Arthur Robinson, president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and winner of the Voice of Reason award at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-9) in July 2014, discusses his decades-long fight to bring accuracy and reason to discussions of global climate and energy.
Burnett: What is your background in research, and how did you become a climate skeptic?
Robinson: I am a chemist. Most of my research has been in biochemistry and diagnostic medicine. Educated at Caltech and the University of California at San Diego, I was appointed to the faculty of UCSD immediately after graduate school. Beginning at Caltech and extending over a period of 15 years, Linus Pauling and I were each other’s closest scientific collaborators, working together at UCSD, Stanford, and at an independent institute we founded. About 34 years ago my wife—also a scientist—and I and several colleagues founded the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, where I still work with three of my sons who are also scientists.
The Wall Street Journal asked me to write their lead editorial during the Kyoto meeting in 1997. This editorial led the “warmers” to attack us. The attacks focused our attention to this issue. We realized their program has three parts. First, [they claim] a consensus of almost all scientists agrees with them. Two, they are on white horses of idealism trying to save the planet. Three, their opponents are on black horses of greed, willing to destroy the planet for profit.
Burnett: One of your most prominent claims to fame in global warming research is the Global Warming Petition Project. How did it come about, what does the petition say, and what has been its impact?
Robinson: Knowing, from our colleagues, the so-called consensus was false, several colleagues and I set out to show this by a petition, which eventually garnered more than 31,000 signatures of Americans trained in science. The purpose was to show there is no consensus. The poll does not prove the science—scientific hypotheses are not tested by polling—it simply demonstrates there is no consensus. A review article we wrote to accompany the petition drive does show, however, the research literature demonstrates “human-caused global warming” is a failed hypothesis. It should be discarded in the same way many other erroneous hypotheses in science are discarded.
Thanks to the Internet, the petition has been very well received. The Project’s details are available at www.petitionproject.org. The petition urges the U.S. Congress to take no action on the basis of the “human caused global warming” hypothesis because the evidence does not indicate humans are significantly warming the planet, and because carbon dioxide fertilization through the use of hydrocarbons is good for the environment.
This petition has proved useful in the public debate about this issue.
Burnett: What have you found to be the most disturbing aspect of the way climate research and climate policy have developed?
Robinson: The most intellectually disturbing thing is the truth about the science of this issue is being successfully suppressed by lies. These lies are not just a product of “enviro agitators” (as distinct from principled environmentalists). Unprincipled politicians, businessmen, financiers, investors, scientists, and all sorts of other special interests propagate these lies, from which they benefit. If we were just up against the pseudo-environmentalists, we would have won and corrected this problem long ago.
The most morally disturbing thing is, since our entire human civilization now runs mostly on hydrocarbon energy, abrupt reductions in that energy would cost the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people. There are billions of people still struggling to lift themselves from poverty and tyranny using hydrocarbon energy. The stakes in this controversy are the lives of those people, so we all have an inescapable duty to work against the suppression of hydrocarbon and nuclear energy.
Burnett: Tell us about the Oregon Institute of Science and medicine and your publication Access to Energy?
Robinson: Access to Energy was started 40 years ago by Petr Beckman, primarily to try to counter the attacks on nuclear energy in the United States. When Petr was dying of cancer 20 years ago, he asked me to write the newsletter. I have done so ever since. Access to Energy is primarily a report of scientific matters affecting human affairs. Its readership is partly scientists and partly nonscientists with strong interests in science and engineering.
The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine is a small but very high quality research laboratory primarily devoted to research of two types. First, we study molecular clocks that are built into all protein molecules. These clocks time biological processes. We discovered these clocks in 1968, and have worked on them ever since.
Second, we work on metabolic profiling for the purpose of measuring human health quantitatively. Practical aspects are advanced diagnosis of disease, monitoring of disease therapy, measurement of the rate of human aging, and related subjects. We measure large numbers of substances quantitatively in human breath and urine and identify patterns in these measurements useful for the increasing the quality, length, and quantity of human life.
We originated this research field in the 1970s. With today’s technology, we measure 5,000 substances in a urine sample in about one minute with advanced mass spectrometric techniques. Our primary focus now is on calibrating these measurements for practical use in preventive and diagnostic medicine.