Climate change petition pits scientists against each other

The petition contains the signatures of more than 31,000 scientists.

Devin Henry

A group of protesting scientists hope to break into the global warming debate with a petition against the theory of human-driven global warming.

The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a small independent research group, announced the petition before the National Press Club on May 19.

It contains the signatures of more than 31,000 scientists who stand against the idea that global warming is man-made, including those of several University professors.

Arthur Robinson, president of the institute, said the petition began as a protest among friends.

“Myself and a few of my colleagues had been alarmed for a long time about this claim that all the scientists agree with those who are promoting human-caused global warming,” he said.

In order to break this perception, the group solicited a research document on the subject of global warming to members of the scientific community in 1998-99. During this time, they got about 18,000 signatures, Robinson said.

In 2007, the petition was sent out again, Robinson said, citing increased activity such as Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” a movie portraying global warming as human-driven, as reasons to circulate the petition again.

Petition signatures have reached 31,000, including 9,000 Ph.D.s, Robinson said.

“If this many American scientists will sign this petition, you certainly can’t continue to contend that there is a consensus on this subject,” he said.

University medicine professor Frank Nuttall signed the petition.

He said he still believes the Earth is growing warmer, despite his signature.

“This issue is whether the major reason for this is from human activities,” he said. “I consider that inconclusive at the present time.”

University professor Wayland E. Noland said he signed the petition both in the late 1990s and last year.

Like Nuttall, Noland said he didn’t doubt the warming of the Earth; rather, he said he signed the petition, “because I feel that the public has become incorrectly persuaded that the global warming that is going on now has been primarily caused by CO2 emissions.”

Noland, a chemistry professor, said he studied meteorology briefly in college under a professor who shares his views on the subject.

He said he thought people like Gore had “jumped on the current bandwagon effect” surrounding global warming.

Michael Nobel, executive director for Fresh Energy, a St. Paul-based policy think tank that focuses on energy solutions, said the petition holds little merit to those who study global warming.

“It’s a sad and odd little voice shouting that there is no global warming,” he said of the institute. “Many people have apparently fallen for it.”

Nobel said among those who study global warming, most agree that it is a human-driven phenomenon.

“It’s a curious little cultural artifact,” he said of the petition. “It’s like people talk about Sasquatch or alien abductions.”

The scientific community mostly agrees on climate issues, Nobel said.

“That’s what’s most ridiculous about this petition,” he said. “It alleges that there’s a broad disagreement about the climate.”

Noland, however, said he believes there are still scientists who disagree with climate change ideas.

“I think it’s in the minority at present,” he said. “But sometimes the minority proves to be right in the long term.”