Monday, October 8, 2007

Climate denial junk mail

Have other geoscientists out there been getting this junk mail?

I checked my work mailbox a few minutes ago, and along with advertisements for custom lab manuals and scanning electron microscopes, I got something rather odd: what appeared to be a reprint of a journal article debunking anthropogenic global warming, a photocopy of a 2000 op-ed article from the Wall Street Journal, and a request to send a petition postcard to a group called "GWPP."

I'm not going to sign it. But I'm curious how they got my address, and whether they're targeting all geologists.

I was also curious about the journal - "Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons." What is a medical journal doing publishing about climate change - even a review article about climate change?

It turns out that it isn't even a respected medical journal - it's known amongst medical bloggers for a lack of real peer review and a general anti-vaccine stance. And the authors of the article are running the petition drive, which is funded by "private non-tax deductible donations by interested individuals."

I'm embarrassed for the 19,000 scientists who have signed the petition. And I'm embarrassed that anyone thought I would be likely to sign it.


BrianR said...

It is all so politicized now...there are numerous confusion-generating stories circulating...since they can't unequivocally disprove anthropogenic global warming, the goal is to "muddy up" the debate so the average citizen thinks there is no consensus. If you confront one of the "mudders" with studies or data, they quickly change the subject to something else.

The we-need-more-research tactic worked for the tobacco industry for a long time.

Good times.

Kim said...

Yes, it is politicized. But it's odd that any of them might expect me to join their side. I mean, I've been teaching about the greenhouse effect for seven years, and before that I had a bunch of colleagues doing climate change research. I know there's evidence; I've been reading the papers and going to the talks for a long time now.

Yami McMoots said...

I got some hilarious junk mail the other day that began with the expression "3 (+/-)* Earth/Hell (Earth Mass = 1)" in big red letters. Nothing about global warming, though.

CJR said...

What was the petition for? Was it just a stunt on a par with the "dissent from Darwinism" ones? Or are they trying to campaign for - what? Less funding for climate science?

Kim said...

The petition was a stunt - it wanted me to agree that there is no convincing scientific evidence that greenhouse gases cause disruption of the climate, and that increasing CO2 would be good for plants and animals.

(Goodness. I subscribed to the paper edition of Science last year because there was so much climate research being published there and in Nature, and I was worried that I would teach stuff that's been discredited, at least in my intro class.)

CJR said...

Wow, that's disturbingly upfront: you'd at least expect weasel along the lines of 'it is unproven that human activity is 100% responsible for the present warming trend' or 'natural climatic variability also contributes to...'

Kim said...

Well, the exact wording included the word "catastrophic," which does trigger my scientific cautiousness a bit. But it was countered by the statement that "there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the earth."

The statement is strong enough - and wrong enough - that I question the quality of any of the scientists who have signed it. At the very least, they are not keeping up with significant peer-reviewed literature. (Though it's an anti-Kyoto agreement petition, so maybe some of the signatures are ten years old.)

(And to Yami: are they using the ratio of Earth to Hell to model gravity anomalies or something, since they're using mass units? Somehow I think Earth and Hell would be far more interesting for heat flow studies, or maybe for rheology.)

johne said...

It's a mass mailing. When I was running an exploration program back in the Reagan era, I got an official-looking, oversize envelope inviting me to a private, but administration-related, event a few states away, with dinner and a semi-promise that I would be able to button-hole at least one cabinet member, a purported bargain at the contribution I would make in return.
It was sent on the assumption that any good, hard-rock explorationist must be a Republican.

jrepka said...

I just picked up my mail this afternoon and spotted the envelope, based on your description. It prompted me to glance at the other mailboxes (I teach at a community college and am part of a general math/science division) and it appears that everyone (including the math faculty) received this mailing.

I haven't checked with any of my colleagues in social sciences, but someone invested a lot of money (first class stamps, $0.58 per envelope). The non-reality-based community is certainly well-funded, and we live in an age when desired results can apparently generate their own facts.

I know that I have to hit the issues a bit harder and make explanations more detailed in my climate lectures to cut through the fog being generated by the "skeptics" on Fox News...

Wayfarer Scientista said...

Ummm...biologists are being targeted too. And from what I understand this was first circulated in the early 1990's and that it is not, as it claims, a peer reviewed journal. They aren't limited to climate change either (they've put out a lot claiming that autism is related to vaccines). There's even a Wikipedia entry about this journal: Oh, and if you search for it under major literature databases it does not exist. Good for you for checking out your source first!

BrianR said...

RealClimate has a post about this here...not sure if its the same as you're talking about, but seems like it.

John Van Hoesen said...

I was just ranting away about this same topic Kim! While searching around for info on their "cause" I stumbled across your page, very cool! I also just discovered WOGE, looks addicting though. :)

Good to see other folks were annoyed and I agree, a VERY odd approach to attracting supporters.