Desperate climate change skeptics misread the news

July 18, 2008

Internet-fueled antagonists of global warming reports probably grow weary of the constant drizzle of reports and stories confirming the bare, consensus conclusion that rising temperatures, globally, are contributed to significantly by human-provided air pollution.

So, can you blame them when they trumpet that a major organization like the American Physical Society reverses its stand on global warming, and publishes a paper by a fellow usually considered a hoax and tinfoil hat favorite, Lord Monckton?

Well, yes, you can blame them. That’s not at all what happened. It turns out that a division of APS simply opened a discussion on global warming, and in doing that, they published Monckton’s piece for discussion.

With this issue of Physics & Society, we kick off a debate concerning one of the main conclusions of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body which, together with Al Gore, recently won the Nobel Prize for its work concerning climate change research. There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. Since the correctness or fallacy of that conclusion has immense implications for public policy and for the future of the biosphere, we thought it appropriate to present a debate within the pages of P&S concerning that conclusion. This editor (JJM) invited several people to contribute articles that were either pro or con. Christopher Monckton responded with this issue’s article that argues against the correctness of the IPCC conclusion, and a pair from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, David Hafemeister and Peter Schwartz, responded with this issue’s article in favor of the IPCC conclusion. We, the editors of P&S, invite reasoned rebuttals from the authors as well as further contributions from the physics community. Please contact me ( if you wish to jump into this fray with comments or articles that are scientific in nature. However, we will not publish articles that are political or polemical in nature. Stick to the science! (JJM)

Newsbusters, a right-wing, tinfoil hat driver site announced this morning that APS has abandoned its long-time position on climate change. Anthony Watts couldn’t wait to talk about it as a major hole in the case for doing something to clean up air pollution.  “Myth of Consensus Explodes” Daily Tech breathlessly exclaimed.

By this afternoon, APS had warning labels up at their site to advise the unwary who might have been misled by the deniers:

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

Bob Parks, former APS spokescurmudgeon, wrote about it in his weekly news comment, What’s New:

Science is open. If better information becomes available scientists rewrite the textbooks with scarcely a backward glance. The Forum on Physics and Society of the APS exists to help us examine all the information on issues such as global climate change. There are physicists who think we don’t have warming right, I know one myself. It is therefore entirely appropriate for the Forum to conduct a debate on the pages of its newsletter. A couple of highly-respected physicists ably argued the warming side. Good start. However, on the denier’s side was Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, who inherited his father’s peerage in 2006. Lord Monckton is not a scientist, his degree is in journalism and he’s a reporter for the Evening Standard, an English tabloid. Whatever it is that Viscounts do, he may do very well, but he doesn’t know squat about physics and his journalism suffers from it. Worse, somebody fed the media the line that Monckton’s rubbish meant the APS had changed its position on warming; of course it has not. Few media outlets took the story seriously.

How desperate are the anti-Gore-ites? They are desperate enough they’ll turn off their bovine excrement detectors, and claim Monckton’s goofy stuff is a new position for APS, without bothering to check the facts.

How long will this hoax survive on the internet?

Other resources:

  • APS Climate Change Statement
    APS Position Remains Unchanged

    The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

    “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

    An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS.  The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.”  This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

  • Why Monckton is considered good for the tinfoil hat business
  • Tim Lambert on Monckton fantasies and deceptions before the U.S. Congress (for a very thorough vetting of Monckton, go to Lambert’s blog and do a search for “Monckton”)
  • A serious case against the conclusions of human causation for global warming, by Pat Frank, published in Skeptic’s online site, “A Climate of Belief.”  Dr. Frank is a careful and generally rigorous thinker, a physicist with no axes to grind against anyone involved, who has made a good case that we cannot conclude human causation; in discussions I’ve had with Dr. Frank, he’s limited his criticisms to the science.  I’m more of an effects guy myself — but this is the one article that keeps me hoping for more, better evidence (while we make plans to reduce emissions, of course — whether warming is human caused or not, we need cleaner air).

New book: Sex Trafficking by Siddarth Kara

July 18, 2008

1.  Siddarth Kara has written an important new book on trafficking in sex:

2.  Columbia University Press’s move into internet, viral videos to sell books is a good idea with decent execution, so far.

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