Dear Dr. Murray,
On behalf of its 215 signatories, I am submitting the attached Petition for consideration by the APS Council. The Petition asks the Council to sponsor an independent scientific study and assessment of the global warming issue, to be used as the basis for a new APS Statement that will reflect the findings of the assessment.
Until the events of the last few days, there has been ample cause to challenge the technical conclusions of the IPCC and the certainty with which they are presented. These conclusions were cited as authoritative by the Ad Hoc Committee you appointed to examine the 2007 APS Statement and the Alternative Statement proposed in our Open Letter. However, as revealed by the hundreds of notes sent to Council members prior to the November 8 meeting, a substantial fraction of members doubts that authority and dislikes the APS statement that draws from it. This was in addition to the 160 or so signatories we were able to reach and who supported the proposed alternative.
We now know that the conduct of key scientists prominent in the process leading to IPCC scientific reports, summary reports, and other publications includes a pattern of behavior that severely impacts the credibility of major portions of the material cited by the Ad Hoc Committee. At this point in time, publicly available documents have revealed that this pattern includes a very troubling lack of transparency and availability of climate data, the biased manipulation of climate data, and – putting it politely – “tribalism” in key segments of the climate research community. This conduct is impeding scientific debate and the scientific assessment process.
Specifically, there is documented evidence of:
I do not know what effect these revelations will have in the public arena, but it is certainly damaging to whatever scientific authority the IPCC was able to command. Indeed it is damaging to science in general and the trust the public has invested in science and scientists. Combined with the known technical uncertainties, it makes it imperative that independent scientific assessments be undertaken. Accordingly our Petition acquires special importance at this time.
Continued reliance on a source of compromised integrity and technical questionability for scientific authority would place the Society in apparent implicit support of a badly tainted scientific process, as well as the readily challenged positions of the IPCC. The requirements of simple due diligence dictate that the Society take independent action and provide the benefit of such action to the Council.
There is ample precedent for the Society taking on tough and controversial technical problems, with important policy implications, and performing a credible job in independently and publicly evaluating the science. An excellent example is the SDI study of the 80s which, as in the climate question, involved significant policy questions as well as complex scientific issues. The technical result was published in Reviews of Modern Physics and is now regarded as one of the Society’s finest moments. A study of the nuclear power issue of the 70s produced a similar result.
Anticipating a protracted period before and during an independent scientific assessment, due diligence and the best interests of the Society would be served by the immediate withdrawal of the 2007 Statement pending the results of the assessment.
Roger W. Cohen
November 24, 2009