On Fox's Special Report, Hume cited debunked Oregon Petition on global warming

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

On Special Report, Brit Hume cited a column asserting that "a majority of astrophysicists and other solar scientists may in fact disagree with the conventional wisdom" on global warming and said that the author, Lawrence Solomon, "points out that almost 18,000 scientists signed a petition in opposition to the Kyoto Protocol." But the petition to which Hume and Solomon apparently referred has been disavowed by the National Academy of Sciences, and many of the signatures on the petition apparently belong to people who are not climate scientists.

On the June 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host and Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume cited a June 2 National Post column, which, according to Hume, asserted that "a majority of astrophysicists and other solar scientists may in fact disagree with the conventional wisdom" on global warming. The column, published in the Financial Post section of the Canadian newspaper, was written by Lawrence Solomon, National Post columnist and executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute, who, Hume said, "points out that almost 18,000 scientists signed a petition in opposition to the Kyoto Protocol," an international agreement to limit production of greenhouse gases. But the petition to which Hume and Solomon apparently referred, the Oregon Petition, has been disavowed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), as Media Matters for America has noted. As Media Matters has also documented, many of the signatures on the petition apparently belong to people who are not climate experts -- and, in a few cases, are fictional characters.

The petition was sponsored by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), which, according to PR Watch, describes itself as "a small research institute" that studies "biochemistry, diagnostic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine, and the molecular biology of aging." Arthur Robinson, who founded OISM, was the lead author of a paper accompanying the petition, which asserted that the effects of increased levels of carbon dioxide are "a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution." The petition further stated 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 Associated Press reported on April 30, 1998, that Robinson is "a physical chemist," who "acknowledges he has done no direct research into global warming." The New York Times reported on April 22, 1998, that the paper "was printed in a format and type face similar" to that of the NAS journal. However, the NAS has denied any association with the paper, saying, "that the petition had 'nothing to do' with the academy and that the article was never published in the academy's journal," and clarifying that the petition "does not reflect the conclusion of expert reports of the academy."

Also circulated with the petition was a letter from Frederick Seitz, a former NAS president, that warned that "[t]he United States is very close to adopting" the Kyoto Protocol, which, according to Seitz, "would ration the use of energy and of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds." Seitz added that "there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful." A June 5, 2000, item in Business Week reported that "[f]or 28 years, Seitz was also a paid director and shareholder of Ogden Corp., an operator of coal-burning power plants that stands to lose financially should the Kyoto Protocol become law." Business Week reported that Seitz "sold most of his 11,500 shares" of Ogden in 1999 -- after promoting the petition in 1998.

An article in the May 2006 edition of Vanity Fair by Mark Hertsgaard reported, in Hertsgaard's words, "in full for the first time," the real "overlap" -- exemplified by Seitz -- between "the people who deny the dangers of climate change" and the "tobacco executives who denied the dangers of smoking." Hertsgaard reported that after leaving the NAS, Seitz "helped R. J. Reynolds Industries, Inc., give away [$45 million] to fund medical research in the 1970s and 1980s," which "avoided the central health issue" of smoking and "served the tobacco industry's purposes," but that "as proof of its commitment to science," "the industry frequently ran ads in newspapers and magazines citing its multi-million-dollar research program." The article further reported that, in a paper he authored in the 1990s, Seitz "asserted that secondhand smoke posed no real health risks." The article added that Seitz is "chairman emeritus" of the George C. Marshall Institute, which is one of "an array of organizations" funded by ExxonMobil "to downplay the problem" of global warming.

From the May 2006 Vanity Fair article:

Call him the $45 million man. That's how much money Dr. Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, helped R. J. Reynolds Industries, Inc., give away to fund medical research in the 1970s and 1980s. The research avoided the central health issue facing Reynolds -- "They didn't want us looking at the health effects of cigarette smoking," says Seitz, who is now 94 -- but it nevertheless served the tobacco industry's purposes. Throughout those years, the industry frequently ran ads in newspapers and magazines citing its multi-million-dollar research program as proof of its commitment to science -- and arguing that the evidence on the health effects of smoking was mixed.

In the 1990s, Seitz began arguing that the science behind global warming was likewise inconclusive and certainly didn't warrant imposing mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. He made his case vocally, trashing the integrity of a 1995 I.P.C.C. report on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, signing a letter to the Clinton administration accusing it of misrepresenting the science, and authoring a paper which said that global warming and ozone depletion were exaggerated threats devised by environmentalists and unscrupulous scientists pushing a political agenda. In that same paper, Seitz asserted that secondhand smoke posed no real health risks, an opinion he repeats in our interview. "I just can't believe it's that bad," he says.

Al Gore and others have said, but generally without offering evidence, that the people who deny the dangers of climate change are like the tobacco executives who denied the dangers of smoking. The example of Frederick Seitz, described here in full for the first time, shows that the two camps overlap in ways that are quite literal -- and lucrative. Seitz earned approximately $585,000 for his consulting work for R. J. Reynolds, according to company documents unearthed by researchers for the Greenpeace Web site ExxonSecrets.org and confirmed by Seitz. Meanwhile, during the years he consulted for Reynolds, Seitz continued to draw a salary as president emeritus at Rockefeller University, an institution founded in 1901 and subsidized with profits from Standard Oil, the predecessor corporation of ExxonMobil.

Seitz was the highest-ranking scientist among a band of doubters who, beginning in the early 1990s, resolutely disputed suggestions that climate change was a real and present danger. As a former president of the National Academy of Sciences (from 1962 to 1969) and a winner of the National Medal of Science, Seitz gave such objections instant credibility. Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at M.I.T., was another high-profile scientist who consistently denigrated the case for global warming. But most of the public argument was carried by lesser scientists and, above all, by lobbyists and paid spokesmen for the Global Climate Coalition. Created and funded by the energy and auto industries, the Coalition spent millions of dollars spreading the message that global warming was an uncertain threat. Journalist Ross Gelbspan exposed the corporate campaign in his 1997 book, The Heat Is On, which quoted a 1991 strategy memo: the goal was to "reposition global warming as theory rather than fact."

"Not trivial" is how Seitz reckons the influence he and fellow skeptics have had, and their critics agree. The effect on media coverage was striking, according to Bill McKibben, who in 1989 published the first major popular book on global warming, The End of Nature. Introducing the 10th-anniversary edition, in 1999, McKibben noted that virtually every week over the past decade studies had appeared in scientific publications painting an ever more alarming picture of the global-warming threat. Most news reports, on the other hand, "seem to be coming from some other planet."

[...]

ExxonMobil -- long the most recalcitrant corporation on global warming -- is still spending millions of dollars a year funding an array of organizations that downplay the problem, including the George C. Marshall Institute, where Seitz is chairman emeritus. John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, calls the denial campaign "one of the great crimes of our era." Passacantando is "quite confident" that class-action lawsuits will eventually be filed against corporations who denied global warming's dangers. Five years ago, he told executives from one company, "You're going to wish you were the tobacco companies once this stuff hits and people realize you were the ones who blocked [action]."

Further, in its April 22, 1998, article, the Times reported that "[o]f the 15,000 signers of the petition [at the time], Dr. Robinson said, about 2,100 were physicists, geophysicists, climatologists and meteorologists, 'and of those the greatest number are physicists.' " According to a May 1, 1998, AP article, the petition at one time included the names, "Drs. 'Frank Burns,' 'Honeycutt' and 'Pierce' (Remember the trio from M*A*S*H?), not to mention the Spice Girl, a.k.a. Geraldine Halliwell, who was on the petition as 'Dr. Geri Halliwel' and again as simply 'Dr. Halliwell.' "

From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: And a former adviser to President Carter's Global Environment Task Force and one of Canada's leading environmentalists is disputing the claim that there is a scientific consensus on the human origins of global warming.

Lawrence Solomon writes in the Financial Post that a majority of astrophysicists and other solar scientists may in fact disagree with the conventional wisdom. He points out that almost 18,000 scientists signed a petition in opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, and he says a survey of the National Registry of Environmental Professionals found that only 59 percent believe human activities were largely responsible for global warming.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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