Overview - The OISM Global Warming Petition Project

The mailing attracted attention in the scientific community because the accompanying paper had been deliberately printed with a letterhead and page format with a striking resemblance to that of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a highly respected peer-reviewed scientific journal which had in fact never published it. The paper contained numerous errors, including references to obsolete climate models, long outdated studies and calculations, and inappropriate data comparisons. Among other things, a large portion of its conclusions were based on an analysis of satellite based tropospheric temperature measurements that were obsolete. Nearly all of the issues that lead to later revisions were known at the time the petition was released and had been published elsewhere. Even a few minutes worth of literature search should have turned them up. In fact, the original publication of the analysis used even made specific reference to at least one of the known sources of error and clearly stated that it had not been taken into account in the analysis they used (RRSB's citation was to a 1997 correspondence in the journal Nature - not to the original publication of the analysis). The paper even contained misquoted numbers and clerical errors that should have been caught by a simple proofreading. Many of its claims were openly contradicted by the references cited, indicating that they had not been read closely (or worse, had been deliberately misrepresented).

Shortly after the original mailing, the National Academy of Sciences issued a press release disavowing themselves from the petition and its paper. They strongly criticized the conclusions presented and the plagiarism of their journal's publishing format. As of this writing, the paper is still posted at the OISM web site and is still being widely cited by global warming skeptics. No attempt has been made to correct any of the errors or to update it in any way, and that despite the fact that the satellite based troposphere temperature analysis that comprised a cornerstone of its conclusions has now been shown to be the result of a math error!

From its inception the OISM and the Marshall Institute have boasted that their petition project represents the majority consensus of the scientific community. At one time or another, the Petition has claimed as many as 25,000 signatories, though to this day the most commonly cited figure is 17,000. Many of its original recipients had backgrounds in meteorology but were not involved in any climate change related fields (it is a common misconception that weather forecasting and climate change are closely related; they aren’t). Soon after the mailing it was posted on the internet where virtually anyone could sign it claiming whatever "credentials" they wished.

To date, other than emphatic statements about the PhD's of some, the OISM has done virtually nothing to demonstrate that any of these signatories have any credible knowledge of peer-reviewed climate change science. Most claim a physics background of some sort. A few are geophysicists, meteorologists, and biochemists. The rest are of differing backgrounds. Apart from a tiny handful of climatologists, to what degree any of these people have been involved with climate change science is unknown. The OISM web site requires only a name, an address, and a stated degree with each signature. Beyond that, nothing is required that would verify the status of one's background. No information is requested regarding professional affiliations, publications, or information about one's professional experience in any field, much less in climate science. Signatories are not required to name the university their degree was obtained from or even whether or not it is accredited.

It is common for advocates of pseudoscientific views to believe that a PhD immediately qualifies someone to speak on any subject regardless of whether or not they have any direct experience in the field in question (Consider, for instance, the writings of creationists and the way they showcase the PhD's of their advocates, few of whom are involved in actual research or published in peer reviewed journals).

To no one's surprise, within weeks of it's release the Petition had accumulated numerous bogus signatures, including "Dr. Red Wine", characters from the TV show MASH, the author John Grisham, and a "Dr." Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) whom were are told, has a PhD in microbiology. Arthur Robinson admits that the OISM has been unable to keep pranksters from signing the petition. He claims they are "checking" the credentials of all signatories, but it appears that this is being done only in limited ways. The superficiality of these checks, and the prank signatures in particular, speak for themselves. Sadly, the sloppiness and unprofessional handling of this entire project reveal all too clearly the consequences of allowing public relations and zealotry to take precedence over genuine scientific consensus.


Page:      1      
Global Warming Skeptics
Climate Astroturfing
OISM Petition Project
Leipzig Declarations
Climate Denial 101
Christianity & the Environment
Climate Change
The Web of Life
Managing Our Impact
Caring for our Communities
The Far-Right
Ted Williams Archive