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Oregon Petition

The Oregon Petition is the name commonly given to a petition opposed to the Kyoto protocol, organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) between 1999 and 2001. During this period the United States was negotiating with other countries on implementation of the protocol before the Bush administration withdrew from the process in 2001.[1] Former U.S. National Academy of Sciences President Frederick Seitz wrote a cover letter endorsing the petition.

The Oregon Petition was the fourth, and by the far the largest, of five prominent efforts claimed to show that a scientific consensus does not exist on the subject of global warming, following the 1992 Statement by Atmospheric Scientists on Greenhouse Warming, the Heidelberg Declaration and the Leipzig Declaration. The petition site asserts that the number of signatures is approximately 19,000.[2]

The petition was circulated again in October 2007.



The text of the petition (which was on a reply card) reads, in its entirety:[3]

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 text of the petition is often misrepresented: for example, until recently the petition's website stated that the petition's signatories "declare that global warming is a lie with no scientific basis whatsoever."[4] The two-paragraph petition used the terms catastrophic heating and disruption, not "global warming." The original article associated with the petition (see below) defined "global warming" as "severe increases in Earth's atmospheric and surface temperatures, with disastrous environmental consequences".[5] This differs from both scientific usage and dictionary definitions, in which "global warming" is an increase in the global mean atmospheric temperature[6][7] without implying that the increase is "severe" or will have "disastrous environmental consequences."

Covering letter and attached article

The petition had a covering letter from Frederick Seitz, who is a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. and an attached article supporting the petition. Seitz' six paragraph letter described the article as "an eight page review of information on the subject of 'global warming'."[8] The senior author of the article was Arthur B. Robinson, a biochemist. The second and third authors were Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, astrophysicists and prominent global warming skeptics. The fourth and final author was Zachary W. Robinson, Arthur Robinson's 21-year-old son.[9]

The article states that "over the past two decades, when CO2 levels have been at their highest, global average temperatures have actually cooled slightly" and says that this was based on comparison of satellite data (for 1979-1997) and balloon data from 1979-96. At the time the petition was written, this was unclear. Since then the satellite record has been revised, and shows warming. (See historical temperature record and satellite temperature measurements.)

The article that accompanied the petition was written in the style and format of a contribution to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal.[5] Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Chicago, said that it was "designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article…is a reprint and has passed peer review." Pierrehumbert also said the article was full of "half-truths".[10] F. Sherwood Rowland, who was at the time foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the Academy received numerous inquiries from researchers who "are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them."[10]

After the petition appeared, the National Academy of Sciences said in news release that "The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal."[11] It also said "The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy." The NAS further noted that its own prior published study had shown that "even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises."[12]

In a 2006 article the magazine Vanity Fair stated: "Today, Seitz admits that "it was stupid" for the Oregon activists to copy the academy's format. Still, he doesn't understand why the academy felt compelled to disavow the petition, which he continues to cite as proof that it is "not true" there is a scientific consensus on global warming"[13]

As of October 2007, the petition project website includes an article by Arthur Robinson, Noah E. Robinson and Willie Soon, published in 2007 in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. [14]


Because of various criticisms made of the two Leipzig Declarations, the Oregon Petition Project claimed to adopt a number of measures, though none of these claims have been independently verified:

  • The petitioners could submit responses only by physical mail, not electronic mail, to limit fraud. Older signatures submitted via the web were not removed. The verification of the scientists was listed at 95%,[2] but the means by which this verification was done is not specified.
  • Signatories to the petition were requested to list an academic degree; 86% did list a degree. The petition sponsors stated that approximately two thirds held higher degrees, but provided no details confirming this claim.
  • Petitioners were also requested to list their academic discipline. The petition sponsors state that 2,660 scientists were trained in physical or environmental sciences (physics, geophysics, climatology, meteorology, oceanography, or environmental science) while 25% were trained in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, or other life sciences.[2]
  • The Petition Project itself avoided any funding or association with the energy industries.

The term "scientists" is often used in describing signatories. The petition requests signatories list their degree (B.S., M.S., or Ph.D.) and to list their scientific field.[3] The distribution of petitions was relatively uncontrolled: those receiving the petition could check a line that said "send more petition cards for me to distribute".

The Petition Project itself used to state:

Of the 19,700 signatures that the project has received in total so far, 17,800 have been independently verified and the other 1,900 have not yet been independently verified. Of those signers holding the degree of PhD, 95% have now been independently verified. One name that was sent in by enviro pranksters, Geri Halliwell, PhD, has been eliminated. Several names, such as Perry Mason and Robert Byrd are still on the list even though enviro press reports have ridiculed their identity with the names of famous personalities. They are actual signers. Perry Mason, for example, is a PhD Chemist.[2]

In May 1998 the Seattle Times wrote:

Several environmental groups questioned dozens of the names: "Perry S. Mason" (the fictitious lawyer?), "Michael J. Fox" (the actor?), "Robert C. Byrd" (the senator?), "John C. Grisham" (the lawyer-author?). And then there's the Spice Girl, a k a. Geraldine Halliwell: The petition listed "Dr. Geri Halliwell" and "Dr. Halliwell."

Asked about the pop singer, Robinson said he was duped. The returned petition, one of thousands of mailings he sent out, identified her as having a degree in microbiology and living in Boston. "It's fake," he said.[15]

In 2005, Scientific American reported:

Scientific American took a sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition —- one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.[16]

In a 2005 op-ed in the Hawaii Reporter, Todd Shelly wrote:

In less than 10 minutes of casual scanning, I found duplicate names (Did two Joe R. Eaglemans and two David Tompkins sign the petition, or were some individuals counted twice?), single names without even an initial (Biolchini), corporate names (Graybeal & Sayre, Inc. How does a business sign a petition?), and an apparently phony single name (Redwine, Ph.D.). These examples underscore a major weakness of the list: there is no way to check the authenticity of the names. Names are given, but no identifying information (e.g., institutional affiliation) is provided. Why the lack of transparency?[17]

Updated campaign

In October 2007 a number of individuals reported receiving a petition closely similar to the Oregon Petition.[18] As with the earlier version, it contained a six-paragraph covering note from Frederick Seitz along with a reply card and a supporting article. The text of the reply card is identical to the previous petition. Below the text is a signature line, a set of tick boxes for the signatory to state their academic degree (B.S., M.S., Ph.D.) and field, and another tick box stating "Please send more petition cards for me to distribute."

See also


  1. ^ [1] Kyoto Protocol and the United States
  2. ^ a b c d Explanation. OISM. Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  3. ^ a b Global Warming Petition. OISM. Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  4. ^ Global Warming Petition Project Previous version of page, from
  5. ^ a b Arthur B. Robinson; Sallie L. Baliunas,Willie Soon,Zachary W. Robinson (January 1998). Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. OISM and the George C. Marshall Institute. Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Frederick Seitz. Letter from Frederick Seitz. OISM. Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  9. ^ Myanna Lahsen (Winter 2005), , " ", Science, Technology, & Human Values 30 (1), doi:10.1177/0162243904270710,
  10. ^ a b David Malakoff (10 April 1998), " ", Science 195 (5361): 195, doi:10.1126/science.280.5361.195a,
  11. ^ Statement by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences regarding Global Warming Petition. National Academy of Sciences (April 20, 1998). Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  12. ^ Tim Lambert (14 May 2004). The Oregon Petition. Deltoid (blog). Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  13. ^ Mark Hertsgaard (May 2006). While Washington Slept.
  14. ^ Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide by Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon. Published in The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 2007; 12(3), 79.
  15. ^ Joseph H. Hubert (1 May 1998). Jokers Add Fake Names To Warming Petition. Seattle Times.
  16. ^ Skepticism about sceptics. Scientific American., March 2005
  17. ^ Todd Shelly (14 July 2005). Bashing the Scientific Consensus on Global Warming. Hawaii Reporter. Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  18. ^
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Oregon_Petition". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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