A year ago, sixteen scientists wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal to explain that there is “no compelling scientific argument” for “drastic actions on global warming”, despite the fact that the media continues reporting there is “incontrovertible” proof otherwise.

Incontrovertible

One of those scientists is Dr. Roger Cohen, who spent over 40 years in industrial research in the electronics and energy industries and was the Senior Director for Exxon’s Corporate Research Laboratories and Manager of Strategic Planning and Programs.  At the time of the opinion piece, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society’s Topical Group on the Physics of Climate.

No longer.

And the reasons for his resignation show how pure science is being repressed in favor of pushing an “incontrovertible” political agenda. It’s like Galileo, but with the pontiffs heading “global warming theology”.

The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society have shed their traditional roles as supporters of science inquiry in favor of out and out advocacy. It is also widely known that scientists seeking to publish opposing scientific evidence experience great difficulty getting papers published in journals sponsored by these societies and others.

However the American Physical Society (APS) – the second largest society of physicists in the world, and my “home society” – had stopped short of this level of shrill advocacy and bias. Physicists, perhaps more broadly trained in their relatively mature field and having a somewhat broader perspective than some other science practitioners, might be expected to adopt a more hands off stance when it comes declaring a complex and difficult science question “settled.” And indeed this was the case…until the 2007 Statement on Climate Change was issued.

The preparation of that statement was antithetical to traditional scientific approaches. A small group of eco-activists who were not satisfied with the degree of alarm contained in the original drafts acted “unilaterally and without authority” to include more scare-mongering language. In fact, the revised statement included a clearly anti-scientific phrase that angered many APS members: “The science is incontrovertible.”

Cohen then spear-headed a petition drive, which produced a request for the Climate Statement to be moderated that was signed by nearly 300 physicists (including nearly 100 Fellows of major scientific societies, 17 members of national academies, and two Nobel Laureates). Instead of modifying the fear level in favor of science, the APS simply added 750 words the statement explaining what the original 157 words really meant.

At that point, some APS members quietly resigned or let their memberships lapse in response to the lack of scientific seriousness. The most publicly visible of these resignations were Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever and distinguished APS Fellow Hal Lewis.

And while other members continued the fight to promote balanced science, Cohen noted that “climate change deniers” were sidelined at every turn by the organization:

For example, one accomplished physicist, an expert on the key issue of solar variability effects on terrestrial climate, was shunted off to “back up speaker” status due to the intervention of an IPCC lead author with a demonstrable vested interest in the IPCC’s posture on the solar issue. Another proposed speaker’s peer-reviewed, published work concerning the integrity of the land temperature data was completely discounted because he had endorsed a public expression of religious faith and its connection with science.

While skeptics’ public statements were considered evidence of bias, there were no qualms about applying a double standard that excused doctrine supporters from such considerations. One enthusiastically approve invited speaker has ventured into public environmental advocacy for reduced meat-eating, vegetarianism, and for limiting natural offspring and airplane travel. Another invitee’s public statement of opinion on a human contribution to a single hurricane (Katrina) was not judged grounds for questioning his objectivity. This double standard was no accident: one member of the committee charged with choosing speakers was quite explicit about skeptics’ participation when he warned against an “argument that winds up giving more effective weight to the ‘skeptics’ over the consensus viewpoint

So, when some eco-activtist says the science behind climate change is “incontrovertible”, Cohen’s story shows what that word truly means.