ really an ‘independent’ advisory panel?

4. Who advocated SDI before President Reagan?

5. When and why did President Ronald Reagan initiate SDI?

6. Who was Carl Sagan, and how did he respond to the SDI initiative?

7. Who were Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert Jastrow?

8. How did Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert Jastrow connect environmentalism and opposition to the new nuclear weapons?

9. When was the ‘Nuclear Winter’ effect announced?

10. How did scientific research on the subject develop over the remainder of the decade?

11. Who founded the George C. Marshall Institute and why?

12. How did Jastrow misrepresent TTAPS in his 1986 letter to the Coors Foundation?

13. Who is Russell Seitz, and how did he attack TTAPS?

14. Who among the following had a vested interest in supporting President Reagan’s policy on SDI?
Edward Teller, Robert Jastrow, Fred Seitz, William Nierenberg.

15. What, according to Oreskes and Conway, was the main effect of the efforts to undermine TTAPS by Teller, Jastrow, Nierenberg and both Seitz’s ?

Chapter 3

1. In your own words, what is 'acid rain', and when was acid rain first detected in the US?

2. What kinds of effects were attributed to acid rain?

3. How did scientists establish that anthropogenic (human created) sulfur was responsible for a major component of acid rain?

4. What do the 1979 Scientific American article and the 1981 Nature article show about views of acid rain inside the scientific community at the beginning of the Reagan administration?

5. How did the US and Canadian conclusions differ in their joint 1983 report?

6. Who did the Reagan Administration ask to form an independent peer review panel on acid rain in 1982?

7. Did the Reagan panel convener consistently pick acid rain sceptics or antienvironmentalists?

8. Who was S. Fred Singer, and why did he change his views on environmental protection between 1970 and 1980?

9. What did Singer do to the Nierenberg panel report? What was the effect of these changes?

10. Was the final report of the independent review panel either independent or just a review?

11. Was it reasonable, in 1984, for a knowledgeable scientist to say about acid rain "We don't know what's causing it" ?

12. Who were Krug and Kulp? Were their views representative of the scientific community?

13. What is a ’cap and trade’ system?

14. How and when did the US government finally deal with acid rain?

15. MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: What effect did the Bush-41 Administration emissions trading initiative have on (a) acid rain (b) the cost of electrical power (c) the balance of benefits to costs in air pollution control?


Chapter 4

1. What is ozone?

2. How are living things (including humans ) affected by depletion or destruction of the atmospheric ozone layer?

3. What was an SST? How would it have affected the ozone layer?

4. What was the difference between the presentation of SST effects in the CIAP report and in the summary of the report published by the Department of Transportation?

5. What are CFC's and how do they affect ozone?

6. Who supported Richard Scorer's tour of the US? What did he say about ozone depletion?

7. What was the response of the chemical industry when a research project they sponsored on an Alaskan volcano that erupted in 1976 failed to show that it was a source of atmospheric chlorine?

8. Which came first -- regulation of CFCs or public rejection of CFCs?

9. Did US action fix the problem?

10. What was the Montreal Protocol and when was it ratified by the US Senate?

11. What was the DuPont Corporation's response to a report from one of their own scientists that ozone depletion "had to be taken seriously"?

12. What were the main elements of Fred Singer's counter narrative against ozone depletion?

126 (1) natural variation (2) attack scientist as motivated by greed and self-interest (3) depict normal scientific correction of results as evidence of science's unreliability

13. How did Singer misrepresent research by Ramathan and research by Hansen?

14. Who was Sherry Rowland's, and where did he address Singer's and Ray's claims?

15. What was Singer's response to Rowland?

16. "What was this really about?" where 'this' = 'Singer's behavior'

Chapter 5

1) During the 1970s how did tobacco industry researchers attempt to deal with the discovery that “sidestream smoke contained more toxic chemicals than mainstream smoke”?

2) Beginning in 1981, how did Japanese epidemiologist Takeshi Hirayama establish the negative health effects of secondhand smoke?

3) While the Tobacco Industry (esp. Tobacco Institute) supported and publicized attacks on Hirayama’s work, what was the technical appraisal of his work by tobacco industry scientists?

4) What year did the Surgeon General declare “involuntary smoking ... a cause of disease ... in healthy non-smokers."?

5) How did the tobacco industry inadvertently invite the intervention of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

6) Explain the “weight of evidence” approach used by the EPA.

7) How did Fred Seitz respond to the 1992 EPA report Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking?

8) How did Fred Singer respond to the 1992 EPA report Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking?

9) Who were APCO Associates?

10) Why do Oreskes & Conway suggest that Singer's primary motivation was resistance to government regulation?

11) Singer, quote, p. 147: “The EPA report has been widely criticized in the scientific community” What is the status of this claim?

12) Singer, quote, p. 148: EPA failed to “seek out the nations leading scientists [to] conduct a peer reviewed study ...” What is the status of this claim?

13) Who was Steven J. Milloy and what was TASSC?

14) What additional issues did TASSC add to the mosaic intended to undermine EPA?

15) What are some real causes of ‘junk science’ (153)?

16) What does ‘peer review’ mean – in general, and in the case of a journal article? (154)

17) Was the epidemiological evidence against ETS strong or weak?

18) Why, nevertheless, was the EPA panel confident about is conclusion that ETS was a health hazard?

19) What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 errors?

20) Why was the threshold effect not a legitimate objection to the EPA report?

21) What explanation or common factor do O&C find linking the actions of “Singer, Seitz and the other scientists who made common cause with the tobacco industry”?

22) What themes that have already been introduced in the US case reappear in the British group FOREST?

23) What is the answer to the question in the chapter title?


Chapter 6

1) Who was the first US president to mention climate change to Congress, when did he do it and what motivated him?

2) What were the main conclusions of the 1977 NRC committee report and the 1979 'Jasons' Report'.

3) How did the Charney report for the National Academy of Science (NAS) in 1979 qualify the earlier 1977 and 1979 conclusions?

4) How did the 1980 NAS letter on human-caused climate change modify the 1977 and 1979 conclusions?

5) Who was the chair of the 1980 NAS Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee?

6) How did the members of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee divide in their recommendations?

7) What did the Reagan White House do when two 1983 EPA reports claimed that climate change was an urgent problem and that immediate steps should be taken to reduce use of coal?

8) What events precipitated the first organized campaigns of climate change denial?

9) Where did Nierenberg go when he retired as Director of the Scripps Institute in 1984?

10) How did the George C. Marshall Institute respond the events of 1988 and 1989?

11) What were the main conclusions of the first IPCC report in 1990.

12) How do Oreskes and Conway evaluate Nierenberg's response in 1992? Do you agree?

13) What did Roger Revelle say about climate change mitigation in his 1990 AAAS address?

14) Who was responsible for the emphatic claim in a Cosmos magazine article in 1991, that "the scientific base for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time" ?

15) On the evidence presented here, do you think that Roger Revelle reversed his opinion on climate change in the last year of his life, as claimed by numerous right commentators during the 1992 election?

16) What strategy did Ben Santer adopt to show whether or not climate change was caused by human activities?

17) After reading pp. 205-213, review your answer to ‘Introduction’, question #5, above.

18) What aspects of Cold War scientific practice did Nierenberg and Singer reproduce in their attack on Santer?

19) How did mass media (newspapers and TV) become complicit in Nierenberg and Singer’s attack on Santer?

20) OPEN QUESTION: In addition to the factors suggested by Oreskes and Conway, what other historical causes may have been operative in creating the increasing identification between climate denial and right wing politics in the United States? (Why didn’t the same thing happen elsewhere?)