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APS says ‘In your face, Deniers!’

November 11th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Actually, this isn’t quite what the American Physical Society (APS) said, but that short-hand doesn’t really misrepresent what occurred.

For several months now, Global Warming deniers (no, not “skeptics”, but active purveyors of misinformation demonstrating severe anti-science syndrome) have sought to get the APS to turn aside from the Society’s 2007 Statement on Climate Change. The APS’s consideration of the deniers’ “silly petition” was warmly (and loudly) proclaimed among those seeking to distort the national (and global) discussion re Global Warming and the bests paths forward to mitigate against catastrophic climate change. (See Science Bypass for a 128 page tour de force analysis by John Mashey.) Yesterday, the APS leadership council did an ‘in your face’ response to these efforts to promote unscientific arguments.

Council of the American Physical Society has overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to replace the Society’s 2007 Statement on Climate Change with a version that raised doubts about global warming.

No equivocation.

No stepping back from the 2007 statement which rests as APS policy.

Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

Because the complexity of the climate makes accurate prediction difficult, the APS urges an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on the Earth’s climate, and to provide the technological options for meeting the climate challenge in the near and longer terms. The APS also urges governments, universities, national laboratories and its membership to support policies and actions that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Have to wonder whether those who gleefully discussed the petition, APS consideration of it, and (their belief in) the potential for a reversal of the earlier statement will take any meaningful message from yet another major scientific institution, yet again, stating that the scientific evidence is clear that humanity is the leading actor in driving global warming and that we must act to reduce emissions … or face quite significant consequences.

Note: Last month, scientific institutions released a statement about climate change.

Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. …

contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science

If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced.

Who were those minor little organizations that put their institutional power and reputation behind those words?

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • American Meteorological Society
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • American Statistical Association
  • Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
  • Botanical Society of America
  • Crop Science Society of America
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Natural Science Collections
  • Alliance Organization of Biological Field Stations
  • Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
  • Society of Systematic Biologists
  • Soil Science Society of America
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

APS’s continuing review of the petition is what led to it not being among them.

And, a month later, the APS Council Overwhelmingly Rejects Proposal to Replace Society’s Current Climate Change Statement and, implicitly, joins those 18 institutions in seeking to inject science into the policy discussion about how best to tackle climate change.

PS: For a direct slap down of climate deniers, see Australian PM Rudd takes Global Warming Deniers to the Shed for a Spanking

Full statement:

APS Council Overwhelmingly Rejects Proposal to Replace Society’s Current Climate Change Statement

The Council of the American Physical Society has overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to replace the Society’s 2007 Statement on Climate Change with a version that raised doubts about global warming. The Council’s vote came after it received a report from a committee of eminent scientists who reviewed the existing statement in response to a petition submitted by a group of APS members.

The petition had requested that APS remove and replace the Society’s current statement. The committee recommended that the Council reject the petition. The committee also recommended that the current APS statement be allowed to stand, but it requested that the Society’s Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) examine the statement for possible improvements in clarity and tone. POPA regularly reviews all APS statements to ensure that they are relevant and up-to-date regarding new scientific findings.

Appointed by APS President Cherry Murray and chaired by MIT Physicist Daniel Kleppner, the committee examined the statement during the past four months. Dr. Kleppner’s committee reached its conclusion based upon a serious review of existing compilations of scientific research. APS members were also given an opportunity to advise the Council on the matter. On Nov. 8, the Council voted, accepting the committee’s recommendation to reject the proposed statement and refer the original statement to POPA for review. As a membership organization of more than 47,000 physicists, APS adheres to rigorous scientific standards in developing its statements. The Society is always open to review of its statements when significant numbers of its members request it to do so.

About the petition drive to get APS to change their statement, noted elsewhere:

This one was kind of interesting because the effort to get APS to change was very closely linked to S. Fred Singer, Singer’s Science and Environmental Policy Project, and the George C. Marshall Institute, all involving physicists who have opined in an exceedingly pro-industry, pro-conservative policy fashion in the past:

  • that ozone depletion is nothing to worry about
  • that smoking doesn’t cause cancer
  • that second-hand smoke is nothing to worry about anyway
  • and now that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nothing to worry about.

Why is it these people are taken so seriously?

Again, John Mashey’s tour-de-force 128 page analysis of the petition and the denier (un)social network behind it.  From the abstract:

The American Physical Society (APS) was petitioned by 206 people, about 0.45% of the 47,000 members, to discard its climate change position and declare decades of climate research non-existent. The Petition was “overwhelmingly” rejected, but this anti-science campaign offers a useful case study. The Petition signers? demographics are compared to those of APS in general. Then, the social network behind the petition is analyzed in detail, person by person for the first 121 signers. This might seem a grassroots groundswell of informed expert argument with the existing position, but it is not. Rather, it seems to have originated within a small network of people, not field experts, but with a long history of manufacturing such things, plausibly at the Heartland Institute‘s NYC climate conference March 8-10, 2009. APS physicists can, do, and will contribute strongly to solving the 21st century?s conjoined climate+energy problem, but this petition was a silly distraction, and rightly rejected.

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Tags: climate change · climate delayers · energy efficiency · Global Warming · global warming deniers · government energy policy

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Mashey // Nov 11, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    And if you want the gory detail of how that petition got started, how it compares to past ones, the atypical demographics, who it was likley really aimed for, see the PDF attached to Another Silly Climate Petition Exposed, @ DeSmogBlog.

    Thank you. Will add the link into the discussion.

    And, thank you very much for your tour de force work re the petition’s background, which is now cited above.

  • 2 Only 0.45% of Physicists sign Denier Petition « Greenfyre’s // Nov 14, 2009 at 11:52 am

    […] APSmith observed (reported at Get Energy Smart Now!!!), they have been involved in campaigns that […]