The Oregon Petition
- Posted to ClimateArchive for use in discussion at:
--------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2004 17:59:40 -0600
Subject: [P&C] Re: The Oregon Petition
Mike Neuman responds: In my opinion, unless someone is asking a
question, I would say it is the person who initially posts the
information who has the main responsibility to check the accuracy of the
information before posting it to others. In this case, that was not done
sufficiently by the initial poster of the information, so the burden of
investing time in researching the topic fell onto others (me), unfairly I
Be that as it may, the problems embedded in the development and promotion
of the "Oregon Petition" demonstrate the depth some global warming
skeptics will go to, just to convey to the public, governmental officials
and the mass media the false perception that global warming is not a
problem to be all that concerned about, and that it is not newsworthy.
That background is provided below. My source for this information is a
book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, authors from the Center for
Media and Democracy, Madison, WI, who also wrote the book "Mad Cow USA"
that is getting all the attention in the media these days. This
information on the Oregon Petition is paraphrased from their (also)
excellent 2001 book: "Trust Us, We're Experts! - How Industry Manipulates
Science and Gambles with Your Future":
The Oregon Petition, sponsored by the Oregon Institute of Science and
Medicine, was circulated in April 1998, in a bulk mailing to tens of
thousands of U.S. scientists. In addition to the petition, the mailing
included what appeared to be a reprint of a scientific paper. Authored
by Arthur B. Robinson and three other people, the paper was titled
"Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" and was printed in
the same typeface and format as the official Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences. A cover note from Frederick Seitz, who had served
as president of the academy in the 1960s, added to the impression that
Robinson's paper was an official publication of the academy's
Robinson's paper claimed that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
is actually a good thing, not a bad thing. "As atmospheric CO2
increases", it stated, "plant growth rate increase. Also, leaves lose
less water as CO2 increases, so that plants are able to grow under drier
conditions. Animal life, which depends upon plant life for food,
increases proportionally", the paper stated. "This will help to maintain
and improve the health, longevity, prosperity, and productivity of all
people", Robinson's paper said.
In reality, neither Robinson's paper nor the Oregon Institute of Science
and Medicine petition drive had anything to do with the National Academy
of Sciences, which first heard about the petition when its members began
calling to ask if the academy had taken a stand against the Kyoto treaty.
Robinson was a biochemist with no published research in the field of
climatology, and his 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 - let alone in the National Academy
of Sciences Proceedings. It was self-published by Robinson, who did the
typesetting himself on his own computer under the auspices of the Oregon
Institute of Sciences and Medicine, of which Robinson himself was the
The bulk mailing that went out to scientists gave no information about
the Oregon Institute itself, other than the address of a post office box.
The institute describes itself as "a small research institute" located
in Cave Junction (population 1,126), Oregon. It is not known as a center
for scientific and medical research.
Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric chemist at the University of
Chicago, complained at the time that "the mailing is clearly designed to
be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article, which is
full of half-truths, is a reprint and has passed peer review".
TheNational Academy of Sciences' foreign secretary F. Sherwood Rowland, a
Nobel Laureate atmospheric chemist, said researchers "are wondering if
some is trying to hoodwink them". Academy council member Ralph J.
Cicerone, dean of the School of Physical Sciences at the University of
California at Irvine, was particularly offended that Seitz described
himself in the cover letter as a past president of the academy. Although
Seitz had indeed held that title in the 1960s, Cicerone said he hoped the
scientists who received the petition mailing would not be misled into
believing that he "still had a role in governing the organization"
The academy issued an usually blunt formal response to the petition
drive. "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," it stated in a news
release. "The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert
reports of the Academy." In fact, it pointed out, its own prior
published study had shown 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 potential of dramatic surprises."
Rampton and Stauber write that: "When questioned in 1998, Robinson
admitted that only 2,100 signers of the Oregon Petition had identified
themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, or
meteorologists." In fact, when the Oregon Petition first circulated,
environmental advocates successfully added the names of several
characters and celebrities to the list, including John Grisham, Michael
J. Fox and Benjamin Pierce from the TV show M*A*S*H*, and Geraldine
Halliwell, formerly known as the pop singer Ginger Spice of the Spice
Source: Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, "Trust Us, We're Experts! -
How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future", John P.
Tarcher/Putnam, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc., New York, 2001.
---End of Forwarded message from: mtneuman@... ---
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