The Royal Society of Great Britain, generally considered the nation’s most prestigious scientific society, has announced it will conduct a review of a previous public statement supporting the claims of global warming alarmists. The previous statement had declared the “debate on climate change is over” and the planet was becoming disastrously warmer due to human emissions of carbon dioxide. The Royal Society is reexamining its position after a growing number of member scientists expressed disagreement with the position of its leadership.
Discontent Was Predictable
Professor Bob Carter of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University in Australia finds the Royal Society’s backtracking on global warming alarmism shocking.
“Of course, it shouldn’t be stunning” that the Society is reexamining its statement in light of serious scientific concerns about global warming alarmism, Carter said. “But in the unhappy circumstances that the Royal Society has got itself into, it is,” he added, noting politics has often trumped science in the global warming debate.
Carter noted Lord Robert May, president of the Society when its previous statement was issued, is one of the most vocal proponents of global warming alarmism. Now that May is no longer president of the Society, its leadership is listening more to the member scientists, who are much more skeptical of alarmist global warming claims than May was.
‘Taken Over by Climate Zealot’
Carter did not mince words in describing May’s influence on the Royal Society’s global warming position in overcoming the differing opinion of member scientists.
“Leadership of the Society was taken over by an opinionated Australian, climate-zealot President Robert May, who believes it is the role of scientific societies to provide political advice,” said Carter. The Society’s decision to reexamine its position “is also almost certainly [the result of] a large majority of reputable scientists who have long since seen through the [global warming] scam,” Carter added.
“The Royal Society matter was only newsworthy because as a society we are so fixated on authority figures, and the Royal Society is seen as the impeccable authority figure. In actuality, over the last 20 years the Royal Society has transmuted from an impartial science academy into a politically active agency, as has the National Academy of Sciences [in the United States].”
Authorities Losing Credibility
Professor Thomas Derr of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts says the Royal Society hurt its prestigious reputation by so ardently embracing a theory which lacked concrete evidence. By declaring the scientifically controversial theory behind alarmist global warming predictions as fact, the Society diminished its reputation as an objective scientific organization, Derr says. Even so, Derr says he thinks the Royal Society will not fully recant its mistake.
“For some time the Royal Society, whose pride is in open inquiry and scientific doubt, has been under fire for touting the anthropogenic global warming thesis without any care for proper scientific method—in effect trashing its heritage,” he Derr. “The recent hints of remorse are worth investigation, but don’t expect anything like recantation. Human nature doesn’t allow that.”
Derr noted scientists’ desire for grant money to study climate change usually acts a deterrent to these ‘in-the-field’ scientists being skeptical of the global warming theory.
“The pursuit of grants and prestige does not favor skepticism. For a while people noted that biologists who wanted research grants always stuck into their project proposal the hope that it might help cancer research, even if that was pretty marginal, [but it] helped to get approval. It’s the same thing now for global warming: It is the cause that produces the money,” Derr explained.
Michaels Predicts Whitewash
Patrick Michaels, a climate change scientist at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, says the Royal Society has too much already invested in global warming alarmism to back down substantially from its prior statement. While finding it necessary to reexamine its prior statement in light of a backlash from member scientists, the organization’s leadership will inevitably affirm its prior statement after making a few tweaks here and there, he says.
The Royal Society’s review of its public statements will likely be a whitewash, says Michaels, just as reviews by Penn State University and the UK’s East Anglia University whitewashed misconduct perpetrated by its faculty in the Climategate scandal.
“What will happen is the Royal Society will release a statement saying, ‘Surely, global warming is a horrible and terrible problem and if we do not do something right now there will be massive death and destruction beginning forthwith.’ No British university or any government body in Great Britain will say otherwise, because they have become so invested with global warming hysteria. There is no room for them to really back down; there is just too much face to be lost,” said Michaels.
“The Royal Society will continue to prattle on about this issue,” predicted Michaels, “while the British Parliament will not go forward with anything because to do so will be committing the nation to a course of economic self-destruction.”
Carter agrees with Michaels’ assessment.
“I have no doubt that the intention of the Royal Society’s managers in giving into the request for a reexamination of policy on AGW was to then manipulate the review in the same way that the various Climategate enquiries have been manipulated. They may or may not succeed in that aim,” he notes.
Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.