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Posts Tagged ‘Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’

The Oregon Petition: Can 31,000 Scientists Be Wrong?

Fri ,29/01/2010

Supposedly, 31,000 outraged scientists have signed the Oregon Petition, which says that a reduction in carbon dioxide “would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind”. (1) That is an impressive sounding number of scientists, but considering there are 23 million scientists and engineers in the U.S., that is 0.13% of them – a mere drop in the bucket. Moreover, many of those who signed were misled and many were not scientists at all.

Who circulated the petition? The Petition Project was sponsored by the little known Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), founded by Arthur B. Robinson. Dr. Robinson was the author the infamous 1997 Wall Street Journal article headlined “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth” The article turned out to be a hoax. (2) Dr. Robinson was aided by Dr. Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Science. However in the 70’s , Dr Seitz abandoned science and became a consultant to the tobacco industry. In spite of 45 million dollars of tobacco funded research, he couldn’t seem to find any link between smoking and cancer. When asked about the moral implication of taking money and shilling for big tobacco, Seitz stated, any money was good ” …as long as it’s green. I’m not quite clear about this moralistic issue.” (3)

Were all the signers scientists? In 1998, the Petition and a packet of materials was sent to thousands of Bachelor of Science students in Universities across the U.S. The packet included a copy of “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth”, a letter from Dr. Seitz urging action, and a supposedly “peer reviewed scientific article” claiming “increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have no deleterious effects upon global climate”. The mailing collected 17,000 signatures. However, many of the “scientists” who signed were undergraduate students in Bachelor of Science (BS) programs. As well the sciences, one may get a BS degree in fields such as journalism, sociology, education, philosophy …. (4)

Were the materials misleading? Dr. Seitz identified himself in his letter as the past president of the NAS but did not mention his stint with the tobacco industry. The “peer reviewed scientific article” had been published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, a journal that often publishes articles in conflict with mainstream medical opinion and certainly not a place where one would publish climatology articles. The paper had been “peer reviewed” by a board at the OISM, not by a legitimate science organization. The paper was formatted to look as if it was from the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, which it was not. The NAS quickly responded saying the article did not come from the NAS, it had not been peer reviewed, and that “the petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”

What about the other signatures? After the initial mailing, the Petition gained an additional 14,000 or so signature over the next ten years. The petition was on the OISM website for a time and could be signed without any form of verification. After numerous complaints about the authenticity of signatures, the OISM took the Petition off its website and is now sending the materials and a copy of the petition upon request. The site lists 35 of the signers as climatologists. However, a recent survey of scientists found: ” The strongest consensus on the causes of global warming came from climatologists who are active in climate research, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role.” (5)

(1) http://www.oism.org
(2) http://que2646.newsvine.com/_news/2009/09/30/3334579-the-global-warming-is-a-myth-hoax
(3) http://selections.rockefeller.edu/cms/science-and-society/frederick-seitz.html
(4) http://www.sierraclub.ca/national/postings/climate-skeptic-response.html
(5) http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/01/19/eco.globalwarmingsurvey/index.html

The “Global Warming Is a Myth” Hoax

Sat ,05/09/2009

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.

 Robinson's Claimed Data

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.