This past week, on different sides of the Atlantic, two letters were published in two newspapers. Exhibit A appeared yesterday in the Wall Street Journal under the headline: No Need to Panic About Global Warming (backup link here). It was signed by 16 prominent individuals. Among them are:
- William Kininmonth, a former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology
- Hendrik Tennekes, a former director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Service
- Claude Allegre, a geochemist who used to lead the Institute for the Study of the Earth at the University of Paris
- Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric sciences professor at MIT
- Nir Shaviv, a professor of astrophysics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem
- Antonio Zichichi, an Italian nuclear physicist who is currently president of the World Federation of Scientists
These gentlemen are not fringe characters. Between them they have published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and filled dozens of leadership roles in the sciences. Many of them have spent decades directly researching climate-related issues. I have personally been in the same room with five of these 16 individuals and can confirm that nothing about them is marginal or unhinged.
Their letter is worth reading in full, but among its most important points are the following:
The lack of warming for more than a decade – indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections – suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause.
Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to “decarbonize” the world’s economy.
Whether or not we agree with this letter, one thing is beyond dispute: There is no scientific consensus. Respectable voices in the scientific community dissent from the dominant climate change perspective. Some of the world’s most experienced climate scientists see no planetary emergency. Their big-picture message is that it is far from clear what’s going on with the climate, what role humanity might be playing, and what the future holds.
Exhibit B was published late Thursday in the UK’s Guardian newspaper under the headline: Transparency needed on donors to climate sceptic lobby (backup link here). It was signed by eight prominent individuals. Among them are:
- Fiona Godlee, the Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal
- Richard Horton, the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet
- Ian Roberts, a professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
- Anthony Costello, a professor of International Child Health at University College London (UCL)
Six of these eight individuals appear to be medical doctors. Two are in charge of prominent medical journals. Three are professors in medical disciplines. One, Maya Tickell Painter, is a 24-year-old medical student (backup link).
These people are all entitled to their opinion, but what opinion are they expressing in this case? Their letter says the UK-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a skeptic group that operates by the same rules as other UK charities, should be singled-out for special treatment.
Even though charities aren’t required to make the identities of their donors public, the signers of this letter believe the GWPF alone should be compelled to do so. They allege that “secret funders” are bankrolling the GWPF and that the public has a right to:
discover who is secretly influencing UK climate policy – contrary to scientific consensus.
Exhibit B is, therefore, a case study in bullying. It is a disturbing example of medical professionals targeting those who express opinions contrary to their own.
According to these people (none of whom appears to have participated in hands-on, hard-core climate research), climate change is “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” How do they know this? Because, back in 2009, one of the publications they happen to be in charge of – Richard Horton’s The Lancet – said so.
How’s that for circular reasoning? A proposition is true because my own publication has declared it to be true. But it gets worse. Here’s what these people say next:
Denying the links between greenhouse gas emissions and man-made climate change is akin to denying the links between HIV/Aids and unprotected sex, smoking and lung cancer, or alcohol consumption and liver disease.
Many of the gentlemen who signed Exhibit A have spent their careers immersed in climate science. They insist that this science is not clear-cut, that profound uncertainties remain.
Should we believe them? Or should the views of people who are expert in a totally different field – that of medicine – prevail? In the opinion of these physicians, the alternative climate views professed by the GWPF (and, by extension, the 16 signatories of Exhibit A) are:
wrongfully distorting the public and policy debate.
Perverting the course of evidence-based policy. [and]
deliberately preventing the UK’s sustainable future.
The language used by this band of crusading physicians makes it clear they think the GWPF is evil and malicious. Indeed, they are arguing that the GWPF deserves to be held to an arbitrary, higher standard by the authorities – even if this means applying the rules that govern charities in entirely new and unfair ways.
Whatever happened to aloof professionalism? Have we all lost our minds? How can the editors of two of the world’s leading medical journals be spearheading this intellectual lynch mob?