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A few clicks reveal a larger picture

I read with interest Olin Potter's extensive article entitled "No Scientific Data Supporting Need to Cap CO2 at 350" in last week's Valley Reporter. I was challenged to look deeper into my own understanding of the climate issue and the science behind the view that I have held for some time -- that man is indeed the cause of this phenomenon we call global warming. 

With a few clicks I started to reveal a larger picture, with the Potter article being just the tip of the iceberg. I also gained some insight into the fact and fiction in this new cyber world -- a world which is clearly redefining communications.

Guided by Olin's references, my first clicks led me to the Petition Project and its supporting "scientific" article, which essentially provided all his content, word for word, with the exception of his personal editorializing, cum Fox News. The Petition Project (or Oregon Petition, as it is sometimes called) (www.oism.org/pproject or www.petitionproject.org) has been around since the Kyoto Climate Conference (1997) with essentially the same technical material. From there I went to the Wikipedia website for an unqualified overview, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Petition where the story takes on some interesting twists and turns. 

Looking into the validity of Potter's source material, we find the Petition Project derives its core message from a scientific article entitled "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" by Robinson, Robinson, and Soon.

From Wikipedia we see that the credentials of the article itself are in question. "The article followed the identical style and format of a contribution to <MI>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,<D> a scientific journal,[6] even including a date of publication ("October 26") and volume number ("Vol. 13: 149-164 1999") but was not actually a publication of the National Academy. Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Chicago, said that the article was "designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article ... is a reprint and has passed peer review."

"After the petition appeared, the National Academy of Sciences said in a 1998 news release that 'The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal.'[15] It also said 'The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.' The NAS further noted that its own prior published study had shown that 'even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises.'"[16]

The Wikipedia entry also notes attempts to document some of the 31,000 signatories by local newspapers, <MI>Scientific American<D> and the Oregon Petition itself. The article's author, Arthur B. Robinson, stated, "When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake," which maybe is an understatement once you see who's on the list.

I emailed Bill McKibbon who responded:

"The petition is one of the hoariest of the denier nostrums. Long since completely debunked (there's a good summary here, but there are many others around the web: www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/oregon-institute-of-science-and-malarkey). Among other things, the 31,000 signers (anyone could go online and join) included all five Spice Girls and Dr. Hawkeye Pierce." 

As always, Bill's good for a quote.

So after looking up "denier nostrums," I bounced to the RealClimate website to see a rather thorough debunking and unraveling of the "science" behind Mr. Potter's resource. Interesting how the cumulative power of the internet can be used for a collective purpose. 

In today's cyber world, we all have to check sources, get the story behind the story, and keep an open mind. I'm not going to regurgitate what you so aptly can find for yourselves. Like the old proverb about teaching a man to fish, I am only pointing towards a few fishing holes where you catch your own.

Personally I'll choose to be influenced by the 2007 UN report Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, authored by 600 scientists from 40 countries and reviewed by representatives from over 113 countries before approved. "Three years in the making, the report is based on a thorough review of the most-up-to-date, peer-reviewed scientific literature available worldwide." 

The UN report concludes with "very high confidence" (90 percent) that human activity is affecting the world's climate." The full underlying report is published by Cambridge University Press and can be viewed in English at www.ipcc.ch.

Olin dismisses the UN report in favor of the "Petition Project." He's free to make such a choice, which may be influenced by his view of the UN itself or his political views in general. But for me, the preponderance of evidence showing that humans are affecting this planet and its environment is personal and apparent. The real playing field is the hearts and minds of the citizens who impact the political process. The "350" event was a political act to awaken our leaders. It was successful beyond the founders' wildest dreams. For those of us who biked that rainy afternoon in Waitsfield, or in some way made noise at the other 5,200 sites in 181 countries, we know we created a little more awareness. Check out www.350.org for a potpourri of creative inspiring images from events around the world. Be inspired yourself to get involved, for this is the only planet we've got. 

Coleman lives in Warren.

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