The article that claimed ” Global Warming Is a Myth” was a hoax.
In 1997 the Wall Street Journal proclaimed in a headline,” Science Has Spoken, Global Warming Is a Myth”. Ironically, the next year,1998, turned out to be the hottest year on record. The authors of the article were Arthur B. Robinson, a biochemist, and his son Zachary W. Robinson, a BS chemist. The main point of their article was that while the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air had been going up, the temperature of the Earth was actually going down. They claim their data proved manmade global warming was a myth. However, inaccuracies in their data and their methods made their proof meaningless. But, was it a hoax?
The Robinsons took their data from a paper credited to the Marshall Institute. Their graph1 is copyrighted so the trend lines they use to prove their point have been drawn in on NASA’s graph below. The blue line on the graph is Robinson’s projection of what the greenhouse warming of the Earth would be if it were caused by the increasing concentration of CO2 in the air. That agrees rather well with NASA’s data. However, they claim the green line represents the actual trend in the temperature of the Earth from 1980 to 1996. You can see that the green line bears no relationship to what actually happened and their conclusion is clearly wrong.
Couldn’t NASA”s data be wrong? Not likely. NASA’s data agrees well with that published by the World Meteorological Organization and both take their data from works published by scientists and climatologists in refereed journals. It is curious that the Robinsons used data from the Marshall Institute, a lobbying group funded by Exxon Mobil. The Marshall Institute’s paper was an analysis of satellite temperature data of the upper atmosphere. The analysis had mathematical errors, assumed an incorrect relationship between upper atmosphere temperatures and those at the surface, and had never been subjected to review by climatologists.
The article was clearly a hoax. The authors claimed to speak for all scientists when, in fact, very few scientists then or now agree with them.2 They took their data from the Marshall Institute, a lobbying group, while ignoring much better data from the World Meteorological Organization and NASA. They made sweeping conclusions about climatology when neither author had experience or credentials in the discipline. They did not submit their conclusions for review by other scientists as is customary. They violated, in several ways, the ethical standards set forth in the American Chemical Society’s Code of Conduct. 3 Sadly, the hoax has been continued by newspaper columnists, think tanks, “dissident scientists”, and many senators and congressional representatives who use ideas from Robinson’s article to this day. Its time to put this hoax to rest.
(1) See page 2 of the article at: http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/RobinsonAndRobinson.pdf
(2) Science organizations are now very clear about this. Every major scientific organization in the world has adopted a statement that global warming is occurring and that human activity is the main cause. For a list of the organizations and their statements see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Academies_of_Science
(3) See: http://temp.onlineethics.org/codes/ACScode.html The Robinson’s held themselves out to be chemists and were therefore subject to the ACS code of ethics adopted in 1994. It, in part, addressed the ethics of publishing science articles in the popular press – as in the case of Cold Fusion.