In comments to my previous post on Paul Georgia’s nonsense about temperature, Sarah wrote:
Yes, bad physics, but that was an easy target. I’d like to see you take on a hard target, like the petition signed by 17,000 scientists who declared that global warming is a sham. The research review is here.
At the OISM site she linked it says:
This is the website that completely knocks the wind out of the enviro’s sails. See over 17,000 scientists declare that global warming is a lie with no scientific basis whatsoever.
The global warming hypothesis has failed every relevant experimental test.
Did 17,000 scientists really say that global warming is a “lie”? I looked further and found the actual words of the petition. What they actually agreed with was this:
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.
So they weren’t saying that it was a lie or wasn’t happening, just that there wasn’t good evidence that it would be a catastrophe. The OISM people have misrepresented their own petition.
Still, why would 17,000 scientists agree with the far weaker statement above? Well, it looks like that involved misrepresentation by the OISM as well. It seems they were mailed this letter from Frederick Seitz which said:
Research Review of Global Warming Evidence
Below is an eight page review of information on the subject of “global warming,” and a petition in the form of a reply card. Please consider these materials carefully.
The United States is very close to adopting an international agreement that would ration the use of energy and of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds.
This treaty is, in our opinion, based upon flawed ideas. Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful.
Unfortunately, the “research review” they were sent is not a research review of global warming evidence, but just a review of the evidence against global warming. According to the “review“, the earth isn’t warming, it’s cooling:
Predictions of global warming are based on computer climate modeling, a branch of science still in its infancy. The empirical evidence actual measurements of Earth’s temperature shows no man-made warming trend. Indeed, over the past two decades, when CO2 levels have been at their highest, global average temperatures have actually cooled slightly.
How was the “review” able to claim cooling? Simple. The authors presented the satellite data (which at the time showed slight cooling, but now shows significant warming) but dismissed the more extensive surface data because it had “substantial uncertainties”. The only uncertainty that they mention is the urban heat island effect and what they fail to mention is that the surface temperature estimated by GISS corrects for the urban heat island effect. The “review” is not honest.
As a researcher, when I see a “research review” I expect that it will cover all the relevant research. I can certainly understand how a scientist who was under the impression that it was a genuine review might be persuaded that there was no good evidence for global warming, especially because the vast majority of scientists who signed were not climate scientists. Furthermore, in his cover letter Seitz identified himself as a past president of the NAS and the typeface and format of the “review” matched that used by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This report from PR Watch explains how the NAS was forced to correct the impression that it endorsed the “review”:
“The mailing is clearly designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article, which is full of half-truths, is a reprint and has passed peer review,” complained Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Chicago. NAS foreign secretary F. Sherwood Rowland, an atmospheric chemist, said researchers “are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them.” NAS council member Ralph J. Cicerone, dean of the School of Physical Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, was particularly offended that Seitz described himself in the cover letter as a “past president” of the NAS. Although Seitz had indeed held that title in the 1960s, Cicerone hoped that scientists who received the petition mailing would not be misled into believing that he “still has a role in governing the organization.”
The NAS issued an unusually blunt formal response to the petition drive. “The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal,” it stated in a news release. “The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.” In fact, it pointed out, its own prior published study had shown that “even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises.”
Of course, some of the signatories might have signed it even if they were better informed about global warming research. The Scientific American did a check:
Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. 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.
And I can’t help but share the Tech Central Station take on Scientific American‘s check:
SciAm reported on the Oregon Petition against Kyoto back in October 2001, but rather than being encouraged by the extent of professional opinion supporting an optimistic reading of the evidence, the publication sniffed through the names until the editors found six (unnamed) signatories who apparently have since changed their minds.
Gee, that makes it sound like they had to search through the entire 17,000 to find the six. And who wrote that highly misleading account of the Scientific American‘s check? None other than Ross “no such thing as a Global Temperature” McKitrick.
Wikipedia has the scoop on the Liepzig declaration, another dodgy petition touted by global warming sceptics.
Update: Scott Church’s page on the petition has some more links.