The Science Underminers

A Review of The Inquisition of Climate Science by James Lawrence Powell
The climate change quagmire illuminates the violent intersection of politics and science. James Lawrence Powell’s book The Inquisition of Climate Science (Columbia University Press) addresses the question “Why, when the scientific evidence for global warming is unequivocal, does only half the public accept the evidence?”

Powell, who holds a Ph.D. in geochemistry and was appointed to the National Science Board by two Republican presidents, provides historical context for this most recent instance of science coming under attack—as well as for the book’s title. Galileo was imprisoned for alerting humankind that the sun, not planet Earth, was the center of our universe. In great detail, Powell dissects the strategies used by climate change deniers. He writes, for example, that one of the first organizations formed to lead the charge against climate change science (the Global Climate Coalition) hired the same public relations firm that pesticide companies had used to undermine Rachel Carson and her powerful book Silent Spring.

But it’s the implications of not believing the science of human-caused atmospheric change that is the heart of this book. Powell asserts that no evidence has been seen that indicates the scientists who’ve produced findings that support climate change are lying. And because “the clock is ticking,” according to Powell, “political leaders do not have the luxury of waiting to find out if scientists are right.”