Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

10/20/2010 (6:01 pm)

Venerable Scientist Resigns From APS Over Global Warming (Updated)

UPDATE, 10/23/10: A reader points out that the claim in the APS response that “the dwell time of CO² in the atmosphere is hundreds of years” is settled science, turns out to be dead wrong. Apparently a simple math error in a calculation in a paper to the British Royal Society incorrectly posits the dwell time in the thousands of years, whereas more accurate, peer-reviewed papers suggest that the actual dwell time is 5 to 10 years. See the discussion here, and note that at least two scientists are now claiming that the pattern of errors regarding CO² is the result of deliberate malfeasance.

Harold Lewis has been a stalwart of American physicists since WWII. He chaired the Physics Department of the University of California at Santa Barbara, wrote award-winning books, chaired committees examining nuclear reactor safety, and was a member in good standing of the American Physical Society for 67 years. That APS tenure ended a couple of weeks ago, announced by a now-famous letter published on the web site of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Science blogger Anthony Watts compares the letter to Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg church door. The letter declares that the “global warming scam” constitutes “the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist,” and details serious mishandling of attempts to examine the scientific evidence dispassionately within the rules of the APS. Dr. Lewis speculates that the reason for the mishandling has to do with the river of government money flowing through organizations that tout the human-generated climate change line.

I am posting the letter in its entirety here, and following it with comments regarding the APS response to Dr. Lewis’ resignation.

Here is Dr. Lewis’ resignation letter:

Sent: Friday, 08 October 2010 17:19 Hal Lewis

From: Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara
To: Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society

6 October 2010

Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).

Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.


By the way, the letter to members of the APS that Lewis describes can be found at Watts Up With That, here. It’s also worth a read, as it records the opinions of highly-regarded scientists that ClimateGate did, in fact, seriously damage the case supporting global climate change alarmism. Progressive partisans are fond of insisting that it did not.

The APS response to Dr. Lewis’ letter was a masterpiece of issue avoidance. The only claim of Lewis’ that they rebut directly was the one Lewis claimed to have been conjecture — that their reason for handling the topic of climate science in so blatantly unscientific a manner was financial. They basically confirm Dr. Lewis’ description of the machinations they employed in order to avoid a balanced, honest evaluation of the topic.

Regarding the science of climate change, the APS responds as follows:

On the matter of global climate change, APS notes that virtually all reputable scientists agree with the following observations:

* Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere due to human activity;
* Carbon dioxide is an excellent infrared absorber, and therefore, its increasing presence in the atmosphere contributes to global warming; and
* The dwell time of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is hundreds of years.

On these matters, APS judges the science to be quite clear.

This is a non-response. Basically, the facts, on which they claim that all scientists agree, support the mere claim that man’s contribution to heating the climate is some figure greater than zero. Yes, we all agree that that’s a reasonable claim at this time, given current limits of knowledge. This means nothing, and certainly does not support the alarmist claim in the APS position statement to which Dr. Lewis objected so strongly, which reads in part as follows:

Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.

If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

Compare the facts listed in the first quote block to the alarming claim in the last paragraph of the second quote block, and tell me: what incontrovertible evidence proves that “If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur?” The “incontrovertible” evidence, to which virtually everybody agrees, says only that human contribution is non-zero.

The APS position statement displays the sort of partisanship which has earned global warming alarmists the reputation of abandoning honest science. This is the sort of partisanship which appeared in the now-infamous ClimateGate emails that helped to expose global warming alarmism as a fraudulently-supported power play. Dr. Lewis did well to resign.

The Climate Change Fraud is not dead, but it is coming unglued. Even some hard-core environmentalists are starting to abandon the climate change train. I’ll end with the statement of environmental activist Professor Denis Rancourt, formerly professor of Environmental Science at the University of Ottowa. Three minutes:

Progressives are still aiming at world domination through perverted science (sounds like a plot line from Pinky and the Brain, doesn’t it?) Do not reduce your vigilance.

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October 23, 2010 @ 5:35 am #

I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

October 23, 2010 @ 7:50 am #

I just read this the othe day:

German chemist, Dr Klaus Kaiser has published evidence that proves the Royal Society (RS), London, has been caught out making schoolboy errors in mathematical calculations over the duration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere. Backed up by a review by a leading Swedish mathematics professor the revelation is a serious embarrassment to the credibility of the once revered British science institute and a major setback for its claims about climate change.

A gaffe in their own basic calculations led the RS to falsely find that CO2 would stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years rather than a dozen or so as per peer-reviewed studies show. Global warming skeptics have been quick to condemn the error and demand an apology and immediate correction.

The Royal Society advises the British government on matters concerning climate change. Due to the scale of the error any forthcoming review will necessarily result in a substantial downward revision of the threat posed by CO2 in the official government numbers.

I got this from the web site “http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=6467″, and will only add that it’s funny how these errors always go in only one direction.

October 23, 2010 @ 8:00 am #


Thanks for the link to the article about the Royal Society’s miscalculation. What’s interesting to me about it is that in that article, a couple of prominent scientists are now claiming publicly that the error must be due to deliberate malfeasance, and they tie this error to others made by the American Physical Society. It’s about time; there’s been deliberate fraud, and the perpetrators need to be exposed and shunned, and prosecuted if that’s possible.

It IS interesting how the errors all lean in one direction. It’s even more interesting how they always wind up in the policy statements of these organizations of repute. I suspect that it’s the regularity of these errors that lead alert scientists to the conclusion that the errors are generated specifically for the purpose of inclusion in public statements. It appears to be a tactic.

October 31, 2010 @ 9:44 am #

My father was a physics teacher and I shared this article with him and he’d like to send it to the local paper and ask why nobody has seen the letter. How do we get permission for the newspaper to repring the letter?

Thank you,

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