Claim: "32,000 of the World's Leading Scientists" have signed a petition rejecting the idea of anthropogenic global warming

Why this Claim is Wrong: The quotation marks above go with Bob Lutz, executive VP of General Motors, in a well-remembered episode of "The Colbert Report" (described here). The infamous "Oregon Petition" arrived in the mail of tens of thousands of people including some scientists (circulated in 1999 and again in 2007 and signatures summed). It urged their signature rejecting AGW by using a paper by Robinson, Robinson and Soon (RRS 2007) which is junk science at its most extreme. A primary strategy of junk science promoters is to publish in outlets unable or unwilling to give proper expert review. Note that RRS is published in the Journal of Physicians and Surgeons (that's right - not a typo. To say the least, this medical journal is not known for having competent climate science referees. What it IS known for, is being almost exclusively an outlet for far right-wing ideologues). The petition is not filled with the signatures of scientists - its definition of a scientist is: anyone who signed the petition (!) This is a petition whose layout only allows check marks for PhD, MS, and BS degrees, and who admits they did not check the authenticity of the signers. It's an oil and tobacco company sponsored petition carefully graphic designed to appear to be a scientific journal article, and whose ultimate signatures include an unknown number of real scientists. See this report by the UK's Guardian. Yet the internet is filled with numerous right wing blogs perpetuating this myth and angrily attacking the notion of human-caused global warming. Here is a site collecting numerous debunkings of this claim. Climate scientists at RealClimate address the fraud. Only 39 of the 32,000 signers claim to be "climatologists", and by far the largest category are holders of only a BS "or equivalent", in some subject or other (the lowest educational check box option provided!). This "Climate Crock of the Week" video presentation covers the background of those behind the signature campaign. Here's a collection of errors major and minor in the petition. In particular, this rebuttal by climate scientist Michael MacCracken is the most detailed, requiring 23 tightly written pages just to enumerate the distortions and falsehoods. I've got one more falsehood to add - if you check this link to the Oregon Petition, you'll see that one of the supposed-signers of this bogus petition is yours truly - Richard Nolthenius! The nerve of these people! My guess is that they simply harvested scientists names from public sources and added their names without their knowledge. Many other scientists, in fact, have been disturbed to find themselves listed as signators on this Oregon Institute petition when they did not sign it (see 16 min into this presentation by Dr. Eugenie Scott)

What of the 2% of climate scientists who are not convinced global warming is all or nearly all human-caused? Three of the most prominent in denialist writings are Richard Lindzen (more on Lindzen later), John Christy, and Roy Spencer. Christy and Spencer's scientific acumen doesn't appear to be very good, judging by their record. See the bottom of my page here for a recent (2011) bit of incredibly poor science by Spencer. Meanwhile, this general line of attack against science continues... In January 2012 , the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal published an op/ed piece supposedly by climate-credible scientists urging that no serious policy changes be made in light of climate change. The op/ed makes serious distortions of published science - serious distortions as described by the authors of that science. These and other major flaws in the piece are explained here.

On the other side, the National Academy of Science (NAS) is made up of the most accomplished scientists in the nation. Here is a letter signed by 250 NAS members condemning the attacks by political forces on science in general and climate science in particular. And more recently, this letter to the President of Stanford University urging divestment from fossil fuel corporations with support for climate science, by hundreds of Stanford faculty, including Nobel and Fields prize winners.

In Short: This is a "Big Oil"-sponsored distortion-ridden fabrication, with an unknown number of those 32,000 signers being scientists in any field. And clearly, names of genuine scientists have been added without their knowledge. Even of the genuine signers, it's the sum of two petitions - one in the 1990's, and a second one in 2007. Would the '90's signers still agree, given the evidence today?


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