With the Obama administration expected to take action on CO2 emissions in an effort to reduce climate change, those on both sides of the issue are already weighing in. I got a bunch of form letters this morning from local residents, which begin, “I want our leaders to know that here in New York we support bold action on climate and energy, including a cap on carbon pollution.” (Of course, readers of this blog know what happens to form letters around here.) They continue, “Capping carbon pollution will ignite the transition to clean energy, end our dependence on dirty fossil fuels, and put America on a path toward economic recovery. A cap on carbon pollution will create tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. Consumers and businesses will benefit from stable energy prices, and with greater energy efficiency, we can get more from the energy we have which will mean lower electricity bills.” Opponents beg to differ – arguing that C02 reduction efforts would hurt the economy, or would be ineffective, or that the money could be better spent on other, more pressing issues. So far, an honest difference of opinion.
However, another recent letter is claiming that “science” has disproven the idea of man-made climate disruption. A rather extraordinary claim considering that the worldwide scientific community, after decades of studies that have undergone strict peer review, has overwhelmingly concluded that increased C02 emissions are causing changes in the climate (although there remains a bit of debate about how much change will occur and how quickly). So what proof does this letter-writer offer to the contrary? He refers to “a Petition Project, signed by 32,000 scientists” who dispute the accepted scientific conclusions on global warming. This is also known as the “Oregon Petition,” originally distributed in the late 1990s and re-distributed in 2007, which claimed, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” (The petition includes a cover letter by Dr. Frederick Seitz, president of the National Academy of Sciences in the 1960s, who later became a consultant to the tobacco industry.) And the “32,000 scientists” who signed this declaration? Wikipedia states: “The term ‘scientists’ is often used in describing signatories; however, many of the signatories have degrees in engineering or medicine.” (In other words, fields unrelated to the study of climate.) The Seattle Times noted such suspicious names on the petition as “Michael J. Fox,” “John C. Grisham” and “Dr. Geri Halliwell” (aka Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls). Scientific American in 2001 stated, “Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.”
For good measure, the letter-writer also notes, “A 2007 in-depth survey of relevant literature showed that global warming is due to changes in solar flares, and unrelated to atmospheric carbon dioxide,” citing the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. Again, physicians and surgeons are not climate scientists, and it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Wikipedia note that this journal is published by The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, “a politically conservative non-profit organization” (with a connection to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine behind the “Oregon Petition” cited above) whose publication “has been criticized by the medical community for alleged inaccuracies, poor research, and quackery.” Past articles in this publication promoted creationism and claimed that HIV does not cause AIDS. In 2005, an article claiming that America had had more than 7,000 cases of leprosy in the previous three years because of illegal aliens “was cited and repeated by Lou Dobbs as evidence of the dangers of illegal immigration. However, publicly available statistics show that the 7,000 cases of leprosy occurred during the past 30 years, not the past 3. . . . The article’s erroneous leprosy claim was pointed out by 60 Minutes, National Public Radio, and the New York Times among other sources, but has not been corrected by the Journal.”
The writer concludes his letter by saying, “It is unclear why Obama has turned a deaf ear to science’s warning that he is betting the national birthright on a phantom crisis.” If the examples above are what the writer considers “science,” then he has answered his own question.