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UC San Diego Science Historian Named 'Climate Change Communicator of the Year'

May 10, 2011

By Inga Kiderra

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Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego
Photo/Charles Kazilek

Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego, has been named 2011 “Climate Change Communicator of the Year” by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication (4C).

The honor, established in 2009, recognizes an individual and an organization for  “great strides in helping society understand and respond to climate change.” Oreskes won in the individual category, while the Alliance for Climate Education, a nonprofit dedicated to educating high school students about global warming, won as an organization.

The winners were chosen in April, out of 14 total finalists, by an open public vote through the 4C web site

“We were so pleased that eight truly extraordinary individuals and six truly extraordinary organizations were nominated for the award this year,” said 4C Director Ed Maibach, “and that thousands of concerned citizens cared enough to cast a vote. They are all doing vitally important work, and it’s a great honor for us to be able to acknowledge their contributions.”

The awards will be presented on June 8 at Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., as part of a session in the “Managing the Planet” lecture series.

Oreskes – an internationally renowned historian of science and author – has been teaching at UCSD since 1998.  For the past twenty years, she has studied the process of consensus and dissent in science: How do scientists decide when a fact is “established?” How do they judge how much evidence is sufficient to deem something scientifically demonstrated? And what happens when scientists can’t agree?  

In 2004, she began to investigate the question of what scientists had to say about global warming and quickly realized that scientific experts had a consensus on the reality of global warming and its human causes.  Her Science magazine essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” has been widely cited in the mass media in the United States and Europe, including in the Royal Society’s publication “A Guide to Facts and Fictions About Climate Change,” in the Academy Award-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth,” and in Ian McEwan’s novel “Solar.” The essay also led to numerous op-ed pieces, including in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Her latest work is the critically acclaimed book “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming,” coauthored with Erik Conway andpublished in 2010 by Bloomsbury Press.The book was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the science category.

“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,” wrote colleagues John Abraham and Benjamin Santer in a nomination letter. “Her courage and persistence in communicating climate science to the wider public have made her a living legend amongst her colleagues.”


Media Contact: Inga Kiderra, 858-822-0661 or ikiderra@ucsd.edu

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