Saturday, September 23, 2006

Britain’s Royal Society Seeks to Squelch Opposition to Greens on Global Warming

From The New York Times of September 21:

LONDON, Sept. 20 — A British scientific group, the Royal Society, contends that Exxon Mobil is spreading “inaccurate and misleading” information about climate change and is financing groups that misinform the public on the issue.

The Royal Society, a 1,400-member organization that dates back to the 1600’s and has counted Isaac Newton and
Albert Einstein as members, asked Exxon Mobil in a letter this month to stop financing these groups and to change its public reports to reflect more accurately the opinions of scientists on the issue.

There is a “false sense somehow that there is a two-sided debate going on in the scientific community” about the origins of climate change, said Bob Ward, the senior manager for policy communication at the Royal Society.

The reality is that “thousands and thousands” of scientists around the world agree that climate change is linked to greenhouse gases, he said, with “one or two professional contrarians” who disagree.

The Royal Society is totally dishonest in its claims and is out to intimidate and silence those with whom it disagrees. There are not one or two “contrarians” who dispute the claims of the Greens concerning global warming but over 17,000 scientists. These scientists in fact have actually signed a petition stating their opposition in no uncertain terms. As the organizers of the petition point out, the signers “so far include 2,660 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists who are especially well qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide on the Earth's atmosphere and climate.” As they further point out, the signers “also include 5,017 scientists whose fields of specialization in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and other life sciences make them especially well qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide upon the Earth's plant and animal life.” (The complete list of signatories is on line, organized both alphabetically and by state of residence of the signers, at The list of the 2,660 signers who are physicists, geophysicists, et al. is on line at The list of the 5,017 signers who are scientists specialized in chemistry, biochemistry, et al. is on line at

The petition was organized by
Frederick Seitz, who is the Past President of the National Academy of Sciences and President Emeritus of Rockefeller University. The petition itself is online, at It reads:

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 petition is accompanied by an eight page review of scientific information on the subject of "global warming" titled “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.” I will make no attempt to summarize that review here. I will content myself merely with endorsing one of its essential conclusions, namely, that “Predictions of global warming,” which the Royal Society alleges to be indisputable, scientifically proven fact, “are based on computer climate modeling, a branch of science still in its infancy.”

There is absolutely no empirical basis for the Royal Society’s assertion. It is certainly not the case that a laboratory experiment has ever been performed, or could ever be performed, based on a side-by-side comparison of two identical planet Earths. In one of these planet Earths, an Industrial Revolution takes place and is followed by a catastrophic rise in temperature, while in the other, in which there is no Industrial Revolution, there is no catastrophic rise in temperature. That would be an experimentally established fact. There simply is no such experimentally established fact.

Moreover, repeated long periods of global warming have taken place on the one and only planet Earth that does exist, without any contribution whatever by Man, his industry, or by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by nature itself. In other words, the Royal Society has no actual empirical basis for its claims. All it has is computer climate modeling, which is no more reliable and accurate than weather forecasting, which is actually all that it is, only on a scale of centuries rather than days. This is the basis on which the Royal Society wants to squelch opposition to the Greens and their agenda of global government control and massive economic deprivation.

What we have in the Royal Society’s behavior is an obvious attempt at intimidation and the imposition of a conformity of thought on a major public issue. Imagine the uproar if the kind of letter sent by the Royal Society to Exxon had instead been sent by Exxon to the 1,400 members of the Royal Society urging them to stop their support of that organization because of its views on global warming. I can hear the denunciations now: “Inquisition,” “violations of free speech,” “strong-arm tactics,” “Fascism,” . . . .

Well, all of that is precisely what all of the world’s alleged defenders of freedom of speech and press should be saying right now about the tactics of the Royal Society. Those tactics are a perfect illustration of what noted MIT climate expert Prof. Richard Lindzen described last April in his Wall Street Journal article
“Climate of Fear.” Joined with the arbitrary power of a host of government agencies that between them control virtually every aspect of its existence, they are capable of forcing Exxon to submit. In fact, I for one will not be surprised if Exxon ends up being compelled to be to the oil industry what Philip Morris has become to the tobacco industry, namely, a company that seems to exist for no other purpose than to discourage as much as possible the purchase of its products. Such self-abasing behavior is what can result when a company is at the mercy of arbitrary government power inflamed against it by vicious propaganda coming from those, such as the Royal Society, who pose as the fount of intellect and morality.

As it happens, the petition I have referred to has no financial support from Exxon or any other company in the oil, coal, or natural gas industries. Can the same thing be said about governmental support of The Royal Society and the endless “studies” dedicated to advancing the Green agenda?

The Royal Society should apologize to Exxon and to the respected scientists—Seitz, Lindzen, and the more than 17,000 others who oppose its views—whose reputations it has besmirched.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.