I’ve been made privy to an email exchange with the editor of Physics Today regarding a rebuttal letter to a badly botched article by Spencer Weart that ignored a good portion of climate history. So far, editor Marty Hanna seems to be ignoring his own policy on right of reply for properly formatted and sourced letters. So, I’ve been asked to run it here. – Anthony
Letter to Editor Submission:
Reply to “Climate Change Impacts: The growth of understanding”
In his September 15 article in Physics Today, “Climate Change Impacts: The growth of understanding,” Spencer Weart presented a decidedly one-sided and incomplete history of the intersection of climate science and climate policy. Since he refers dismissively to a publication (actually, a series of books under the title Climate Change Reconsidered ) that we contributed to, we have asked for this opportunity to present an opposing view. We are grateful for this opportunity to share our perspective with Physics Today readers.
First, we largely agree with Weart on several aspects of his narrative. Before the mid-1980s, very few climate scientists believed man-made climate change was a problem. But Weart fails to report that this non-alarmist “consensus” on the causes and consequences of climate change included nearly all the leading climate scientists in the world, including Roger Revelle, whom Weart mentions specifically. This informed dissent by many leading scientists continues to this day.[3, 4]
Most of the reports purporting to show a “consensus” beginning in the 1980s came from and continue to come from committees funded by government agencies tasked with finding a new problem to address, or by liberal foundations that have little or no scientific expertise. These committees, as Weart writes, produce reports making increasingly bold and confident assertions about future climate impacts, but they invariably include statements “admitting deep scientific uncertainty.” The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) are replete with examples of this pattern.
Weart interprets this pattern as part of a “cautious approach” typical of committees seeking consensus, which may be correct. However, in the climate debate this practice has been exploited by politicians (such as Al Gore ), environmental groups (such as the Environmental Defence Fund ), and rent-seeking corporations in the renewable energy industry. These groups routinely quote alarming claims and predictions without acknowledging the deep doubts and scientific uncertainties that belie them. As a result, the public is misled concerning the quality and solidity of scientific research underlying the forecasts.
Weart alludes to “a serious controversy during the discussions leading to the IPCC’s initial report of 1990” but fails to cite any authors or publications that voiced these concerns.  And controversy didn’t end with the 1990 report, but has dogged every IPCC assessment since then. [9, 10] The criticism hasn’t come solely from conservatives or others outside the climate science community: the InterAcademy Council (IAC), the group created by the world’s national science academies to provide advice to international bodies, produced a blistering criticism of the IPCC’s procedures for recruiting authors, conducting peer-review, and presenting its conclusions. 
All this brings us to Weart’s reference to an unnamed “Heartland Institute publication” that, Weart says, “declared that ‘more carbon dioxide in the air would lead to more luxuriant crop growth and greater crop yields’ while taking no account of the likely heat waves and droughts.’ No careful study or hard analysis backed up such statements.”
Criticism of one’s work is a healthy and necessary part of scientific research, but dismissing a four-volume series totalling more than 3,000 pages of summaries of peer-reviewed climate science, with contributions by more than 50 scientists, with a single sentence and then failing even to reference the original reports is prejudicial and unfair to both authors and readers. All four volumes of the Climate Change Reconsidered series are available online (for free) and individual volumes in the series have been cited nearly 100 times in peer-reviewed articles. 
There is indeed “a major problem in communicating climate realities to the public,” but it is not the one Weart describes in his conclusion. It is that, starting in the 1980s, “consensus by committee” replaced real science in the climate debate and interest groups exploited that transition to turn a genuine scientific puzzle into a social and political movement. The results have been tragic for science as well as for the billions of people who now suffer adverse effects from public policies adopted at the height of this scandal.
Joseph L. Bast, Heartland Institute
Robert M. Carter, Emeritus Research Fellow, Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne
Laurence I. Gould, Past Chair (2004) New England Section of the American Physical Society
Craig D. Idso, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
Fred S. Singer, University of Virginia (Emeritus), Fellow of APS
Willie Soon, Independent Scientist
# # #
- Spencer Weart, “Climate Change Impacts: The growth of understanding,” Physics Today, September 2015, pp. 46-52.
- Craig Idso et al., Climate Change Reconsidered: The Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2008);Climate Change Reconsidered: 2011 Interim Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2011);Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science (Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2013); Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2014); also, the Chinese Academy of Science translated into Chinese and published an abridged edition of the first two volumes in 2013.
- Lawrence Solomon, The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so (Richard Vigilante Books, 2008).
- S. Fred Singer, Roger Revelle and Chauncey Starr, “What To Do about Greenhouse Warming: Look Before You Leap,” Cosmos: A Journal of Emerging Issues,Vol. 5, No. 2, Summer 1992.
- Kristina Moore, et al., The Chain of Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA (Washington, DC: U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works 2014).
- Marlo Lewis,CEI Congressional Briefing Paper: Al Gore’s Science Fiction (Washington, DC: Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2007)
- James B. Taylor, “Top 10 Global Warming Lies,” Environment & Climate News, July 27, 2015.
- Science and Environmental Policy Project, The Greenhouse Debate Continued: An Analysis and Critique of the IPCC Climate Assessment (San Francisco, CA: ICS Press, 1992).
- Frederick Seitz, “A major deception on global warming,” The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1996.
- Books and articles critical of the IPCC’s reports are too numerous to site. One of the earliest was S. Fred Singer, Hot Talk Cold Science(Oakland, CA: The Independent Institute, 1999). Particularly damning accounts include Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, “Hockey Sticks, Principal Components and Spurious Significance,” Geophysical Research Letters32, L03710; Edward Wegman, David W. Scott, and Yasmin H. Said, Ad Hoc Committee Report to the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and to the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations on the Hockey-stick Global Climate Reconstructions (Washington, DC: U.S. House of Representatives, 2006); Donna Laframboise, The Delinquent Teenager who was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert (Toronto, Canada: Ivy Avenue Press, 2012).
- Joseph L. Bast, “IPCC Admits Its Past Reports Were Junk,” American Thinker, July 16, 2012, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/07/ipcc_admits_its_past_reports_were_junk.html.
- See www.climatechangereconsidered.orgfor all volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series in PDF and a list of academic citations.