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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Global Warming Petition Project

Whether or not there is global warming, what effects it might have, if there is such, and what is causing it are a matter of some controversy.

This pamphlet, by Calvin Beisner and others, is part of the evidence that there is, indeed, controversy. The pamphlet, authored by four confessed Christians, is concerned with the fundamental questions above, and with effects on the poor, which is commendable. The authors doubt that there will be serious effects, and believe that the evidence for global warming is weak, at best.

Part of their argument (it's not all of it, by any means -- read the pamphlet for the whole picture) is that many scientists, over 30,000 in the US, to date, have signed a petition, (sometimes known as the Oregon Petition) which states that there is not credible evidence that global climate change will cause serious effects, and that increasing the Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere may even be beneficial. Interesting!

I have examined the list of signers of the petition. I didn't look at all of them, but I did decide to look at some possible signers (There are currently 369 listed) from my own state, South Carolina. Here's what I found.

Of the first six Ph.Ds listed, one is deceased, and I could not locate information on three others. The remaining two are a chemist, specializing in Lithium, and a nuclear engineer, specializing in medical use of isotopes. Neither of these specialties have much to do with climate.

The only University in the state with a climate-related department is the University of South Carolina. Here's the list, as of December 9, 2014, of 21 persons listed as having some expertise in climate. Some of those are not climate scientists (one is a psychologist). Of those who, judging from the information on the web page, have some expertise in climate, not one is found among the signers of the petition. The State of South Carolina has a State Climatology Office. There are four persons on the staff. None of them have signed the petition.

South Carolina is not particularly friendly to Democrats, or to accepting global warming as a danger. A former Republican US Congressman, Bob Inglis, lost to a Republican challenger, after eight terms in the House, apparently because of his stated belief that global climate change was real, and we needed to deal with it. We have no state-wide office filled by a Democrat. The State Government has joined in a lawsuit against President Obama's recent immigration executive orders, and refused to accept federal funds to help with the expenses of healthcare for the poor. Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential Candidate Al Gore has probably been the most prominent communicator about the dangers of global warming. Republicans, by and large, have often publicly disbelieved in these dangers. See here for a speech stating her disbelief, by former Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann, who displayed an appalling lack of understanding of science. She claimed that Carbon Dioxide, being a natural substance, can't be dangerous. Try breathing it, if you believe that! You might suppose that there would be some encouragement, or at least no discouragement, for professionals in my state to sign this petition, because we are a Red state. But the ones I checked haven't signed it. 

The petition web site lists signers, with, in most cases, terminal degrees after their names. Many of them are Ph.Ds, but the petition's web page indicates that less than one-third of those signing have that degree. There is no easy way to tell how many of them have an earned doctorate in some area of climate science. Some of the signers are listed as MDs. No MD that I know of, including one of my close relatives, has anything approaching expertise in climate science. Neither do I, in spite of my Ph.D. (Which was in genetics and zoology.) There is a Wikipedia article assessing the credibility of the signers. The petition, with its many signers, is not solid evidence for the position of Beisner and others.

Is the petition the whole story on global warming? No. Perhaps the concerns of Beiser, and others, are valid. But perhaps they aren't. Thanks for reading.

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