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I just got a letter in my faculty mailbox from a PO box in La Jolla, CA, asking me to sign a petition denying global warming and opposing the Kyoto protocols.  
It came with a journal article, "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide," and a letter inviting me to "consider these materials carefully" and to mail back a signed petition card to "PETITION PROJECT."
The petition card has a space to indicate my academic degree, which they would no doubt prominently display on the petition.  After all, that's probably why they're sending it to university faculty around the country.  Faculty in random departments like computer science, with no expertise whatsoever in climatology.  But we all have PhDs, right, so a big list of us would sure impress the unwary.

Now, this is pretty serious wacko propaganda.  Believe it or not, the letter says:

[...]Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful.  To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful.

Wow.  So ... well, hold on, I'm not done saying "wow."  Wow.  I never heard that one before.  It's like those rare nuts who not only deny a link between smoking and cancer, but actually believe it makes you healthier.  The journal article is similarly extreme:  it claims for pages that our CO2 output has zero effect on climate, zero, zilch, no effect, nada, impossible; then it claims that our supposedly insignificant CO2 output is also dramatically transforming the biosphere.  If you have a copy of the paper, this mental discontinuity starts at page 8, if you want to avoid spraining your head.

Okay, so some unnamed group thinks I qualify to join their dumbass brigade.  I'm wondering if other folks got similar mailings recently.
Likely this is a mass-mailing soliciting signatures of degreed individuals in irrelevant areas, to create the false impression of scientific support for their denial movement.  The letter says, "[it] is especially important for America to hear from its citizens who have the training necessary to evaluate the relevant data and offer sound advice."   In other words, nonexperts with a science!
The irony is that anyone with the "training necessary" to read a scientific paper would see right through this charade.  The aforementioned journal article was published in, get this, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.  Physicians and surgeons?  If I didn't look further I'd dismiss it as a journal utterly incapable of peer review of a paper on climatology.  
But Wikpediing further, I find that this journal is actually the organ of a political advocacy group that disputes a lot of things:

Articles published in the journal have argued that the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are unconstitutional,[27] that "humanists" have conspired to replace the "creation religion of Jehovah" with evolution,[28] that HIV does not cause AIDS,[29] and that the "gay male lifestyle" shortens life expectancy by 20 years.[30] A series of articles by pro-life authors also claimed a link between abortion and breast cancer;[31][32] such a link has been rejected by the National Cancer Institute.[33]

If you don't know your denial movements, HIV denial is basically the microbiology version of creationism.  Yes, there are people in today's world who still dispute the germ theory of disease.  Surprised?  Why?  You've probably also seen ads for products that contradict the atom theory of matter, like Head-On(tm), which claims to have an active ingredient diluted by a factor of 10 to the 30th power.  (There won't be a single molecule of the active ingredient in the product.  I mean, if you believe in that molecule stuff.)  You can buy homeopathic remedies and therapeutic magnets in stores.  We laugh at these wackos, but anti-science is huge right now.  When it's not controlling White House policy, junk science is making huge profits selling placebos and fuel line magnets.
Okay, enough ranting about that.  The point I want to make is that someone's out there, canvassing universities to manufacture a fake scientific consensus on global warming.  But who?  The letter is signed by Frederick Seitz, a well-known global warming skeptic, who was no doubt chosen to sign the letter because of his sterling career:  he was once president of the National Academy of Sciences, and is president emeritus of Rockefeller University.

Of course, if you want to argue credentials, it's not like this is more authoritative than all the world's climatologists.  Indeed, the whole thing is a big scam of credential flogging:  basically a dude with impressive but irrelevant credentials is asking me to read a paper in a sham journal, to get my signature as a non-expert---all to play the game of faking consensus.
Beyond this, I have no other information.  The return address just says "GWPP," which I assume stands for global warming petition project.  It's a PO box.  There is no other information about what organization is behind this.  
I'm guessing that they're either banking on a large percentage of degreed individuals who are gullible enough to fall for a pretty obvious snow job, or they are banking on th efact that scientists, like any body of people, will have its share of ideologues, and they just need to reach them.  But in any case, someone is apparently reaching.

Originally posted to Caj on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:03 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I forgot to add: (12+ / 0-)

    They sent me two addressed envelopes.  What should I put in them?

  •  But Caj (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caj, Catte Nappe, gizmo59

    "there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful."  Just not for mammals.

    Thanks for the sunlight, recommended.

    "I don't think I intended to break the law." - Monica Goodling

    by Bob Love on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:09:26 PM PDT

  •  I wonder how many of these were sent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caj, gizmo59

    That is, how much funding do these clowns have? The only good news is that most of them live in Texas or the South and they'll fry first.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:33:41 PM PDT

    •  Must be thousands. (0+ / 0-)

      Ninety percent of life is just showing up. Woody Allen
      The other 10% is homework. Anonymous student.

      by captainlaser on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:53:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, if I may get all geeky (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      global citizen, gizmo59

      The fact that I received a letter conditions the probability distribution of the number of letters sent, raising the expected value.
      Groucho Marx famously said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member.  There is a similar result in probability:  if I choose a random subset of the population with a random size, and you discover you are in the set, then that information raises the odds of a large set and lowers the odds of a small set.
      For example, if I pick a random number equiprobably from 1 to 100 and mail that many letters out, the expected number of letters is 50.5.  But if you find out that you've received one, the expected number of letters jumps to about 66.

  •  I'll bet you money (5+ / 0-)

    a huge percentage of the people that sign that thing will be business professors. The ones on my campus would have eaten that crap up.

  •  I got one in the mail. (6+ / 0-)

    It looked very authoritative, complete with glossy charts, like a promotion for a medical or scientific publication.  I was shocked when I saw what it was.

    •  Oh, you got it too! (4+ / 0-)

      The journal article certainly reads like a sales pitch.    The language is very pointed and loaded, more like a newspaper editorial in its tone.
      Plus, half of the graphs are overlaid with simple take-away messages like "Long-lived Trees are Growing Faster" or "Number of Severe Tornados [sic] in U.S. is Decreasing."  
      It was pretty obviously designed to be read by non-technical people.  I guess the intended target is a policy maker, or a literate but unwary layperson.  It makes sense:  pseudo-science movements usually bypass the insurmountable hurdle of peer review, and try to make their case directly to regular people.

  •  Got one in the mail today. Laughable actually. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, Catte Nappe, A Siegel, gizmo59

    The article was by two guys I'd never heard of in a journal that is "open access" with a website that doesn't work.

    Fred Seitz is 96 years old, bless his heart.  But as is noted on Wikipedia:

    Shortly before his retirement from Rockefeller University in 1979, Seitz began working as a paid permanent consultant for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, advising their research program [2].

    By 1989, the CEO of R.J. Reynolds, William Hobbs, concluded that "Dr. Seitz is quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice." [3]



    Anyone heard of the two guys who wrote the article?

    Ninety percent of life is just showing up. Woody Allen
    The other 10% is homework. Anonymous student.

    by captainlaser on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:53:06 PM PDT

    •  open access? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      kinda like unpeer unreviewed?

      •  Probably reviewed by other wingnuts (0+ / 0-)

        I've been having fun looking at the names on the 19,000 scientists.

        Just hit a Physicist who is an MD and teaches biology at a Lutheran Community College.  There's a climate expert, for you.

        I suspect this is the Republican party mailing list.

        Ninety percent of life is just showing up. Woody Allen
        The other 10% is homework. Anonymous student.

        by captainlaser on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 08:08:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  No (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        "Open access" doesn't mean unpeer reviewed---it means the journal's content is openly accessible and not jealously guarded.
        In fields like electrical engineering or computer science, it is all but expected that any academic paper worth its salt can be downloaded, and authors freely put their papers on their web pages.  In some other fields, journals insist on one-time or subscription fees and free access is rare.

        This "journal" will of course be open-access because it seems to be a propaganda organ, and the #1 rule of propaganda is to get it out there.  

        It is also allegedly peer reviewed, but frankly this is worthless:  the whole point of peer review is that your peers are supposed to be experts on the subject.

  •  Here's their website: (8+ / 0-)

    website  which says that 19,000 scientists have signed this petition.

    Recognized one name.  My cousin's.  He's not a scientist.  He ran for office in the VA Legislature.  He works for a "dark side" contractor on "security issues".

    He got beat.

    By a gay Democrat.

    There is a God.

    Ninety percent of life is just showing up. Woody Allen
    The other 10% is homework. Anonymous student.

    by captainlaser on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:59:23 PM PDT

  •  Wow, the mail is really, really slow in Oregon (5+ / 0-)

    These two guys are from Cave Junction, home to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.  Note that the petition started in 1998.

    I thought this sounded familiar.  OISM was linked to "Friends of Science", a Canadian oil company think tank run by Doug Leahey.  See for the track record on those guys.

    It is an incestuous small minded world of wingnuttery.

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Ninety percent of life is just showing up. Woody Allen
    The other 10% is homework. Anonymous student.

    by captainlaser on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 08:14:54 PM PDT

  •  GW deniers are forever citing the (6+ / 0-)

    Oregon Petition as evidence that there is no consensus on GW.  Seitz and the OISM were smacked down pretty hard by the NAS due to the fact that the initial mailing of the petition in '98 was formatted to look like an NAS publication.  Here's the Wiki on the petition itself:

    The Oregon Petition, sponsored by the OISM, 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 OISM's Arthur B. Robinson, Sallie L. Baliunas, Willie Soon, and Zachary W. Robinson, the paper was titled "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" and was printed in the same typeface and format as the official Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Also included was a reprint of a December 1997, Wall Street Journal editorial, "Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth, by Arthur and Zachary Robinson. A cover note signed "Frederick Seitz/Past President, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A./President Emeritus, Rockefeller University", may have given some persons the impression that Robinson's paper was an official publication of the academy's peer-reviewed journal. The blatant editorializing in the pseudopaper, however, was uncharacteristic of scientific papers.

    Robinson's paper claimed to show that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is actually a good thing. "As atmospheric CO2 increases," it stated, "plant growth rates 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." As a result, Robinson concluded, industrial activities can be counted on to encourage greater species biodiversity and a greener planet:

       As coal, oil, and natural gas are used to feed and lift from poverty vast numbers of people across the globe, more CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. This will help to maintain and improve the health, longevity, prosperity, and productivity of all people.

       Human activities are believed to be responsible for the rise in CO2 level of the atmosphere. Mankind is moving the carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas from below ground to the atmosphere and surface, where it is available for conversion into living things. We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the CO2 increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life as [sic] that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution.

    In reality, neither Robinson's paper nor OISM's 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 NAS had taken a stand against the Kyoto treaty. Robinson was not even a climate scientist. He 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 NAS Proceedings. It was self-published by Robinson, who did the typesetting himself on his own computer. (It was subsequently published as a "review" in Climate Research, which contributed to an editorial scandal at that publication.)

    None of the coauthors of "Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" had any more standing than Robinson himself as a climate change researcher. They included Robinson's 22-year-old son, Zachary, along with astrophysicists Sallie L. Baliunas and Willie Soon. Both Baliunas and Soon worked with Frederick Seitz at the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank where Seitz served as executive director. Funded by a number of right-wing foundations, including Scaife and Bradley, the George C. Marshall Institute does not conduct any original research. It is a conservative think tank that was initially founded during the years of the Reagan administration to advocate funding for Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative--the "Star Wars" weapons program. Today, the Marshall Institute is still a big fan of high-tech weapons. In 1999, its website gave prominent placement to an essay by Col. Simon P. Worden titled "Why We Need the Air-Borne Laser," along with an essay titled "Missile Defense for Populations--What Does It Take? Why Are We Not Doing It?" Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the Marshall Institute has adapted to the times by devoting much of its firepower to the war against environmentalism, and in particular against the "scaremongers" who raise warnings about global warming.

    "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," complained Raymond Pierrehumbert, a meteorlogist at the University of Chicago. NAS foreign secretary F. Sherwood Rowland, an atmospheric chemist, said researchers "are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them." NAS 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 NAS. Although Seitz had indeed held that title in the 1960s, Cicerone hoped that scientists who received the petition mailing would not be misled into believing that he "still has a role in governing the organization."

    The NAS issued an unusually 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 possibility of dramatic surprises."

    Notwithstanding this rebuke, the Oregon Petition managed to garner 15,000 signatures within a month's time. S. Fred Singer called the petition "the latest and largest effort by rank-and-file scientists to express their opposition to schemes that subvert science for the sake of a political agenda."

    Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel called it an "extraordinary response" and cited it as his basis for continuing to oppose a global warming treaty. "Nearly all of these 15,000 scientists have technical training suitable for evaluating climate research data," Hagel said. Columns citing the Seitz petition and the Robinson paper as credible sources of scientific expertise on the global warming issue have appeared in publications ranging from Newsday', the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post to the Austin-American Statesman, Denver Post, and Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.

    In addition to the bulk mailing, OISM's website enables people to add their names to the petition over the Internet, and by June 2000 it claimed to have recruited more than 19,000 scientists. The institute is so lax about screening names, however, that virtually anyone can sign, including for example Al Caruba, a pesticide-industry PR man and conservative ideologue who runs his own website called the "National Anxiety Center." Caruba has no scientific credentials whatsoever, but in addition to signing the Oregon Petition he has editorialized on his own website against the science of global warming, calling it the "biggest hoax of the decade," a "genocidal" campaign by environmentalists who believe that "humanity must be destroyed to 'Save the Earth.' . . . There is no global warming, but there is a global political agenda, comparable to the failed Soviet Union experiment with Communism, being orchestrated by the United Nations, supported by its many Green NGOs, to impose international treaties of every description that would turn the institution into a global government, superceding the sovereignty of every nation in the world."

    When questioned in 1998, OISM's Arthur 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." This grouping of fields concealed the fact that only a few dozen, at most, of the signatories were drawn from the core disciplines of climate science - such as meteorology, oceanography, and glaciology - and almost none were climate specialists. The names of the signers are available on the OISM's website, but without listing any institutional affiliations or even city of residence, making it very difficult to determine their credentials or even whether they exist at all. When the Oregon Petition first circulated, in fact, environmental activists successfully added the names of several fictional characters and celebrities to the list, including John Grisham, Michael J. Fox, Drs. Frank Burns, B. J. Honeycutt, and Benjamin Pierce (from the TV show M*A*S*H), an individual by the name of "Dr. Red Wine," and Geraldine Halliwell, formerly known as pop singer Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls. Halliwell's field of scientific specialization was listed as "biology." Even in 2003, the list was loaded with misspellings, duplications, name and title fragments, and names of non-persons, such as company names.

    OISM has refused to release info on the number of mailings it made. From comments in Nature:

       "Virtually every scientist in every field got it," says Robert Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park and spokesman for the American Physical Society. "That's a big mailing." According to the National Science Foundation, there are more than half a million science or engineering PhDs in the United States, and ten million individuals with first degrees in science or engineering.

       Arthur Robinson, president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, the small, privately funded institute that circulated the petition, declines to say how many copies were sent out. "We're not willing to have our opponents attack us with that number, and say that the rest of the recipients are against us," he says, adding that the response was "outstanding" for a direct mail shot. [6]

    Is there a scientific basis for Robinson's claim that increased carbon dioxide levels will contribute to increased growth of some plants? Some research has gone into investigating this possibility, but the evidence does not point to the type of reassurance that the OISM is peddling. Fakhri Bazzaz, a plant physiologist at Harvard, has found that carbon dioxide-enriched air accelerates short-term plant growth, but his studies were carried out under controlled greenhouse conditions and are difficult to translate to a larger scale. Plant growth in natural systems may be constrained by a shortage of soil nutrients despite the greater availability of carbon dioxide. Moreover, Bazzaz's experiments involved carbon dioxide concentrations at levels 100% greater than those now existing in our atmosphere, whereas the greenhouse warming we are experiencing right now results from only a 20% increase in world carbon dioxide levels. Clearly, it is irresponsible to predict "benefits" from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when such "benefits" may only appear after we suffer the consequences of a five-fold increase over current anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Finally, Bazzaz found that different plant species vary dramatically in their response to increased carbon dioxide. Plants such as sugar cane and corn were not improved, but weeds were stimulated. There is not much real benefit in warming the planet by several degrees just so we can maybe make it easier for weeds to grow.

    Notwithstanding the shortcomings in Robinson's theory, the oil and coal industries have sponsored several organizations to promote the idea that increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is "good for earth" because it will encourage greater plant growth. The Greening Earth Society, a front group of the Western Fuels Association, has produced a video, titled "The Greening of the Planet Earth Continues," publishes a newsletter called the World Climate Report, and works closely with a group called the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

  •  Nice piece Caj (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Could you get a hold of me at Would love to sick some researchers on this.


    •  Only made it to page 2 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and there were already a number of obvious gaffes. Besides the usual "Water vapor the main GHG, CO2 minor" and "solar output explains bulk of warming" there were:

      Figure 2. The glacier shortening is from a paper which looked at temperature records at 169 glaciers, but Fig 2 derives from the source Figure 1, which plotted data from only 5 glaciers, of which only 2 had the full time record. They then draw global conclusions from these 5 (and for the early record just 2) glaciers. Can't tell from here whether that's incompetence or deception. The normalization scheme looked a little strange, but I didn't bother working it through.

      Statistics appear to be "chi-by-eye". Perhaps they describe the statistical treatment on pg 3 or beyond ...

      They look long and hard for anything that shows correlation. They don't seem to show any interest in the underlying physics and chemistry of the system, they seem to prefer inferring causation from correlation (that said, I only made it to pg 2)

      Dissent is crucial, and must be encouraged. But it must be informed dissent, and dissent in good faith.  This is neither.

  •  Fake Names! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Gotta send in fake names. Nice way to discredit it when they go around touting their petition later.

  •  I hope you sent this to Al Gore (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Office of the Hon. Al Gore
    2100 West End Avenue, Suite 260
    Nashville TN 37203

    Don't forget two pennies if you want him to run!

    Support the Two Cents Campaign to get Gore to run at America for Gore You know you want to!

    by MakeChessNotWar on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 08:43:51 PM PDT

  •   Asimov's AChoice of catastrophes (0+ / 0-)

    a wonderful survey of all sorts of long term and short term threats to mankind discussed in a rationalthoughtful,non-alarmist hysterical way.

    Isaac Asimov's book of challenges written (Simon Schuster)1979 divided all sorts of problems,serious threats to mankind in five classes.  One chapter is devoted to weather, both to advancing glaciation
    and to receding ice, such as loss of Arctic or Antarctic ice cap.  A discussion of the heat trapping ability of CO 2 even at .03% or very low levels of the time is done . Asimov is a great popularizer and very succinct in the way he approaches, dissects and outlines a solution for a problem.

    "there is nothing that threatens us with immediate destruction in such a way that we are helpless to do something about it".(p362)

     That applies to weather related changes and man made tilts of the equilibrium of the weather patterns.

     The disinformation campaign is really tossing a panic campaign into a controversy that has a logical
    source and cycle of development. It is neither inevitable or impossible to solve or do anything effectual about its impact. The denialcampaign is based on discredited and specious theory of what carbon dioxide's role in the heating and cooling of the earth and its dynamics of formation and accumulation is.

    America has been stolen, your citizenship is a hollow fraud, and you have no power. What will YOU do to reverse these hurts, crimes, outrages?

    by Pete Rock on Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 08:51:17 PM PDT

  •  I got mine today. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The paper that was in the mailing is not the one from 1998;  it's a new one published this year.

    Arthur Robinson, lead author on the paper, was mentioned in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News as part of an article about materials available for home schoolers to be able to teach chemistry to their children.  This guy is a serious Christianist wingnut.

    As the diarist mentioned, this article was published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.  One other interesting fact I discovered is that this journal has as it's head one Dr. Jane Orient, who happens to be on the faculty of, you guessed it, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, in Cave Junction, the institution that Ronbinson founded with Martin Kamen and Bruce Merrifield.

    It looks like Cave Junction, Oregon, is the center of the wingnut universe.

    -5.13,-5.64 (Insert witty, pithy sig line here.)

    by gizmo59 on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 09:26:52 AM PDT

  •  I also got one of these (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The so-called journal where the sham paper appeared also reviewed a book on liberalism as a mental disorder.

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