The Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia) selects one person and one organization as Climate Change Communicators of the Year. Dr. Oreskes was noted by nominators Ben Santer and John Abraham as “lead author on a seminal book entitled Merchants of Doubt, which disclosed how a small number of scientists worked at the behest of industrial partners to delay social action on smoking, acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change. … Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Oreskes’s efforts have led to the defense of her colleagues in the face of fierce opposition from non-academic sources. … In summary, working climate scientists have come to view Dr. Oreskes as their champion.”
The Center for Climate Change Communication “use[s] social science research methods – experiments, surveys, in-depth interviews and other methods – to find ways of effectively engaging the public and policy makers in becoming part of the solution.”
From the statement by Dr. John Abraham, University of St. Thomas Lawrence, and Dr. Benjamin Santer, Livermore National Laboratory, nominating Dr. Oreskes for the award:
Dr. Oreskes has had a history of communicating the science and the history of climate change to the general public. She has also demonstrated a deep grasp of the scientific basis for findings of a “discernible human influence” on global climate. Dr. Oreskes is uniquely positioned as a science communicator given her understanding of both the physical processes which are in action in the changing climate system, and the historical evolution of the scientific, political, social, and economic narratives in which climate change research is embedded.
While Dr. Oreskes has long been an effective communicator, this year marked a unique increase in her activities. She was lead author on a seminal book entitled Merchants of Doubt, which disclosed how a small number of scientists worked at the behest of industrial partners to delay social action on smoking, acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change. In a fascinating detective story, she was able to identify a common “playbook” of messaging – and messengers – that resurfaced continuously in the U.S. as these four issues received political and public attention. After publication of Merchants of Doubt, Dr. Oreskes launched a very effective communications tour, which included speaking engagements around the world. Through her work, she has made clear to a wide audience that a relatively small organization of powerful individuals and corporations has effectively disseminated doubt (rather than knowledge) in pursuit of their own ideological agenda. The impact of Dr. Oreskes’s work cannot be overestimated.
Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Oreskes’s efforts have led to the defense of her colleagues in the face of fierce opposition from non-academic sources. Dr. Oreskes’s chronicles have clearly articulated the tribulations that one of us (Ben Santer) underwent in the late 1990s in connection with his work as an author of the IPCC Second Assessment report. She also defended the other nominator (John Abraham) against sharp and personal attacks this past year.
In summary, working climate scientists have come to view Dr. Oreskes as their champion. Her fearless work – often performed in the face of threats of legal action – has helped to expose the non-scientific pressures climate scientists have encountered during the course of their research. Her courage and persistence in communicating climate science to the wider public have made her a living legend amongst her colleagues. While we are uncomfortable using such strong language to describe a colleague, it is fully warranted in this case. We have no reservations in providing our strongest support for this nomination, for a colleague who exhausts superlatives.
Also read the second nomination statement for Dr. Oreskes, by Sunshine Menezes, Ph.D., Executive Director, Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island.
In just two years of existence, ACE has risen quickly to become the nation’s leading climate organization focused on high schoolers. They have managed to take a complex subject and make it compelling to hard-to-reach teens, presenting to over 640,000+ high school students nationwide in less than 2 years. Their unique multimedia, animated presentation, delivered by dynamic, young, performance arts-trained presenters has proven to be able to reach students in a way that sticks. A recent study in the Chicago Public Schools showed that ACE contributed to a 58% improvement in climate science understanding amongst students.
ACE also has a model that is action-oriented and leaves a lasting impact, having set up over 600 “Action Teams” at schools to date. These action teams are working to reduce emissions at their schools, encourage behavioral change in their fellow students, and working to make their voices heard at a higher level. In 2009, ACE collected over 30,000 signatures on their petition to “declare independence from fossil fuels”, which they presented to members of Congress.
ACE’s accomplishments are impressive by the numbers, but qualitative feedback from their target audience indicates the same. ACE has received rave reviews from teachers, students, and administrators that you can find here: http://acespace.org/about/buzz.
ACE is also careful to bring climate change education to schools that is credible, scientifically rigorous, and non-partisan, which has allowed them to reach students across “red” and “blue” states. ACE has a council of scientific advisors from the IPCC to Stanford University that helps to review their content, and provide assurance to school teachers and administrators. …
Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Earlier CSW posts:
‘Merchants of Doubt’ responsible for climate confusion – book review (includes video interviews with Dr. Oreskes)
Naomi Oreskes: How a handful of scientists obscure the truth on global warming (includes video of Oreskes lecture given in 2010)
“The American Denial of Global Warming” (video of lecture by Dr. Oreskes in 2008)