San Diego Soliloquies

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Noone Here but Us Ostriches

A game we all play from time to time is wishing ill on those who so richly deserve it. Though the most artful example is Dante's Inferno, haven't we all devised eternal punishment for people and institutions that seem to skate through life, and never seem to pay for the devastation they reap? No matter when I play I always reserve the lowest pit in hell for one group, The Tobacco Institute. No matter what evidence was found, no matter what the data revealed, no matter what true science discovered, The Tobacco Institute could be counted on to trot out its experts, all with impressive credentials, to try to convince the public otherwise. It was Ignorance objectified, whose only purpose was to pander to the sloth and illiteracy of Americans for as long as possible, until finally the Tobacco companies had to cave.

Now the Institute is reduced to fighting smoking bans and complaining about tobacco taxes while at the same time having to admit that yes, smoking is addictive and can cause serious disease.

The legacy of the Institute has been amplified with modern lobbying. Companies realized that all you need to do when controversy breaks out, is pay for another group to scream louder than the facts. One website, Tech Central Station, seems to have been created just for this purpose.

So watch and wait for the reaction to this group announcing that, yep, Earth is warming, and yep, humans make a significant contribution to resulting global climate change. It should come as no surprise to those interested in climatology and geomorphology (all three of us) that these pronouncements come from the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center, and the head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It may come as a surprise to their ultimatum boss, one George Bush, but that's another posting entirely.

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San Diego Soliloquies