Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The Cato Institute has published a full page ad with what looks like an impressive roster of "undersigned scientists" who dispute President Obama's claim that when it comes to climate change, as he says, "The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear."

It's interesting how the institute uses the authoritative frame of the newspaper, where readers may be far from their Google search boxes, to make their assertion that there has been "no net global warming for over a decade." Some of these characters, like petroleum advocate Brian Valentine or Gerd-Rainer Weber, who is described in the ad as "Reviewer, International Panel on Climate Change" but is also a representative from the Association of German Coal Producers have already been outed by SourceWatch, "Your Guide to the Names behind the News." Many already have sizable web presences, such as Joseph D'Aleo at ICECAP.

Others, like Edward T. Wimberly of Florida Gulf Coast University require a little more sleuthing to reveal a c.v. that shows he may not belong on a list of climate "scientists," since his advanced degrees are in public administration, mental health, and theology. Even among the scientists, one of the things I marveled at, while looking at their curriculum vitae documents posted on the web, is how obviously out of touch they are with the norms of academia, even if they were one of the few currently working at a university. Specifically, I couldn't help but notice how many of them, like Wimberly and MIT's Richard Lindzen, actually list the fact that they are married and post their children's names on their professional c.v.s, a mark of an old-school, pre-discrimination-conscious faculty member broadcasting his heteronormative sexuality.

Antonio Zichichi, an emeritus professor of nuclear physics rather than climatology, is listed as president of the impressive-sounding World Federation of Scientists, but the group's website reveals itself to be a group devoted to fighting "planetary emergencies" rather than advocating scientific research. He's not the only one with a background in nuclear physics, Stanford's Howard Maccabee worked with Edward Teller and went on to be a radiological oncologist.

Given that many scientists who had attended during the Bush administration stayed home during this year's conference for climate change skeptics, it is understandable that Cato wants to try to contradict the appearance of dwindling numbers within an already fractional minority. I expect that they will try a web-based persuasive campaign as well, given the diminishing number of newspaper readers, even among policy makers and regular voters.

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