Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes
Born (1958-11-25) November 25, 1958
Alma mater Imperial College, University of London
Stanford University
Scientific career
Fields History of science, Economic geology
Institutions Stanford University
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Dartmouth College
Harvard University
New York University
University of California, San Diego

Naomi Oreskes (born November 25, 1958)[1] is an American historian of science. She became Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University in 2013, after 15 years as Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego.[2] She has worked on studies of geophysics, environmental issues such as global warming, and the history of science. In 2010, Oreskes co-authored Merchants of Doubt which identified some parallels between the climate change debate and earlier public controversies.[3]


Oreskes is the daughter of Susan Eileen (née Nagin), a teacher, and Irwin Oreskes, a professor.[4][5][6][7][8] Her father was a professor of medical laboratory sciences and former dean of the School of Health Sciences at Hunter College in New York; her mother was a teacher.[9] She has three siblings: Michael Oreskes, a journalist; Daniel Oreskes, an actor; and Rebecca Oreskes, a writer and former U.S. Forest Service ranger.[6]

She received her Bachelor of Science in mining geology from the Royal School of Mines of Imperial College, University of London in 1981, and worked as a research assistant in the Geology Department and as a teaching assistant in the departments of Geology, Philosophy and Applied Earth Sciences at Stanford University starting in 1984. In the meantime, in the early 1980s, Naomi worked as a mining geologist for WMC (Western Mining Company) in outback SA, based in Adelaide, South Australia.[10] She received her PhD degree in the Graduate Special Program in Geological Research and History of Science at Stanford in 1990. She received a National Science Foundation's Young Investigator Award in 1994.

She has worked as a consultant for the United States Environmental Protection Agency and US National Academy of Sciences, and has also taught at Dartmouth, Harvard and New York University (NYU). She is the author of or has contributed to a number of essays and technical reports in economic geology and history of science[11] in addition to several books.

Oreskes was the Provost of the Sixth College at the University of California, San Diego.

Scientific methods and model validation

Oreskes worked on scientific methods, in particular model validation in the Earth sciences.[12]

In 1999 she participated as a consultant to the US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board for developing a repository safety strategy for the Yucca Mountain project, with special attention to model validation.[13]

Science and society essay

Oreskes wrote an essay on science and society "Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change" in the journal Science in December 2004.[14][15][16]

In the essay she reported an analysis of "928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 and published in the ISI database with the keywords 'climate change'".[14] The essay stated the analysis was to test the hypothesis that the drafting of reports and statements by societies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, American Association for the Advancement of Science and National Academy of Sciences might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions on anthropogenic climate change. After the analysis, she concluded that 75 percent of the examined abstracts either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, while none directly dissented from it. The essay received a great deal of media attention from around the world and has been cited by many prominent persons such as Al Gore in the movie An Inconvenient Truth.

In 2007, Oreskes expanded her analysis, stating that approximately 20 percent of abstracts explicitly endorsed the consensus on climate change that: "Earth's climate is being affected by human activities". In addition, 55 percent of abstracts "implicitly" endorsed the consensus by engaging in research to characterize the ongoing and/or future impact of climate change (50 percent of abstracts) or to mitigate predicted changes (5 percent). The remaining 25 percent focused on either paleoclimate (10%) or developing measurement techniques (15%); Oreskes did not classify these as taking a position on contemporary global climate change.[17]

Merchants of Doubt

Merchants of Doubt is a 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Oreskes and Conway, both American historians of science, identify some remarkable parallels between the climate change debate and earlier controversies over tobacco smoking, acid rain, and the hole in the ozone layer. They argue that spreading doubt and confusion was the basic strategy of those opposing action in each case.[3] In particular, Fred Seitz, Fred Singer, and a few other contrarian scientists joined forces with conservative think tanks and private corporations to challenge the scientific consensus on many contemporary issues.[18]

Most reviewers received it "enthusiastically".[19] One reviewer said that Merchants of Doubt is exhaustively researched and documented and may be one of the most important books of 2010. Another reviewer saw the book as his choice for best science book of the year.[20]

A film with the same name, inspired by the book, was released in 2015.[21]


Together with Erik Conway and Matthew Shindell, in 2008, Oreskes wrote the paper From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, Global Warming, and the Social Deconstruction of Scientific Knowledge[22] which argued that William Nierenberg as chairman reframed a National Academy of Sciences committee report on climate change in 1983 into economic terms to avoid action on the topic. Nierenberg died in 2000 but a rebuttal was published in 2010 in the same journal[23] which said the paper contradicted the historical report and there was no evidence that any committee members disagreed with the report, the evidence was that the report reflected the consensus at the time.[24]

In 2015 Oreskes published an opinion piece in The Guardian, titled There is a New Form of Climate Denialism to Look Out For – So Don't Celebrate Yet[25] where she said scientists who call for a continued use of nuclear energy are renewable-energy "deniers" and "myth" makers. She cited an article by four prominent climate scientists saying nuclear power must be used to combat climate change.[26] An opinion piece in the New Yorker said she branded these four scientists as "climate deniers", and that her characterization was absurd, as they were amongst those who had done the most to push people to combat climate change.[27]



Important papers

Selected awards, honors, and fellowships

  • George Sarton Award Lecture, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2004[30]
  • American Philosophical Society Sabbatical Fellowship, 2001-2002.[31]
  • National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, 1994-1999.[32]
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers, 1993-94.[33]
  • Society of Economic Geologists Lindgren Prize for outstanding work by a young scientist, 1993.[34]
  • Ritter Memorial Fellowship in History of Marine Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1994.[35]
  • Listed, Who's Who in American Science and Engineering, Who's Who in the West.[33]
  • Elected a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, 2015.[36]

Notes and references

  1. Oreskes, Naomi Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  2. "People: Naomi Oreskes". Harvard University. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  3. 1 2 Steketee, Mike (November 20, 2010). "Some sceptics make it a habit to be wrong". The Australian. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  4. "Oreskes, professor at NYC's Hunter College, dies" by Meghan Barr March 2, 2013
  5. Who's who in the West: A Biographical Dictionary of Noteworthy Men and Women. A.N. Marquis Company,. 2004. ISBN 083790935X. Retrieved 2015-04-19.
  6. 1 2 City University of New York: "Irwin Oreskes, Professor Emeritus at NYC’s Hunter College who Taught Lab Science Dies at 86" March 4, 2013 |"Besides Michael Oreskes, Irwin Oreskes also is survived by his wife, Susan Oreskes; his other children, Naomi Oreskes, a science historian, Daniel Oreskes, an actor, and Rebecca Oreskes, a writer and former ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, and five grandchildren. His funeral will be held on Sunday at Jewish Community Chapel"
  7. New York Times Obituary: "NAGIN—Morris, age 73, died after brief Illness on June 2, 1964" June 4, 1964 | "... devoted father of Susan Oreskes and the late Richard Nagin, loving grandfather of Iris Nagin, Michael, Daniel, Naomi and Rebecca Oreskes...Services at Riverside Memorial Chapel..."
  8. "Naomi Oreskes Is Wed To Dr. Kenneth Belitz". The New York Times. 1986-09-29. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  9. New York Times: "Geraldine Baum, Reporter, Marries" September 24, 1989
  10. "Naomi Oreskes Is Wed To Dr. Kenneth Belitz". The New York Times. September 29, 1986.
  11. "Publications". UCSD. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  12. Oreskes, Naomi; Kristin Shrader-Frechette; Kenneth Belitz (1994). "Verification, validation, and confirmation of numerical models in the earth sciences" (PDF). Science. 263 (5147): 641–646. Bibcode:1994Sci...263..641O. doi:10.1126/science.263.5147.641. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17747657. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  13. US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (September 14, 1999). "Developing a repository safety strategy with special attention to model validation" (PDF). US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 1, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
  14. 1 2 Oreskes, Naomi (December 3, 2004). "Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change". Science. 306 (5702): 1686. doi:10.1126/science.1103618. PMID 15576594. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  15. Oreskes, Naomi (January 21, 2005). "Beyond the Ivory Tower, The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change (including corrections)" (PDF). Science. 306: 1686. doi:10.1126/science.1103618. PMID 15576594. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  16. "Exchange of letters to Science" (PDF). Science. 308: 952–954. May 13, 2005. doi:10.1126/science.308.5724.952. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 12, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  17. Oreskes, Naomi (2007). "The scientific consensus on climate change: How do we know we're not wrong?" (PDF). In DiMento, Joseph F.; Doughman, Pamela. Climate Change (PDF). MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-04241-X.
  18. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (2010). Merchants of Doubt, Bloomsbury Press, p. 6.
  19. Rohr, Christian (2015). "Die Machiavellis der Wissenschaft. Das Netzwerk des Leugnens". Physik in unserer Zeit. 46 (2): 100. doi:10.1002/piuz.201590021.
  20. McKie, Robin (August 8, 2010). "Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway". The Guardian. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  21. "The film that reveals how American 'experts' discredit climate scientists". The Guardian. 15 March 2015.
  22. Oreskes, Naomi; Conway, Erik M.; Shindell, Matthew (Winter 2008). "From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, Global Warming, and the Social Deconstruction of Scientific Knowledge". 38 (1). HIST STUD NAT SCI: 109–152. doi:10.1525/hsns.2008.38.1.109].
  23. Nierenberg, Nicolas; Tschinkel, Walter; Tschinkel, Victoria (Summer 2010). "Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy The Origins and Making of Changing Climate" (PDF). Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences. 40 (3). University of California Press. pp. 318–349.
  24. Gillis, Justin (June 15, 2015). "Naomi Oreskes, a Lightning Rod in a Changing Climate". Profiles in Science. New York Times.
  25. Oreskes, Naomi (16 December 2015). "There is a new form of climate denialism to look out for – so don't celebrate yet". The Guardian.
  26. Hansen, James; Emanuel, Kerry; Caldeira, Ken; Wigley, Tom (3 December 2015). "Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change". The Guardian.
  27. Specter, Michael (December 18, 2015). "How Not to Debate Nuclear Energy and Climate Change". The New Yorker.
  28. Stein, Daniel (Oct 1991). "Review: The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science by Naomi Oreskes". American Scientist.
  29. Coakley, Bernard (Aug 2002). "Review: Upheaval from the Abyss by David M. Lawrence and Plate Tectonics edited by Naomi Oreskes and Homer Le Grand". American Scientist.
  30. "Historian Of Science, Naomi Oreskes, Presents AAAS Award Lecture on Topic of Proof and Consensus in Science" (Press release). University of California. February 11, 2004. Archived from the original on October 22, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  31. "Historian of Science Awarded 2002 American Philosophical Society Sabbatical Fellowship". History of Science Society. August 13, 2001. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  32. "Award Abstract #9357888 NSF Young Investigator". National Science Foundation. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  33. 1 2 "The Scientific Consensus on Global Warming: How Do We Know We're Not Wrong?". Environmental Science Seminar Series. American Meteorological Society. June 20, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  34. "Waldemar Lindgren Award". Society of Economic Geologists. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  35. "Ritter Memorial Fellowship". Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  36. "Ten Distinguished Scientists and Scholars Named Fellows of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry - CSI". Retrieved 2015-10-15.

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