Consumers of Doubt: Engineers in Denial during the Ozone Crisis, 1974-1989

Saha, Abeer, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Carlson, W, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

An understanding of denial is crucial to environmental mitigation in the age of climate change. The depletion of the ozone layer from manmade chemicals, called CFCs, was met with widespread denial during 1970s and 80s; some of which lingers to this day. Members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), were at the forefront of this denialism. This paper studies their rhetoric and response to the ozone crisis in order to understand the motivations that lay at the heart of denial. The paper argues that technological optimism catalyzed by a rhetoric of scientific “uncertainty” spurred the members of ASHRAE into denial and blinded them to the environmental impact of their own technology. This is the story of how engineers—ostensibly well versed in science—became consumers of doubt.

MA (Master of Arts)
Ozone depletion, ASHRAE, Denialism, history of science, technology, and environment, CFCs, Mario Molina and Sherry Rowland, ozone layer politics
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: