Oregon Petition

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Global warming
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The Oregon Petition (also known as The Global Warming Petition Project) was a petition to the United States government accompanied by a slick brochure written by Arthur B. Robinson, his son, Noah Robinson, and Willie Soon. First circulated in 1998, it urged the government to reject any policies based on concerns over global warming, particularly the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 (which the US has still not accepted).

The project website claims to have signatures from 31,487 scientists who deny that "human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."[1] It is probably the best known and most frequently quoted petition used by those who wish to deny there is a scientific consensus in respect of the existence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

Verifiability? Eh? What's that?[edit]

What the "petition" does in fact have is thousands of largely unverifiable signatures on slips of paper[2] which um... isn't really exactly the same thing. Hmmm, a petition of scientists of questionable repute to challenge a mainstream scientific view using a failed argument from authoritythat's a new one!

All it takes is a scribble, and you too can have a Ph.D.!

The barely legible sample signature on the example slip used by the project could be read to be "Edward Teller." Teller wrote the introduction to the 1987 Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine's reprint of a U.S. government civil defense manual. It would obviously be impossible to verify every signature, and it looks like an invitation for every Tom, Dick and Harry who holds an opinion to send in a form and claim to be a Ph.D.

The Seattle Times reported that it includes names such as: "Perry S. Mason" (the fictitious lawyer), "Michael J. Fox" (the actor), "Robert C. Byrd" (the Senator), "John C. Grisham" (the lawyer-author), not to mention a Spice Girl, aka. Geraldine Halliwell: the petition listed "Dr. Geri Halliwell" and "Dr. Halliwell."[3] The petition also contains duplicate signatures, signatures of a last name only with not even a first initial, and even "signatures" attributed to corporations.[4] (Although as Mitt Romney taught us, corporations are people too.) In an interview, Robinson said, "When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake." Scientific American examined the list and came to the conclusion that a large percentage of the alleged Ph.D. signatures probably are fake.[5]

Notwithstanding its rather dubious methodology, that bastion of scientific rigor, Fox News, has quoted the petition in its news stories.[6]

Specialist in everything[edit]

However, even if one were to assume that every single signature the petition has gathered was genuine, the petition fails in three other regards:

  • The validity of science is determined by the veracity of the evidence, not the number of people who think a scientific proposition is true. Thus the petition is little more than an example of argument from popularity.
  • Even if scientific truth could be derived from the people who accept it, the number of signatures is only a small fraction of all scientists.
  • Even by the admission and records of the petition itself, only a tiny fraction of the people who signed the petition hold a degree in any field relevant or related to climatology, with the plurality of signatures coming from engineers,[7] who are not scientists. Meanwhile, only 39 signers are climatologists. The petition might as well be from the general public.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]