Oregon Governor Trampling Scientific Freedom

Published February 7, 2007

In a chilling assault on free speech and academic freedom, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) has informed KGW-TV in Portland that he is seeking to remove a prominent skeptic of manmade global warming from the position of state climatologist.

The state legislature created the state climatologist position in 1991 as part of a state climate office at Oregon State University. George Taylor, an expert climatologist, has held the position since it was created.

To date, the state climatologist has not been a politically appointed position. The state climate office is responsible for providing up-to-date information to Oregon residents regarding the state’s weather. Taylor is unquestionably an accomplished climatologist who is well qualified to run the office. He has published articles and books on weather and climatology, including The Oregon Weather Book, and is a frequent speaker at American Meteorological Society events.

In addition to being the foremost expert on Oregon climate, Taylor is one of many climate experts with deep reservations about alarmist predictions of catastrophic global warming. Taylor believes natural climate variations played a significant role in the end of the Little Ice Age just over 100 years ago, and that they are a contributing factor to recent warming.

Taylor is certainly not alone in his reservations. Many other scientists agree, including Virginia State Climatologist Patrick Michaels, who is a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. The nation’s leading hurricane expert, William Gray, has publicly refuted the assertion that global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes. And Frederick Seitz, a past president of the National Academy of Sciences, has authored a comprehensive rebuttal to global warming alarmism that has been signed by more than 17,000 scientists.

A 2003 international survey of more than 500 climate scientists, conducted by German climatologist Dennis Bray, found only 56 percent think climate change is mostly the result of human causes. And a November 2006 survey conducted by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals found that 41 percent of environmental scientists and professionals disagree that recent warming temperatures “can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.”

Still more support for climate realists such as Taylor is found in the just-released Summary for Policymakers of the Fourth Assessment of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The latest scientific research finds previous estimates of future global warming were overstated, the ice caps on Antarctica and Greenland are not melting, and sea levels are expected to rise only 1 foot over the next century. North America is expecting more, rather than less, precipitation under projected global warming conditions.

It reflects poorly on Gov. Kulongoski that he would try to stifle legitimate scientific debate by attempting to fire a scientist who is performing his job so admirably. The vast majority of Taylor’s work involves compiling and presenting objective climate and weather data regarding the state of Oregon, and there can be little dispute that Taylor excels at this job.

Removing Taylor from his position solely because he disagrees with the governor’s alarmist position on global warming only serves to punish state citizens who have come to rely on Taylor’s wealth of knowledge and diligent job performance regarding state weather.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.