James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has published a 110 page report titled “Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007“.
The report is introduced with:
Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.
Many bloggers are using this report’s existence (but not its contents) to support their own positions that climate change is a myth. Seeing that, I think it is important to point out that the report is focused on objections to the idea of consensus on human activity’s role in global warming and not on the existence of climate change itself. If they were to limit the report to scientists who deny that climate change is occurring they would not be able to use a number like 400 in the title.
To put that full 400 number in perspective, the breakdown of the IPCC makeup is over 2500 scientific expert reviewers, more than 800 contributing authors, and more than 450 lead authors. When reading the report you will see that the few ‘skeptics’ that have any affiliation with the IPCC come from the largest subset – the ‘scientific expert reviewers’ – and not the contributing authors or lead authors.
I think reading the report, with Google at hand so you can check the context of the quotes used in the report, is a worthwhile endeavor; however, I don’t see many people doing that. I first learned of the report in a recent long discussion thread on BlogCatalog.com started by globalgirl. The existence of this report, posted by the ranking minority member of the EPW committee on his blog, is cited as evidence against the reality of climate change. People who mentioned it seemed to take the mere existence of the report as more important than its content.
Like all areas of life, not all ‘experts’ are created equal.The first featured ‘skeptic’ is atmospheric scientist, Dr. Nathan Paldor, Professor of Dynamical Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who focuses on these four points:
- This is not the first time temperatures have changed historically.
- Our ability to make realizable (or even sensible) future forecasts
- The long term rising of CO2 in the atmosphere over time. Specifically because he believes that the ocean might be able to absorb more CO2 than it currently does.
- Long term CO2 rises from fossil fuels.
He appears to be a Peak Oil believer who says:
“the inventory of fossil fuels is fairly limited and in one generation we will run out of oil. Coal and natural gas might take 100-200 years but with no oil their consumption will increase so they probably won’t last as long. The real alternative that presently available to humanity is nuclear power (that can easily produce electricity for domestic and industrial usage and for transportation when our vehicles are reverted to run on electricity). The technology for this exists today and can replace our dependence on fossil fuel in a decade! This has to be made known to the general public who is unaware of the alternative for taking action to lower the anthropogenic spewing of CO2. This transformation to nuclear energy will probably take place when oil reserves dwindle regardless of the CO2 situation.”
No climate scientists deny that we have historically had warming periods in the past. So, what Dr. Nathan Paldor is actually saying is that we have problems forecasting changes to our climate, but that even if CO2 is a problem, it will go away because we will eventually run out of burnable petroleum, coal, and natural gas. This does not sound to me like someone who is rejecting the IPCC report entirely, instead he questions predictions based on current trends because he does not see our current energy usage patterns as sustainable.
Next, the report features Dr. Denis G. Rancourt, Professor of Physics and an Environmental Science researcher at the University of Ottawa is skeptical about climate change being the greatest environmental risk to humanity. He is quoted very much out of context in the report.
The quote in the report comes from a blog entry he wrote. I suspect that he was quoted mainly due to his use of the phrase: “global warming myth” which will leave many readers feeling that he is calling global warming itself a myth. In fact, as he defines it in his blog post, the “global warming myth” is based on the idea that “global warming” is the most pressing concern facing the world. The myth part is in reference to its proper placement in a prioritized list of problems and not its existence.
The entire segment that includes the portion quoted in the report is (the part included in the report is in italics):
The main arguments I hear from environmentalists are: (1) that even if we are not attacking a root cause, forcing all to burn less fossil fuels will slow down humankind’s otherwise unimpeded destruction of the planet and (2) concentrating on this issue has much educational value and will help sensitize members of the public who may then later go a further step.
I don’t agree with either of the latter positions.
On the “global warming issue as education” front, I again argue the opposite: That promoting the global warming myth trains people to accept unverified, remote, and abstract dangers in the place of true problems that they can discover for themselves by becoming directly engaged in their workplace and by doing their own research and observations. It trains people to think lifestyle choices (in relation to CO2 emission) rather than to think activism in the sense of exerting an influence to change societal structures. The first involves finding a comfort zone consistent with one’s values whereas the latter involves accepting confrontation and risk in order to challenge power structures. The first is needed for welfare, as are community, friendship, etc., while the second is needed to create sanity and justice in an insane world.
In that sense, the global warming myth is a powerful tool of co-optation that has even eroded one of the most fertile grounds of political activism: the environmental movement.
Later in the post he says:
The media are allowed to talk global warming because it does not threaten power in any significant way. Indeed, it deflects attention away from real world issues. It’s perfect. The scientists can debate it. The environmental activists are largely neutralized. Everyone thinks it’s about CO2. The economists can work out the carbon credits. The politicians can talk environment without actually saying anything. Those who want to do something can change their consumer habits. The others can just ignore it and continue chatting about the weather.
So you can see his skepticism is based on the social effects of focusing on climate change to the exclusion of other issues. I’d highly recommend reading his entire blog post to better understand his position on climate change.
Since the press, and most people, will probably limit their reading to the summary introduction where many people from all over the world are briefly quoted and highlighted, lets look at a few of the people on that list. The report has this to say about its experts cited in the report:
The distinguished scientists featured in this new report are experts in diverse fields, including: climatology; oceanography; geology; biology; glaciology; biogeography; meteorology; oceanography; economics; chemistry; mathematics; environmental sciences; engineering; physics and paleoclimatology. Some of those profiled have won Nobel Prizes for their outstanding contribution to their field of expertise and many shared a portion of the UN IPCC Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Gore.
Dr. Boris Winterhalter, retired Senior Marine Researcher of the Geological Survey of Finland and former professor of marine geology at University of Helsinki. His own biographic page points out his expertise and career is founded on his responsibility “To develop, coordinate, and conduct marine geological research in cooperation with colleagues from the Geological Survey of Finland and other national institutions and to continue to improve international cooperation and relations with colleagues abroad.” and not on climate science or the “effect of solar winds on cosmic radiation” that he is cited as a possible alternate set of factors affecting climate. I am sure that Dr. Winterhalter is fine in his area of expertise, but I think someone studying the ocean floor should be quoted in his own area and not on solar winds. On his website he writes about his frustration with media hype on the easy to communicate singular focus on CO2 instead of recognizing the extreme complexity of climate science.
Madhav Khandekar, a Ph.D meteorologist, a scientist with the Natural Resources Stewardship Project. The report doesn’t give any information about the Natural Resources Stewardship Project.
The Natural Resources Stewardship Project was registered as a Canadian corporation on October 21, 2005 with the address of 263 Roncesvalles Avenue Suite 2, Toronto, Ontario M6R2L9. That is the exact same address as The High Park Advocacy Group, Inc. The High Park Group is a “Toronto based public affairs and policy consulting firm,” according to its website. According to the Lobbyists Registration System, Government of Canada, HPG is registered as a lobbying firm for several energy industry clients and The Ottawa, Ontario, Yellow Pages lists HPG as “Government Relations Consultants”. HPG is a registered lobbyist for Areva Canada Inc. (the Areva Group is the world’s largest nuclear power company), ARISE Technologies Corporation (a Canadian-based public solar technology company), Canadian Electricity Association, and the Canadian Gas Association.
Tom Harris, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, is the former Ottawa Director of the High Park Group (HPG). Harris has written several articles that dispute the science backing the Kyoto Protocol and other schemes to “stop climate change” through the reduction of human emissions of carbon dioxide. Prior to HPG, Harris was employed by APCO Worldwide and organized a press conference in Ottawa that included Dr. Madhav Khandekar.
Dr. Kelvin Kemm, formerly a scientist at South Africa’s Atomic Energy Corporation. Dr Kelvin Kemm is currently a Business Strategy Consultant and runs his own company, Stratek, based in Pretoria. It networks many varied facets of society in the interests of economic development. In 1994 Dr Kemm was appointed to the International Board of Advisors of the Washington DC-based environment and technology lobby group; The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) – he still holds that position. CFACT touts itself as a conservative answer to the Public Interest Research Groups (e.g. NYPIRG, ConnPIRG et al.), progressive lobbying groups concerned with environmental issues. Unlike the progressive groups that get most of their funding from grassroots efforts on campuses, CFACT gets much of its funding from industry groups including Chevron and ExxonMobil as well as The Carthage Foundation, one of the conservative Scaife Family foundations.
Dr. Ian Plimer, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Dr. Plimer is an interesting guy that I’d love to have dinner with. He is famous as an outspoken critic of creationism and is famous for a debate with creationist Duane Gish in which he asked his opponent to hold live electrical cables to prove that electromagnetism was ‘only a theory’.
Plimer is also critical of what he sees as irrational elements within the environmental movement. He is critical of greenhouse gas politics and argues that extreme environmental changes are inevitable and unavoidable. He suggests that meteorologists have a huge amount to gain from climate change research, and that they have narrowed the climate change debate to the atmosphere – Plimer claims that the truth is more complex. He suggests that money would be better directed to dealing with problems as they occur rather than making expensive and futile attempts to prevent climate change. His criticism of climate change science is NOT about whether the climate is changing or not. Instead he takes a pragmatic approach that suggests dealing with the effects is better than trying to prevent change.
Dr. Richard Courtney, a UN IPCC expert reviewer and a UK-based climate and atmospheric science consultant. Richard Courtney limits his skepticism to the human caused aspect of climate change. He is a Technical Editor for CoalTrans International (journal of the international coal trading industry), but he is not a scientist. Courtney is often referred to without any academic degree, even if others are in the same document. For example, the ESEF member list of 1998 where he is not listed as a ‘Academic Member’ but as a ‘Business Member’.
Richard Courtney was one of the speakers at the conference in Leipzig in 1995 organized by the European Academy for Environmental Affairs and the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) which resulted in the Leipzig Declaration on Global Climate Change. In his speech he stated that he couldn’t find any negative sides of the announced global warming. Courtney was amongst the first group of people who signed the declaration that begins with: “As independent scientists concerned with atmospheric and climate problems, we…”. After complaints that many people who were listed as those who signed it were no scientists at all, SEPP made a new list which no longer mentions Courtney.
Dr. David Wojick is a UN IPCC expert reviewer, who earned his PhD in Philosophy of Science and co-founded the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie-Mellon University. David E. Wojick is a well-known and vocal climate change “skeptic”, with strong links to the coal industry and a now-defunct coal industry front group called the Greening Earth Society.
Wojick has been described as a journalist and policy analyst. According to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Wojick has not published any research in a peer-reviewed journal on the subject of climate change. Wojick is listed as “contributing editor” ” to Environment and Climate News, a publication of the Heartland Institute, a US think tank at the forefront of the attack on climate change science. Heartland has received over half a million in funding from ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the world. Wojick lists the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy as some of his former “clients”.
Wojick is listed among Natural Resources Stewardship Project’s “Allied Experts” as an “Independent journalist and policy analyst, specializing in Kyoto issues”. (The Natural Resources Stewardship Project was profiled in the above section on Madhav Khandekar.)
I could go on and on about the “Over 400 Prominent Scientists” that lend their collective existence to the title of this report, but I think any readers who have made it this far get the idea. This report is a desperate attempt to keep alive the idea that we don’t know enough about climate science to make valid and responsible public policy.
Many of the 400+ experts in the report do not debate that our climate is changing and the earth is warming. How we should address the problem is still up for debate and I don’t think that is remotely controversial. Maybe Dr. Plimer is right, and we are in no position to be able to stop or slow changes in our climate and we should instead focus on mitigating the results of that change. This report is one of the most dishonest documents, in both its content and its presentation, that I have ever read and the fact that it is hosted on a web server belonging to the US Government makes me ashamed
I am equally ashamed that a US politician would use his position on a Senate committee to do such a disservice to the scientists included in the report. Many of them, I am sure, have a lot to teach us and will be strong voices of rationality in the coming years. Those voices must be supported and held aloft to ensure that real scientific discourse is never silenced and is allowed to play its role as it has in the past. Lumping real scientists, backed by real science, who voice opposition to the simplistic CO2 driven climate change narrative do not deserve to have their words lumped in with lobbyists and industry friendly ‘experts’ the way they have been in this report.