Oregon Petition

The Global Warming Petition Project, usually referred to as the Oregon Petition, is a petition opposing the Kyoto Protocol and similar efforts to mitigate climate change. It was organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a non-profit organisation run by Arthur B. Robinson, between 1999 and 2001 and was circulated again from late 2007 to early 2008. During the former period the United States was negotiating with other countries on implementation of the protocol before the Bush administration withdrew from the process in 2001.[1] Former U.S. National Academy of Sciences President Frederick Seitz wrote a cover letter endorsing the petition.

The Oregon Petition is the third, and by far the largest, of three prominent efforts to argue that the scientific consensus on global warming does not exist; the other two are the 1992 Statement by Atmospheric Scientists on Greenhouse Warming, and the Leipzig Declaration. The petition site currently lists more than 31,000 signatories,[2] though a number of critics of the petition have questioned the scientific credentials and the authenticity of the names of the signatories.



The text of the petition (which was on a reply card) reads, in its entirety:[3]

We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, 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 text of the petition is often misrepresented. For example, until recently the petition's website stated that the petition's signatories "declare that global warming is a lie with no scientific basis whatsoever"[4] and the British newspaper Daily Telegraph reported that the petition "denies that man is responsible for global warming."[5] As seen above, the petition uses the terms catastrophic heating and disruption rather than "global warming".

The original article associated with the petition (see below) defined "global warming" as "severe increases in Earth's atmospheric and surface temperatures, with disastrous environmental consequences".[6] This differs from both scientific usage and dictionary definitions, in which "global warming" is an increase in the global mean atmospheric temperature[7][8] without implying that the increase is "severe" or will have "disastrous environmental consequences."

Covering letter and attached article

The petition had a covering letter from Frederick Seitz, and made reference to his former position as president of the US National Academy of Sciences, accompanied by an attached article supporting the petition. The current version of Seitz's letter describes the article as "a twelve page review of information on the subject of 'global warming'."[9] The article is titled "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" by Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon.[10][11][12] One of these earlier petitions and presentation was discussed by Lahsen (2005).[13]

The 1997 version of the article states that "over the past two decades, when CO2 levels have been at their highest, global average temperatures have actually cooled slightly" and says that this was based on comparison of satellite data (for 1979–1997) and balloon data from 1979-96. At the time the petition was written, this was unclear. Since then the satellite record has been revised, and shows warming. (See historical temperature record and satellite temperature measurements.)

The article followed the identical style and format of a contribution to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal,[6] even including a date of publication ("October 26") and volume number ("Vol. 13: 149-164 1999"), but was not actually a publication of the National Academy. Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Chicago, said that the article was "designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article...is a reprint and has passed peer review." Pierrehumbert also said the article was full of "half-truths".[14] F. Sherwood Rowland, who was at the time foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the Academy received numerous inquiries from researchers who "are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them."[14]

After the petition appeared, the National Academy of Sciences said in a 1998 news release that "The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal."[15] It also said "The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy." The NAS further noted that its own prior published study had shown that "even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises."[15]

In a 2006 article the magazine Vanity Fair stated: "Today, Seitz admits that 'it was stupid' for the Oregon activists to copy the academy's format. Still, he doesn't understand why the academy felt compelled to disavow the petition, which he continues to cite as proof that it is "not true" there is a scientific consensus on global warming"[16]

As of October 2007, the petition project website includes an article by Arthur Robinson, Noah E. Robinson and Willie Soon, published in 2007 in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.[17] Noah E. Robinson presented this material at Telecosm 2007 titled "The Global Warming Myth".[18]


Because of various criticisms made of the two Leipzig Declarations, the Oregon Petition Project claimed to adopt a number of measures, though none of these claims have been independently verified:

  • The petitioners could submit responses only by physical mail, not electronic mail, to limit fraud. Older signatures submitted via the web were not removed. The verification of the scientists was listed at 95%,[19] but the means by which this verification was done was not specified.
  • Signatories to the petition were requested to list an academic degree.[20] The petition sponsors stated that approximately two thirds held higher degrees.[19] As of 2008, the petition's website states that "The current list of 31,072 petition signers includes 9,021 PhD; 6,961 MS; 2,240 MD and DVM; and 12,850 BS or equivalent academic degrees. Most of the MD and DVM signers also have underlying degrees in basic science."[2]
  • Petitioners were also requested to list their academic discipline. As of 2007, about 2,400 people in addition to the original 17,100 signatories were "trained in fields other than science or whose field of specialization was not specified on their returned petition."[19] The petition sponsors state the following numbers of individuals from each discipline:[2]
    • Atmospheric, environmental, and Earth sciences: 3,697
    • Computer and mathematical sciences: 903
    • Physics and aerospace sciences: 5,691
    • Chemistry: 4,796
    • Biology and agriculture: 2,924
    • Medicine: 3,069
    • Engineering and general science: 9,992
  • The Petition Project itself avoided any funding or association with the energy industries.[19]

The term "scientists" is often used in describing signatories; however, many of the signatories have degrees in engineering or medicine, including veterinary medicine. The distribution of petitions was relatively uncontrolled: those receiving the petition could check a line that said "send more petition cards for me to distribute".

The Petition Project itself used to state:

Of the 19,700 signatures that the project has received in total so far, 17,800 have been independently verified and the other 1,900 have not yet been independently verified. Of those signers holding the degree of PhD, 95% have now been independently verified. One name that was sent in by enviro pranksters, Geri Halliwell, PhD, has been eliminated. Several names, such as Perry Mason and Robert Byrd are still on the list even though enviro press reports have ridiculed their identity with the names of famous personalities. They are actual signers. Perry Mason, for example, is a PhD Chemist.[19]

Criticism of the Oregon Petition

A number of critics of the petition questioned the scientific credentials and the authenticity of the names of the signatories.

In May 1998 the Seattle Times wrote:

Several environmental groups questioned some of the names in the petition. For instance: "Perry S. Mason", who was a legitimate scientist who shared the name of a TV character. Similarly, "Michael J. Fox", "Robert C. Byrd", and "John C. Grisham" were signatories with names shared with famous people. Geraldine Halliwell was added as: "Dr. Geri Halliwell" and "Dr. Halliwell." This name may have been contributed by a proxy trying to discredit the petition since Ms. Halliwell has never admitted to signing the petition.

Asked about the pop singer, Robinson said he was duped. The returned petition, one of thousands of mailings he sent out, identified her as having a degree in microbiology and living in Boston. "When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake", he said.[21]

In 2001, Scientific American reported:

Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition —- one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.[22]

In a 2005 op-ed in the Hawaii Reporter, Todd Shelly wrote:

In less than 10 minutes of casual scanning, I found duplicate names (Did two Joe R. Eaglemans and two David Tompkins sign the petition, or were some individuals counted twice?), single names without even an initial (Biolchini), corporate names (Graybeal & Sayre, Inc. How does a business sign a petition?), and an apparently phony single name (Redwine, Ph.D.). These examples underscore a major weakness of the list: there is no way to check the authenticity of the names. Names are given, but no identifying information (e.g., institutional affiliation) is provided. Why the lack of transparency?[23]

To the issue of duplicate names, the Global Warming Petition Project had responded:

Thousands of scientists have signed the petition more than once. These duplicates have been carefully removed from the petition list. The list contains many instances of scientists with closely similar and sometimes identical names, as is statistically expected in a list of this size, but these signers are different people, who live at different addresses, and usually have different fields of specialization. Primarily as a result of name and address variants, occasional duplicate names are found in the list. These are immediately removed.[24]

Updated campaign

In October 2007 a number of individuals reported receiving a package of materials closely similar to the original Oregon Petition mailing.[25] As with the earlier version, it contained a six-paragraph covering note from Frederick Seitz along with a reply card and a supporting article. The text of the position, which as before is on the reply card, is identical to the previous petition. Below the text is a signature line, a set of tick boxes for the signatory to state their academic degree (B.S., M.S., Ph.D.) and field, and another tick box stating "Please send more petition cards for me to distribute." This renewed distribution has continued until at least February 2008.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Kyoto Protocol and the United States
  2. ^ a b c "Qualification of Signers (2008)". OISM. Archived from the original on 2008-07-13. http://web.archive.org/web/20080713053831/http://www.petitionproject.org/gwdatabase/GWPP/Qualifications_Of_Signers.html. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  3. ^ "Global Warming Petition". OISM. http://www.petitionproject.org. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  4. ^ Global Warming Petition Project Previous version of page, from archive.org.
  5. ^ Scientists sign petition denying man-made global warming
  6. ^ a b Arthur B. Robinson; Sallie L. Baliunas, Willie Soon,Zachary W. Robinson (January 1998). "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide". OISM and the George C. Marshall Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-01-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20070114000614/www.oism.org/pproject/s33p36.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  7. ^ Climate Change: Discovery of Global Warming
  8. ^ va=global warming - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  9. ^ Frederick Seitz. "Letter from Frederick Seitz". OISM. http://www.petitionproject.org/seitz_letter.php. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  10. ^ A. B. Robinson, S. L. Baliunas, W. Soon, & Z. W. Robinson (1998). "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide". J. Am. Physicians and Surgeons 3, 171-178. 
  11. ^ A. B. Robinson, N. E. Robinson, W. Soon (2007). "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide". J. Am. Physicians and Surgeons 12, 79-90. 
  12. ^ W. Soon, S. L. Baliunas, A. B. Robinson, and Z. W. Robinson (1999). "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide". Climate Research 13, 149-164. 
  13. ^ Myanna Lahsen (Winter 2005). "The Example of the 1998 Petition Campaign". Technocracy, Democracy, and U.S. Climate Politics: The Need for Demarcations. 30. 137. doi:10.1177/0162243904270710. http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-1892-2005.50.pdf. 
  14. ^ a b David Malakoff (10 April 1998). "CLIMATE CHANGE: Advocacy Mailing Draws Fire". Science 195 (5361): 195. doi:10.1126/science.280.5361.195a. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/280/5361/195a. 
  15. ^ a b "Statement by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences regarding Global Change Petition" (Press release). National Academy of Sciences. April 20, 1998. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=s04201998. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  16. ^ Mark Hertsgaard (May 2006). "While Washington Slept". http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/05/warming200605?currentPage=6. 
  17. ^ Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide by Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon. Published in The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 2007; 12(3), 79.
  18. ^ Noah E. Robinson (2007). "The Global Warming Myth". Discovery Institute. http://www.discovery.org/v/30. 
  19. ^ a b c d e "Explanation". OISM. Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. http://web.archive.org/web/20070820102903/http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p357.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  20. ^ OISM Mail-in Petition
  21. ^ Joseph H. Hubert (1 May 1998). "Jokers Add Fake Names To Warming Petition". Seattle Times. http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2748308&date=19980501&query=jokers+petition. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 
  22. ^ "Skepticism About Skeptics (sidebar of Climate of Uncertainty)". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 2006-08-23. http://web.archive.org/web/20060823125025/http://www.sciam.com/page.cfm?section=sidebar&articleID=0004F43C-DC1A-1C6E-84A9809EC588EF21. , October 2001
  23. ^ Todd Shelly (14 July 2005). "Bashing the Scientific Consensus on Global Warming". Hawaii Reporter. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?fded5949-97a0-41e8-ad66-bba0fa15e61f. Retrieved 2007-03-31. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Global Warming Petition Project. http://www.petitionproject.org/frequently_asked_questions.php. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  25. ^ RealClimate

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