Open Letter from U.S. Scientists on the IPCC

I was alerted to this by Climate Science Watch today.

Australians – politicians and the general public – take note too.

An Open Letter from Scientists in the United States on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Errors Contained in the Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007

[Note:  More than 150 scientists have already signed this open letter and signatures are still being collected. On Friday, March 12, 2010, when the letter has been delivered to federal agencies, a list of signers will be posted. The vast majority of the signers are climate change scientists who work at leading U.S. universities and institutions. They include both IPCC and non-IPCC authors. Additional signers include professionals from related disciplines, including physical, biological and social scientists.  If you have any questions, please contact the letter’s authors, contact information is below.]

Many in the popular press and other media, as well as some in the halls of Congress, are seizing on a few errors that have been found in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in an attempt to discredit the entire report. None of the handful of mis-statements (out of hundreds and hundreds of unchallenged statements) remotely undermines the conclusion that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Despite its excellent performance for accurately reporting the state-of-the-science, we certainly acknowledge that the IPCC should become more forthcoming in openly acknowledging errors in a timely fashion, and continuing to improve its assessment procedures to further lower the already very low rate of error.

It is our intention in offering this open letter to bring the focus back to credible science, rather than invented hyperbole, so that it can bear on the policy debate in the United States and throughout the world. We first discuss some of the key messages from climate science and then elaborate on IPCC procedures, with particular attention to the quality-control mechanisms of the IPCC. Finally we offer some suggestions about what might be done next to improve IPCC practices and restore full trust in climate science.

The Climate Challenge

Our understanding of human contributions to climate change and the associated urgency for humans to respond has improved dramatically over the past two decades. Many of the major components of the climate system are now well understood, though there are still sources of significant uncertainty (like the processes that produce the observed rapid ice-sheet melting and/or collapse in the polar regions). It is now well established, for example, that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from human sources have increased rapidly since the Industrial Revolution. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reduce the heat going out of the climate system, i.e., the radiation balance of the Earth – and so first principles of physics tell us to expect, with a very high likelihood, that higher temperatures should have been observed.

Indeed, measurements of global average temperatures show an increase of about 0.6 degrees C over the twentieth century and about 0.8 degrees C warming since mid-19th century. The pattern of increase has not been smooth or monotonic. There have been several 10- to 15-year periods of stable or declining temperatures over the past 150 years, but 14 of the warmest 15 years on record have been experienced between 1995 and 2009. Since 1970, observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are already being affected by these temperature increases.

Because the long-term warming trends are highly significant relative to our estimates of the magnitude of natural variability, the current decadal period of stable global mean temperature does nothing to alter a fundamental conclusion from the AR4: warming has unequivocally been observed and documented. Moreover, well-understood lags in the responsiveness of the climate system to disturbances like greenhouse gas increases mean that the current temperature plateau will very likely not persist much longer. Global climate model projections show that present-day greenhouse gas concentrations have already committed the planet to about 0.5 degree C in warming over this century.

Increasing emissions of carbon dioxide from the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas as well as deforestation have been the major drivers of this observed warming. While we cannot predict the details of our climate future with a high degree of certainty, the majority of studies from a large number of research groups in the US and elsewhere project that unabated emissions could produce between 1 and 6 degrees C more warming through the year 2100.

Other research has identified multiple reasons to be concerned about climate change; these apply to the United States as well as globally. They include (1) risks to unique and threatened systems (including human communities), (2) risks from extreme events (like coastal storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires), (3) economic damages (driven by, for example, pest infestations or inequities in the capacity to adapt), (4) risks from large-scale abrupt climate change (e.g., ice-sheet collapse, ocean circulation slowing, sharply increased methane emissions from permafrost) or abrupt impacts of more predictable climate change (generated by thresholds in the coping capacities of natural and human systems to climate variability), and (5) risks to national security (driven largely by extreme events across the world interacting with already-stressed situations).

These sources of risk and the potential for triggering temperature-driven impacts at lower thresholds, as well as the explicit recognition in the AR4 that risk is the product of likelihood and consequence, led the nations of the world to take note of the Copenhagen Accord last December. The Accord highlights 2 degrees C in warming as a target that might reduce the chance of “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” to more manageable levels. Research has shown that increasing the likelihood of achieving this goal over the next century is economically and technically feasible with emission reduction measures and changes in consumption patterns; but it will not be easy without major national and international actions to deviate substantially from the status quo.

The IPCC and the Fourth Assessment Report

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the IPCC in 1988 to provide policy makers regularly with balanced assessments of the state of knowledge on climate change. In so doing, they created an open intergovernmental organization in which scientists, policy analysts, engineers, and resource managers from all over the world were asked to collaborate. At present, more than 150 countries including the United States participate in the IPCC. IPCC publishes an assessment report approximately every six years. The most recent Fourth Assessment, approved by member countries and released in 2007, contained three volumes: The Physical Science Basis (Working Group I);Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Working Group II) and Mitigation of Climate Change (Working Group III) and a Synthesis Report. More than 44 writing teams and 450 lead authors contributed to the Fourth Assessment – authors who have been selected on the basis of their expertise in consultation with all member countries and who were assisted by another 800 scientists and analysts who served as contributing authors on specific topics. Authors donated their time gratis, and the entire process was supported by four Technical Support Units (TSUs) that employ 5 to 10 people each.

Errors in the Fourth Assessment Report

It was hard not to notice the extraordinary commotion that erupted around errors that were eventually found in the AR4. The wrong year for the projected disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers and the wrong percentage of ‘land below sea level’ in the Netherlands are examples of errors that need to be acknowledged frankly and rectified promptly. In a few other cases, like the discussion of the correlations between crop yields, climate change, and climate variability in North Africa, caveats that were carefully crafted within the chapters were not included when language was shortened for the Synthesis Report. While striving to simplify technical details and summarize major points, some important qualifications were left behind. These errors of omission in the summary process should also be recognized and corrected. Other claims, like the one reported at the end of February suggesting that the AR4 did not mention the millions of more people who will see increases in water availability that were reported in the cited literature along with the millions of more people who will be at risk of water shortage, are simply not true. In any case, it is essential to emphasize that none of these interventions alter the key finding from the AR4 that human beings are very likely changing the climate, with far-reaching impacts in the long run.

The heated debates that have emerged around these instances have even led some to question the quality and integrity of the IPCC. Recent events have made it clear that the quality control procedures of the IPCC are not watertight, but claims of widespread and deliberate manipulation of scientific data and fundamental conclusions in the AR4 are not supported by the facts. We also strongly contest the impression that the main conclusions of the report are based on dubious sources. The reference list of the AR4 contains about 18,000 citations, the vast majority of which were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The IPCC also has transparent procedures for using published but not peer-reviewed sources in their reports. These procedures were not properly followed in the isolated Himalaya case, but that statement was never elevated into the Summary for Policymakers of either Working Group II or the Synthesis Report – documents that were approved unanimously and word for word by all member nations.

Nonetheless, failsafe compliance with these procedures requires extra attention in the writing of the next round of assessments. We propose implementing a topic-based cross-chapter review process by which experts in an impact area of climate change, such as changes in water resources, scrutinize the assessment of related vulnerability, risk analyses, and adaptation strategies that work downstream from such changes. Here we mean, to continue the example, assessments of possible increases in flooding damage in river basins and the potential for wetlands to provide buffers in the sectoral and regional chapters. This would be most productively implemented just before the first-order draft, so that chapter authors can be alerted to potential problems before the major review step.

Quality Control within the IPCC and US Review

The impression that the IPCC does not have a proper quality-control procedure is deeply mistaken. The procedure for compiling reports and assuring its quality control is governed by well-documented principles that are reviewed regularly and amended as appropriate. Even now, every step in the preparation of every chapter can be traced on a website: First Order Drafts (with comments by many scientists as well as author responses to those comments), Second Order Drafts in which those comments are incorporated (and comments by experts and country representatives on revised versions as well as another round of author responses), and so on, up through the final, plenary-approved versions.

To be clear, 2,500 reviewers together provided about 90,000 comments on the 44 chapters for the AR4. Each comment is documented on a website that also describes how and why the comment was or was not incorporated in the next revision. Review editors for each chapter worked with the authors to guarantee that each comment was treated properly and honestly in the revision; in fact, no chapter can ever move forward for publication without the approval of its set of two or three review editors.

The US Government opened its reviews of the draft IPCC report to any US expert who wanted to review it. In order to protect against having this preliminary pre-reviewed draft leaked before its ultimate approval by the IPCC Plenary, the US Government asked all potential reviewers to agree not to disclose the contents of the draft. For each report, the US Government assembled its own independent panel of government experts to vet the comments before submission to the IPCC. Anything with scientific merit was forwarded. There were multiple rounds for each of the Working Group reports and the Synthesis Report, and opportunities for US experts to review the drafts were posted as Federal Register notices.

IPCC principles also govern how authors treat published but non-peer reviewed sources. These procedures acknowledge that peer-reviewed scientific journals contain little information about on-the-ground implementation of adaptation or mitigation – matters such as the emission reduction potential in a given industrial sector or country, for example, or catalogues of the specific vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies of sectors and regions with regard to climate change. This information is frequently only available in reports from research institutes, reports of workshops and conferences, or in publications from industries or other non-governmental organizations. This is the so-called gray literature. The IPCC procedure prescribes that authors are obliged to assess critically any gray source that they wish to include. The quality and validity of a finding from a non-peer reviewed source needs to be verified before its finding may be included in a chapter text. Each source needs to be completely traceable; and in cases where gray sources are used, a copy must be deposited at the IPCC Secretariat to guarantee that it is available upon request for third parties.

We conclude that the IPCC procedures are transparent and thorough, even though they are not infallible. Nonetheless, we are confident that no single scholar or small group of scholars can manipulate the process to include or to exclude a specific line of research; authors of that research can (and are fully encouraged to) participate in the review process. Moreover, the work of every scientist, regardless of whether it supports or rejects the premise of human-induced climate change, is subject to inclusion in the reports. The work is included or rejected for consideration based on its scientific merit.

It is important to note that we are not addressing here the criteria and procedures by which the IPCC selects chairs and authors. These are handled exclusively by the IPCC and its members according to terms of reference that were initially defined in the authorizing language of 1988. That is to say, governments or their appointees frame and implement these policies; and they create, approve and staff Technical Support Units for each working group. We do not make suggestions on these topics since they lie beyond our purview.

What comes next?

The National Academies of Sciences will shortly release a series of subsequent assessments under the America’s Climate Choices rubric. We expect that the robust findings of the AR4 will be supported by new information gleaned from literature published since 2006, and that IPCC findings will be confirmed – i.e., that the climate change issue is serious and real. Given these findings, we believe that the climate change issue deserves the urgent and non-partisan consideration of the country’s legislative and administrative leaders. We feel strongly that exaggerated focus on a few errors from 2007 cannot be allowed to detract from open and honest deliberations about how to respond to climate risk by reducing emissions and promoting adaptation at home and abroad.

As the process of producing the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) begins, the IPCC should become more responsive in acknowledging errors rapidly and openly as they become known. To this end, we urge the IPCC to put an erratum on its website that rectifies all errors that have been discovered in the text after publication. In doing so, a clear distinction needs to be made between errors and progressing knowledge. IPCC assessments are detailed snapshots of the state of scientific knowledge at a given time, while knowledge evolves continuously through ongoing research and experience; it is the errors in the assessments that need immediate attention. In contrast, progressing knowledge is published in new scientific journal articles and reports; this information should be used as a basis for the AR5, but it cannot be listed as errata for the AR4 because it was not available when that assessment was conducted. The website should, as well, respond rapidly and openly when reports of errors in past assessments are themselves in error. We cannot let misperceptions fester anymore than errors go uncorrected.

Climate research and the IPCC reports on the state of knowledge provide a scientific foundation for climate policy making, whose agenda is defined by the governments of the IPCC and not the lead authors per se. The quality of and the balance in the knowledge delivered by any assessment is certainly essential, as is clear and explicit communication of associated uncertainties. Given the recent political and media commotion surrounding a few clear errors, it is now equally essential that we find ways to restore full trust in the integrity of the overwhelming majority of the climate change research and policy communities. To that end, we are pleased that an independent critical evaluation of IPCC procedures will be conducted; we hope that the process will solicit participation by the National Academies of the member nations.

The significance of IPCC errors has been greatly exaggerated by many sensationalist accounts, but that is no reason to avoid implementing procedures to make the assessment process even better. The public has a right to know the risks of climate change as scientists currently understand them. We are dedicated to working with our colleagues and government in furthering that task.

March 10, 2010


Gary W. Yohe Wesleyan University

Stephen H. Schneider Stanford University

Cynthia Rosenzweig NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University

William E. Easterling Pennsylvania State University


With reference to a classic skeptic documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle read Complaint regarding "The Global Warming Swindle" (PDF): "details of the most comprehensive of the complaints to the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) regarding Channel 4’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle. The complaint was submitted to Ofcom on June 11, 2007." Included is a scene by scene rebuttal of claims made in the documentary. The most substantial elements in the complaint were upheld.


13 thoughts on “Open Letter from U.S. Scientists on the IPCC

  1. Sorry, Roger; Akismet again.

    You mean this petition?

    Quote from National Academy of Sciences

    “The petition was so misleading that the National Academy issued a news release stating that: The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.”

    See also: The 30,000 Global Warming Petition is Easily-Debunked Propaganda (2009) and the original 1998 STATEMENT BY THE COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES REGARDING GLOBAL CHANGE PETITION — when this dubious document first surfaced.

    Ref: Sourcewatch.

    I don’t think quoting a fraudulent document is “balance”. Not wishing to be rude to you personally, Roger, but I sussed this one out a couple of years ago. That it keeps popping up is quite amazing. Perhaps “groupthink” — a charge sometimes levelled against supporters of the mainstream — is a case of the pot calling the kettle black! See this story versus this story.

    (BTW — I don’t dot every “i” or cross every “t” of Al Gore’s famous doco, but he was more right than wrong — not bad for a politician and showman, and not a scientist.)

    • Neil,

      I spent some time checking out your links.

      1. I could find no account where the National Acadamy of Science had distanced themselves from Frederick Seitz, in fact he is recorded on their site in the warmest of terms and full mention of his no doubt well deserved honours.
      2. None of the sites you cited appeared to provide any hard evidence of fraud of any sort although there seemed to be a lot of personal attacks.
      3. In a petition of that kind, if anyones name was on it fraudulently, one would expect that at least some (especially considering how large the number is) would have objected publicly or at least had their objections taken up by someone else.
      Nothing came up although I searched diligently.

      With all due respect Neil, unless you can come up with some hard evidence about the Petition Project I will continue to believe that it is bonafide.

      I will welcome any hard evidence/authorative sources that you can produce to the contrary.

      Generally your opinions seem to be based on other blogs which are opinions or wishful thinkings of the author and without substance because they do not cite sources.

      As you do the same, it would be therefore reasonable to classify your writings similarly.



  2. Climategate was forecast…

    “What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes? [Referring to the hockey stick propagated in UN IPCC 2001 by Michael Mann and debunked by McIntyre and McKitrick in 2003.]

    Ans: Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on MBH98/99. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”

    AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION, also known as The Wegman report was authored by Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, David W. Scott, Rice University, and Yasmin H. Said, The Johns Hopkins University with the contributions of John T. Rigsby, III, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Denise M. Reeves, MITRE Corporation.

    As a geologist I am very comfortable with the multiple working hypothesis – I would like someone to start examining the other ideas out there. The Danes have been on the case for a long while, studying the sun. Who would have thought the sun would be involved in warming? The first paper to read is Friis-Christensen and Lassen (Science; 1991). If you can find the entire issue in the reference library, you will see the editors comment referred to this paper as hitting the ball into the anthropogenic court. The causation is under scientific review, however, and while the radiation from the sun varies only in the fourth decimal place, the magnetism is awesome. However, we all realize correlation is not causation. The correlation broke down when Pinatubo erupted in 1991; my tomatoes did not ripen that summer either. Is this the exception that proves the rule?
    The important correlation between warming and cooling is the sunspot peak frequency, not the actual number of spots. Sunspot peak frequency proxies for the rise and fall of the sun’s magnetic field. Cosmic radiation is currently at its highest ever measured because the sun and earth’s magnetic shields are down; climate is changing. The climate celebrities, however, are linking climate and the carbon economy. Maybe not evil; just wrong.
    The third ranking gas is CO2 (0.0383%), and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence for its well-studied inverse solubility in water: CO2 dissolves rapidly in cold water and bubbles rapidly out of warm water. CO2 has been rising and Earth and her oceans have been warming. However, the correlation trails.
    Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center has experiments scheduled for the Hadron collider to test his basement experiment. Elevated solar flux (> 10 protons per cc) appears to cause fog in the Great Lakes and clouds too. The hypothesis of the Danish National Space Center goes as follows: quiet sun allows the geomagnetic shield to drop. Incoming galactic cosmic ray flux creates more low-level clouds, more snow, and more albedo effect as more is heat reflected resulting in a colder climate. An active sun has an enhanced magnetic field that induces Earth’s geomagnetic shield response. Earth has fewer low-level clouds, less rain, snow and ice, and less albedo (less heat reflected) producing a warmer climate.
    That is how the bulk of climate change likely works, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, all the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, as they have been for this century, all the planets cool.
    Many answers yield many new questions: the change in cloud cover is only a small percentage, and the ultimate cause of the solar magnetic cycle may be cyclicity in the Sun-Jupiter centre of gravity. We await more on that.
    Although the post 60s warming period appears to be over, warming and attendant humidity have allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with more clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years. We can likely kick much of the carbon economy sometime late the twenty-first century, but we must not rush to judgement for the wrong reason. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat. Nothing unusual is going on except for the Orwellian politics. In other words, it is not the heat; it is the humidity.

    “When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors , shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the actions that follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
    “People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement…Their innermost craving is for a new life – a rebirth – or failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. An active mass movement offers them opportunities for both…” [ Is this Mr. Gore?]
    “ It is true that in the early adherents of a mass movement there are also adventurers who join in the hope that that the movement will give a spin to their wheel of fortune and whirl them to fame and power.”
    Eric Hoffer, 1951 – “The True Believer – Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements”

  3. I should feel honoured that my humble blog has attracted the attention of Doctor No.

    …He seems to revel in being notoriously rude in his dealings with other scientists, particularly on the subject on anthropogenic climate change…. he is very busy leaving his charming comments all over the blogland and webworld.

    See also Francis T. Manns AKA Dr. No.

    He was at one time a publishing geologist. He has worked for Northgate Exploration Ltd. He created a denialist PowerPoint presentation which has been used by the Friends of Science front group. He is apparently now 64, suffering from sciatica, and a self-described “displaced person”, living in Toronto.

    He has spammed a rather incoherent rant about the oceans being basically immune to acidification on a dizzying number of blogs, including this one. It seems he also engages in blatant sock puppetry, or is suffering from a severe mental disorder, as he converses with himself in thread comments.

    He left three comments, I have not cut anything, but have joined them into one.

    See The Best Argument Against Global Warming.

  4. Your comment hit Akismet again, Roger.

    See Oregon Institute of Science and Malarkey and its 135 comments.

    There is no doubt Seitz has been a distinguished scientist. The 1998 press release I mentioned is online.

    The Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is concerned about the confusion caused by a petition being circulated via a letter from a former president of this Academy. This petition criticizes the science underlying the Kyoto treaty on carbon dioxide emissions (the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change), and it asks scientists to recommend rejection of this treaty by the U.S. Senate. The petition was mailed with an op-ed article from The Wall Street Journal and a manuscript in a format that is nearly identical to that of scientific articles published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 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.

    The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.

    In particular, the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a major consensus study on this issue, entitled Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming (1991,1992). This analysis concluded 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.” In addition, the Committee on Global Change Research of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the NAS and the NAE, will issue a major report later this spring on the research issues that can help to reduce the scientific uncertainties associated with global change phenomena, including climate change.

    See also Media Matters for America.

    According to an April 30, 1998, Associated Press article, the petition “surfaced shortly before the April 22 [1998] Earth Day.” The petition was a project of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a group describing itself as “a small research institute” studying “biochemistry, diagnostic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine, and aging.” According to the website PR Watch, OISM “also markets a home-schooling kit for ‘parents concerned about socialism in the public schools’ and publishes books on how to survive nuclear war.” PR Watch reports that although “[t]he OISM website says it has ‘six faculty members, several volunteers who work actively on its projects, and a large number of volunteers who help occasionally,'” OISM’s “only paid staff person … is biochemist Arthur Robinson, the Institute’s founder and president.” OISM’s 2003 IRS Form 990 lists Zachary and Noah Robinson — according to PR Watch, Arthur Robinson’s sons — as unpaid staff spending one half-hour per week working for the institute.

    The petition is accompanied by a letter signed by Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and by a paper authored by Arthur and Zachary Robinson and two others. The letter accompanying the petition argues that the Kyoto Protocol — an international agreement to reduce or limit net emissions of certain greenhouse gases signed in November 1998 by President Clinton but rejected by President Bush shortly after he took office — is “based upon flawed ideas” and argues that “there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful.” The paper argues that “increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide … have produced no deleterious effects upon global weather, climate, or temperature” and that “the effect on the environment [of increased CO2 levels] is likely to be benign” because “[g]reenhouse gases cause plant life, and the animal life that depends upon it, to thrive.” PR Watch reports that the paper — titled “Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” — “was printed in the same typeface and format as the official Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” creating “the impression that Robinson’s paper was an official publication of the academy’s peer-reviewed journal.”

    But in an April 20, 1998, statement, NAS clarified 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.” The statement added that “[t]he petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”

    The AP reported Robinson is “a physical chemist” who “acknowledges he has done no direct research into global warming,” and PR Watch reported that “[n]one of the coauthors of “Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” had any more standing than Robinson himself as a climate change researcher.” PR Watch also noted that “[Robinson’s] paper had never been subjected to peer review by anyone with training in the field. In fact, the paper had never been accepted for publication anywhere. … It was self-published by Robinson, who did the typesetting himself on his own computer.”

    PR Watch also noted that “[w]hen questioned in 1998, … Robinson admitted that only 2,100 signers of the Oregon Petition had identified themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, or meteorologists, ‘and of those the greatest number are physicists.’ ” The AP article reported the total number of signatures on the petition as of April, 1998 to be approximately 15,000. The AP reported that Robinson “acknowledged that little attempt was done to verify credentials of those who responded” to the petition, and though the names of the signatories are listed on the OISM website, many of the entries lack academic credentials, none lists a city of residence, and none lists an academic institution with which the signer is affiliated.

    Moreover, the AP noted that although Robinson claimed the petition “includes thousands of people ‘qualified to speak on this subject’ including biochemists, geophysicists and climatologists,” he also admitted that “questionable names were added to the petition by pranksters.”

    You may read a PBS interview with Seitz.

    I think where he is coming from and what he believes come across very clearly in his own words. There is nothing there to change my assessment of the Oregon Institute and its Petition.

    I have added to the post the Full Complaint to the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) regarding Channel 4’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle. On Seitz’s contribution to that program the verdict is:

    [Comment 114: The documentary should have made clear that this refers to events that took place in 1996, surrounding the release of the Second Assessment Report, which has been superseded by two more recent assessments. It should also have disclosed that Frederick Seitz is a condensed matter physicist, and has never been a climate scientist or ever been involved with the IPCC. Moreover, it should have disclosed that at the time of writing the letter to the Wall Street Journal, Seitz was the Chair of the fossil-fuel industry–funded George C. Marshall Institute [see Appendix D below]), as well as being Chairman of the Science and Environmental Policy Project [see Appendix D below] and see also S. Fred Singer, Appendix C.10, page 135 [of the full complaint]).

    Seitz has also worked as a consultant to the tobacco industry ( [Guardian]), and was described in an internal memo by Phillip Morris Co. in 1989 (7 years before the WSJ letter) as “quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice.” ( [Tobaccodocuments]). He was later instrumental in organising a “petition project” of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine or OISM: a petition that has been heavily criticised for its misleading nature (see the entry about the OISM [in Appendix D below] for details).

    Moreover, the revisions to a draft chapter of the IPCC report were made by the authors (i.e. the scientists) themselves, in response to review comments, as they are obliged to do under the normal peer review process. None of the authors complained about the changes, and forty signed a letter to the Wall Street Journal (see stressing that the scientific content of the report was unchanged, and that uncertainties were still discussed in the final version.

    They also noted that Seitz:

    … was not involved in the process of putting together the 1995 IPCC report on the science of climate change. He did not attend the Madrid IPCC meeting on which he reports. He was not privy to the hundreds of review comments received by Chapter 8 Lead Authors. Most seriously, before writing his editorial, he did not contact any of the Lead Authors of Chapter 8 in order to obtain information as to how or why changes were made to Chapter 8 after Madrid.

    An open letter of support for the IPCC was also written by the American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (see See also Appendix G: [below] for further context provided by Bert Bolin, the IPCC Chairman at the time of this controversy.

    By quoting selectively an article by someone who has never had any involvement with the IPCC, who is not a climate scientist, and whose article in the Wall Street Journal has been shown to be so highly misleading, the film maker was apparently setting out to mislead the audience and to misrepresent the facts.]

    (In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.4, 5.5, 5.7, 5.11, 5.12)

    Further, from Appendix D:

    In 1998 OISM organized a mass mailing of tens of thousands of US scientists [Lahsen 2005 ( This included a letter from Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and a petition form criticising the science of global warming and opposing the Kyoto Protocol. These were accompanied by a paper, unpublished but formatted in the style of the respected journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with authors Arthur Robinson, his son Zachary, and Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon (see Appendix C.12, page 138 [of the full complaint]) of the George C. Marshall Institute. This paper was heavily criticized for its misleading appearance and content [Science (, as well for as the fact that none of its authors had previously published any research on climatology ( The NAS took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement disassociating itself from the project of its former president (
    The associated petition, despite being frequently cited by global warming critics as showing that thousands of scientists disagree with the consensus on global warming, contains very few people with relevant expertise; and its vetting was so lax that it included fictional signatories such as Star Wars characters and a member of the Spice Girls [Lahsen 2005 (

    Roger, how can you still believe in that Petition?

    • Neil,

      Once again you seem to rely on blog opinions rather than actual facts.

      1. You think that the article “Atmospheric Effects of Atmospheric CO2” was not peer reviewed?
      Well it was published by the Journal of American Physicians And Surgeons (12(3):79-90,2007) and one of their requirements of publishing is that the article be subject to their peer review. see under General Policy.
      2. I dont see anywhere that the petition claims to be connected with the National Academy of Science except that Seitz used to be the president.
      3. The article “Atmospheric Effects of Atmospheric CO2” is well referenced. I will let you into a little secret.You dont have to be a climate scientist to review a paper like this properly, all you need to do is have a reasonable brain, literacy and the patience to read it carefully and check the references. Have you done that?
      4.Dr Seitz seems ok in that interview, and quite frankly, his point about the cost of reducing CO2 emissions is absolutely dead on. What he is saying is exactly what I say as an economist. “If we are going to break our economies in order to save the planet, we better be damn sure that the AGW theory is 100% correct.” Breaking the economy” by the way means starvation in your country and mine.
      5. According to the link you provided, The Atmospheric Effects of Atmospheric CO2 certainly got the wind up some other climate type scientists as you would expect, mind you they are smart enough to use the word “suggest” rather than the word “fact”.

      So it boils down to whether one takes ones own council re Climate Change such as I do in my blog (which you havent bothered to read yet) or do you trust Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri and his IPCC.

      Either way, if we follow the IPCC emission reduction instructions, FACT: we will break our economies. If we dont follow the IPCC emission reduction instructions it is SUGGESTED that the earth will perish because of overheating.

      This is the real choice.

      However once again I think you should take more trouble to distinguish between facts and opinions when you write your conclusions.



      • So it boils down to whether one takes ones own council re Climate Change such as I do in my blog (which you havent bothered to read yet) or do you trust Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri and his IPCC.

        1. I have read your blog. 2 … do you trust Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri and his IPCC?: false choice. Al Gore is just a presenter in this case, and Rajendra Pachauri does not equal the IPCC. The assumption that we have to “break our economies” is questionable; there is no doubt, even apart from climate change, that our economies are in for a big shake-up in future and many of our previous shibboleths in that semi-science will be questioned. See for example people like Robert Shapiro. I do agree that the best responses to climate change are very much up for debate; I disagree that doing nothing is up for debate.

        You ducked the last question. Did you read that Full Complaint to the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) regarding Channel 4’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle linked now in the post — and not a blog? (It would be churlish of course to point out that your blog is a blog, and you are no more a scientist than I am, or Al Gore.)

  5. Pingback: A short break for some visuals « Neil's second decade

  6. Neil,

    Of course I did not read the complaint in its entireity. In fact I would have been surprised if there were no complaints. However I can show historical references etc that show that the essential things are correct. Of course one has to be fairly pedantic to stop the video and scrutinise a fraction of a graph.
    In fact if you wish to read a good blog opinion on one of the complaint objects why not read Of course being a blog no matter how well researched, dosnt mean anything except muddy the already polluted waters perhaps?

    But you are forgetting that Al Gore’s (as a front man for IPCC etc.) film is banned from schools in the UK, as in my opinion seems just, and the accompanying book which has some clangers in it is also banned. And the IPCC under the direction of the above mentioned Rajendra Pachauri (who as head stops the buck for anything the IPCC does) is not showing up too well recently either.

    But this is all talk really, The fact that the world has been warmer in earlier times, and the later warmings are confirmed in history, archaelogical finds and contemporary scientific studies (some listed in my blog) makes a rational man look for evidence why this warming is DIFFERENT from previous warmings. Even the IPCC never claims that the AGW theory in spite of all the research, models and hype is anything more than a suggestion.

    The difference between my blog and yours is that I am careful to reference scientific and historical facts.

    Oh by the way, I do have a few clues about economics so I would advise you not to close your mind about “questionable” breakup of our economies. Perhaps it is worthy of some research by yourself, although there seems to be little information available.



  7. I think we might leave it at that as you are beyond persuasion, it seems, and no doubt think I am also, though I rather think I am not. You’d find more than pedantry if you did read that complaint. You would find substantial evidence of dishonesty in terms of misrepresentation and distortion of facts. The complaints were quite justly upheld.

    As for economists, you may note that I follow quite a few of them in my Google Reader, and not all of them people I always agree with. On the junction between Economics and Environment I follow Environmental Economics.

    The Environmental Economics blog is dedicated to the dissemination of economists’ views on current environmental and natural resource issues. We hope this blog will help bring economists’ views on environmental issues further into the mainstream. The intended audience includes the general public and students. Posts are non-technical.

    We aim to fill the gap between traditional academic journals and the general interest press by providing a widely accessible yet UNscholarly source for [slightly uninformed] thinking on environmental economics and related policy.

    Quote of the Year (about environmental economists):

    “The right wing always suspects you of being a tree-hugging environmentalist and the left wing accuses you of being a money-grubbing capitalist.” Source: WSJ.

    On (your recommendation) readers should go to Deltoid and Past reconstructions: problems, pitfalls and progress and this search.

  8. The difference between my blog and yours is that I am careful to reference scientific and historical facts.


    Al Gore’s movie is NOT banned in UK schools. It IS allowed subject to having its errors — and I agree there are errors — drawn to students’ attention. As a teacher I have no problem with that, and assume I would do exactly the same with The Great Global Warming Scandal.

    The UK Independence Party wants the Gore doco banned. (25 Feb 2010)

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