'Flat Earth Award' nominee's challenge to Chicken Littles
On April 12, the Monitor ran an article ("How students in one class tackled global warming") about Middlebury College students who, as part of a class on climate change and activism, designed the "Flat Earth Award" for global-warming naysayers. The winner, Dr. Fred Singer, is to be announced Friday, Earth Day.
Dr. Singer prepared the following acceptance speech.
Dear Students of Middlebury College: I thank you for nominating me for the Flat Earth Award, along with Michael Crichton and Rush Limbaugh. I am truly honored to be in the company of these two gentlemen who are able to communicate the truth about global warming to millions of people.
According to your website (www.flatearthaward.org), you created the award as a humorous effort "to highlight the denial of global warming by prominent public figures." You claim that "despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that human-induced carbon-dioxide emissions are altering the global climate, some deniers remain. They are trying to convince the public and our government that a massive peer-reviewed international research project conducted by thousands of scientific researchers is bogus!"
Well now. As you undoubtedly realize, there is no consensus within the scientific community about global warming. And even if there were such a consensus, this is not how science progresses.
Remember: There was once a consensus that the sun revolves about the earth, that humans could not travel faster than 25 m.p.h., that manned flight was technically impossible, and that rockets could not operate in the vacuum of space.
What matters are facts based on actual observations. And as long as weather satellites show that the atmosphere is not warming, I cannot put much faith into theoretical computer models that claim to represent the atmosphere but contradict what the atmosphere tells us. [Editor's note: Satellite measurements indicate the lower atmosphere is warming at a rate of 0.12 degrees F. per decade.] A computer model is only as good as the assumptions fed into it.
I hope that this does not come as too much of a shock for you. As for the claimed consensus - as published by Naomi Oreskes in the Dec. 3, 2004, issue of Science: A colleague of mine completed an audit of the material used by Professor Oreskes but did not duplicate her result. I expect that her paper will be withdrawn. You may want to drop the link to her article on your website.
And while we are at it, here are other corrections for your website. I continue to publish in peer-reviewed journals; there were two papers in the July 9, 2004, issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Also, The Science and Environmental Policy Project is certainly not industry-funded (not that this would matter). But as a matter of policy, we rely on private donations and do not solicit support from either industry or government.
And finally, get rid of that awful picture in my bio.
So what's the real scoop on global warming? I do not deny the principle of global warming. As I told the Rutland (Vt.) Herald, "I believe that the climate is currently warming as a result of the increase of greenhouse gases.
"The greenhouse effect is real. However, the effect is minute, insignificant, and very difficult to detect. There is a discrepancy between what we expect from theory and the facts, and we need to explain that. That's what we're all working on."
And beyond this, competent economists conclude that a modest global warming is good for you - and agriculturists know that more CO2 is good for crops and forest growth.
And now, an announcement, inspired by your efforts: The Science and Environmental Policy Project will sponsor the prestigious Chicken Little Award.
The award will include some tangible benefits, consisting of a sculpture or painting of a chicken, a certificate, and a voucher for dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I invite you and anyone else to send your nominations to Comments@sepp.org and our Selection Board will announce the winning nominees.
So again, thank you - and may the next Ice Age be long in coming.
S. Fred Singer, PhD Arlington, Va.
Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia