Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Deniers Step Up the Campaign

Got a fascinating piece of mail at work today, inviting me to sign a petition urging "the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan." The petition card further went on to say that "There is no convincing evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, int he foreseeable future , cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." There's more but I think that's enough for you to get the picture.

The most interesting thing about the petition card, that one is suppose to sign and return if one agrees with the sentiment [which of course I do not], is that it specifically requests the signer to indicated whether they have a B.S., M.S. or Ph.D. degree, and in what field. They are obviously not picky about what field, since the envelop was addressed erroneously to me in the "Communications/Humanities/Fine Arts Division" (I'm in the Social Sciences Division). So they presumably don't care whether their signers are scientists or not.

The thickly stuffed envelop has a cryptic return address of GWPP (which is not explained anywhere in the materials), at a Post Office box in La Jolla, California. In addition to the petition card, the envelop contains a brief note from Frederick Seitz a past president of the National Academy of Sciences. The note appeals to me as a "citizen" who has "the training necessary to evaluate the relevant data and offer sound advice." Remember the senders thought I was faculty in Communications/Humanities/Fine Arts! I am also invited to request more petition cards to share with my colleagues.

More interesting than the note, is the copy of The Wall Street Journal article from 2000 by Arthur B. Robinson and Noah E. Robinson, (Chemists at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine), and the 12 page, glossy, three-three color reprint of an article from the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 2007 by both Robinsons and a Willie Soon, replete with many, many charts and graphs.

Like many such pieces there is a certain amount of schizophrenia -- the first chart, of the surface temperature of the Sargasso sea going back to 1000 BCE, purports to demonstrate that there really isn't any global warming. The temperature for 2006 is show as being right at the 3000 year average, with many warmer periods (including the "Medieval Climate Optimum" about 1100 CE). This is right next to a chart that shows that there is global warming in the Arctic, but purports to show that the warming follows the pattern of solar activity and not the pattern of hydrocarbon use (primary source of atmospheric carbon dioxide). [The solar activity hypothesis has recently been undermined by research] The rest of the article progressing the same way jumping between "it's not really warming" claims, to "it is warming, but we're not doing it." I saw nothing in this piece that is not satisfactorily dealt with by global warming science -- see the wonderful summary of arguments and counter arguments at: The Gristmill.

For more about this mailing see: "Oregon Institute of Science and Malarkey" at RealClimate Blog.


Hank Roberts said...

Found the acronym listed.
Don't miss the higher level pages, but the acronym is identified here:

GWPP - Global Warming Petition Project

Sue said...

Hank, thank you enormously for that link. That definitely goes on the bookmark list for future reference. I often find myself mystified by acronyms in the blogosphere. You are right too about the higher level pages. The author's bio was interesting.

Progressive said...

As a climate change researcher...I just shake my head.

Anonymous said...

Did petition explain the basis for measuring "the surface temperature of the Sargasso sea going back to 1000 BCE"?

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sue said...

anonymous -- the information under the figure says "as determined by isotope raios of marine organism remains in sediment at the bottom of the sea." The reference given is Keigwin, L.D. (1996) Science, vol. 274, 1504-1508.

Sue said...

sorry anonymous, the comment box keeps cutton off the last portion of the ftp address which is

Anonymous said...

For our collective edification, the abstract:
"The Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in the Sargasso Sea
Lloyd D. Keigwin

Sea surface temperature (SST), salinity, and flux of terrigenous material oscillated on millennial time scales in the Pleistocene North Atlantic, but there are few records of Holocene variability. Because of high rates of sediment accumulation, Holocene oscillations are well documented in the northern Sargasso Sea. Results from a radiocarbon-dated box core show that SST was 1°C cooler than today 400 years ago (the Little Ice Age) and 1700 years ago, and 1°C warmer than today 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period). Thus, at least some of the warming since the Little Ice Age appears to be part of a natural oscillation.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA."

Science 29 November 1996:
Vol. 274. no. 5292, pp. 1503 - 1508
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5292.1503

I remain unclear as to how an article that seems to conclude that there are natural temperature fluctuations in the Sargasso Sea trumps every study that concludes that humans do indeed impact the climate. It is important to note that the Sargasso is bounded by the a series of ocean currents which result in the body having unusual oceanographic properties, among them, significantly elevated salinity. Extrapolating the properties of this body of water to the entire planet is the kind of mistake undergrads make in survey courses.

Sue said...

Anon -- agree with you completely about the use of the Sargasso Sea example.

My more general point, is that so often the arguments against AGW, vacilate between attempts to demonstrate that no warming is occurring (with cherry picked exceptional examples like the Sargasso Sea) and admissions that, yes, warming is happening, but it due to natural phenomenon, not anything for which humans are responsible. Then finally, the often end up where the article witht the petition ends up, with an "okay, even if it is warming, and even if it is our fault, it's a good thing" with some nonsense like "more warmth, more CO2, more vegetation."

As my husband says, the real message of the AGW deniers is "Don't make me change anything or do anything!!"