Coloradoan guest columnist cited questionable scientists to support right-wing talking points on global warming

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In the January 17 edition of the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a guest column that expressed skepticism about global warming cited "[w]orld-renowned scientists" -- some of whom reportedly have ties to the oil industry. In addition, the column parroted right-wing talking points in dismissing concerns about climate change as "overblown."

In a guest column published in the January 17 edition of the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Fort Collins resident Louis Phillippe cited the opinions of scientists reportedly tied to the fossil fuel industry and repeated right-wing talking points to assert that "a growing body of scientific evidence indicates the panic over global warming is overblown and not worthy of the alarm the Al Gore/Chicken Little propagandists are generating."

Phillippe listed "[w]orld-renowned scientists who believe the computer models [of global warming] are flawed and the sampling metrics skewed":

[A]ward-winning Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas; Ph.D., Robert Balling, Ph.D., director of Climatology at Arizona State; Patrick Michaels, Ph.D., past president of the American Association of Climatologists and professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia; Frederick Seitz, Ph.D., past president of the National Academy of Sciences; and Tim Patterson, Ph.D., professor of paleoclimatology at Carleton University, among many others.

Phillippe also quoted meteorologists Richard Lindzen, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University as saying global warming was "a bad joke" and "one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people," respectively.

However, there is evidence that the scientists Phillippe cited lack scientific independence and credibility on the issue of global warming. On January 3, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report that documented how, between 1998 and 2005, multinational petroleum giant Exxon Mobil Corp. funneled some $16 million "to a network of ideological and advocacy organizations that manufacture uncertainty on the issue" of global warming. According to the report's Executive Summary:

Many of these organizations have an overlapping -- sometimes identical -- collection of spokespeople serving as staff, board members, and scientific advisors. By publishing and republishing the non-peer-reviewed works of a small group of scientific spokespeople, ExxonMobil-funded organizations have propped up and amplified work that has been discredited by reputable climate scientists.

The report's Table 2 ("Scientific Spokespeople Affiliated with ExxonMobil-Funded Groups") in Appendix B ("Groups and Individuals Associated with ExxonMobil's Disinformation Campaign") displays entries for most of the scientists that Phillippe mentioned: Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Patrick Michaels, Frederick Seitz, and Richard Lindzen.

Colorado Media Matters also has noted that William Gray's expertise on global warming as been called into question by a variety of news reports and critics.

Additionally, passages in Phillippe's column echo -- often with strikingly similar phrasing -- specific arguments that appeared as long ago as February 2005 in a column written by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, and published on the website of Frontiers of Freedom. Frontiers of Freedom holds as part of one of its "Ten Tenets" that "[t]he environment is best protected and preserved where free markets thrive, capitalism is robust, and property rights are respected."

Furthermore, in disparaging former Vice President Al Gore's activism on global warming, Phillippe in his column also repeated the long-debunked canard that Gore "claimed to have invented the Internet":

So who should we believe -- renowned climatologists and atmospheric scientists who cite hard data in their conclusions, or Al Gore and a fraternity of like-minded respected scientists applying selective sampling data to unproven theoretical models to achieve a desired result? The truth about climatic change likely lies somewhere in-between, but we should remember this is the same Al Gore who falsely claimed to have invented the Internet.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Gore is widely credited with having secured vital government support for the development of the Internet, but never claimed to have "invented" it.

From Louis Phillippe's guest column, "Scientists cool to global warming theory," in the January 17 edition of the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Gordon MacKinney's Community column on Fort Collins' actions against global warming (Jan. 11) cites "indisputable facts" presented in the Al Gore film, "An Inconvenient Truth," and suggests those who dismiss global warming as a hoax are relegated to "the same dark corner as flat Earth theorists and Holocaust deniers."

Hundreds of the world's foremost scientists and climatologists might strongly disagree with that suggestion. For example, Richard Lindzen, Ph.D., professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently stated, "At the end of the day, it will all be revealed as a bad joke."

World-renowned scientists who believe the computer models are flawed and the sampling metrics skewed include award-winning Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas; Ph.D., Robert Balling, Ph.D., director of Climatology at Arizona State; Patrick Michaels, Ph.D., past president of the American Association of Climatologists and professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia; Frederick Seitz, Ph.D., past president of the National Academy of Sciences; and Tim Patterson, Ph.D., professor of paleoclimatology at Carleton University, among many others.

Colorado State University's own Dr. William Gray, recognized as the world's leading hurricane experts, said, "Global warming is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people."

Some of the current global warming models vary in result by margins as great as 400 percent. Wassily Leontief, Nobel Prize winner for modeling, said this about the fallibility of models: "We move from more or less plausible but really arbitrary assumptions, to elegantly demonstrated but irrelevant conclusions."

MacKinney claims the time to act was years ago. Well, here's a quote from a leading scientist in a 1972 Washington Post article: "We simply cannot afford to gamble. We cannot risk inaction. The scientists who disagree are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored."

Sound familiar? The scientist's warning was in reference to the panic over global cooling [emphasis in the original]. As recently as 1975, scientists and journalists preached the horrors of global cooling, issuing dire predictions of crop failures and mass starvation of billions resulting from the impending ice age.

[...]

So who should we believe -- renowned climatologists and atmospheric scientists who cite hard data in their conclusions, or Al Gore and a fraternity of like-minded respected scientists applying selective sampling data to unproven theoretical models to achieve a desired result? The truth about climatic change likely lies somewhere in-between, but we should remember this is the same Al Gore who falsely claimed to have invented the Internet.

No one will disagree that reducing manmade emissions and dependency on fossil fuels is important and should be accelerated as part of a global strategy of environmental conscience. But a growing body of scientific evidence indicates the panic over global warming is overblown and not worthy of the alarm the Al Gore/Chicken Little propagandists are generating.

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