The Petition Project

What the Oregon Petition says

    How circulated


    Objections from the National Academy of Sciences

    A red herring

    16,000 is greater than 2500

Some 16,000 scientists, two thirds of whom have advanced degrees, including over 6000 with Ph.D.s in science, have signed a petition that states, 
      "We urge the United States to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997 _ There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide _ will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere _"
The petition was circulated along with an unpublished article, "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide," by Arthur R. Robinson, Sallie L. Baliunas, Willie Soon, and Zachary W. Robinson, Arthur's son, who has a B.S. in chemistry. All others are widely published Ph.D.s (Zachary's degree may not be advanced, but he has taken more courses in science than Al Gore and Bill Clinton put together.) The article makes no pretense of being original, as it is a review with 66 references, mostly papers published in refereed journals. (The article and petition are available from: Petition Project, PO Box 1925, La Jolla, CA 92038-1925.) 

Accompanying the petition and article was a brief letter from Dr. Frederick F. Seitz, past president of the Academy of Sciences, and a mechanism for identifying the signer's academic credentials: "My academic degree is B.S., M.S., Ph.D. in the field of __________" from which the statistics given above were collected. Readers can find the list of signers on the web at 

I know that many readers of The Energy Advocate have signed the petition, because I received several duplicates sent by subscribers who were kind enough to forward a copy. The petition was circulated by several routes: subscribers to Robinson's Access to Energy, people on various mailing lists dealing with science, and of course, copies given to colleagues. 

Presumably, the article will be submitted for publication, and certainly, reviewers will raise points that will ultimately improve the paper. All of that will be resolved in due time. 

The National Academy of Sciences has objected strenuously to the format of the paper, on the grounds that the Petition Project deliberately used the NAS Proceedings format to create the impression that the NAS was involved. However, the Proceedings format has headers and footers clearly identifying the publication; the circulated paper contained no suggestion at all that it was associated with the NAS. 

Of course, the NAS has no copyright on the two-column format (Summary section first, in bold type _), but it is useful to look through the smoke screen to find what is missing. Here is the vaunted National Academy of Sciences complaining about the format of the paper, without a whisper about the content of the paper. (Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman was elected to the Academy, but resigned after he went to meetings and found out their main activity was to discuss who should be allowed to join such a fine group.) 

Another complaint lodged against the petition was that it has allegedly been signed by a lot of non-existent people. The objection was even echoed in the weather column (Dr. Mel Goldstein, Hartford Courant, 5/2/98): "Michael J. Fox, Spice Girl Geraldine Haliwell, and John Grisham, maybe, but Perry Mason? These are names that surfaced _" The joke's on Dr. Mel.  Perry Mason, Ph.D., a chemist in Lubbock, Texas, signed the petition [Access to Energy, May, 1998]. While it would be downright dishonest to put phony names like Geraldine Haliwell or to forge real ones on such a petition, such activity seems to have been limited to those wishing to discredit the project. 

Note the double smoke screen. First, there are probably a handful of phony names on the petition, but there would have to be 13,500 phony signatures to reduce the number to the inflated "consensus of 2500" claimed by the White House. More importantly, the scientific argument is entirely ignored. That is even more dishonest than submitting phony names to discredit the effort. 

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