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 degree...in 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, that "humanists" have conspired to replace the "creation religion of Jehovah" with evolution, that HIV does not cause AIDS, and that the "gay male lifestyle" shortens life expectancy by 20 years. A series of articles by pro-life authors also claimed a link between abortion and breast cancer; such a link has been rejected by the National Cancer Institute.
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.