TCS Daily

The Royal Scam

By Hans H.J. Labohm - July 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Economists are famous for their inability to agree on anything. "If you put two economists in a room," Winston Churchill once observed, "you get two opinions -- unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions." Harry Truman shared this frustration. He once exclaimed that he needed a one-handed economist, because all the economists he knew would say one thing, and then in the next breath, prefaced by "on the other hand", say the opposite.

No wonder that economists, like me, become very suspicious if scientific bodies publicly espouse one line of thinking while denouncing alternative views. That was the case when London's Royal Society issued a statement last month announcing that the national science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China and India, three of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the developing world, had signed a statement on the global response to climate change. The statement stressed that the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action and called on world leaders, including those meeting at the G8 summit this week at Gleneagles, to take a number of specific measures.

However, it turns out this statement was not supported by the American and Russian Academies of Science. Fred Singer, president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), reported that Bruce Albert, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences -- whose signature was printed at the bottom of the statement -- confirmed that the Academy "definitely did not approve the Royal Society press release". Albert added that he had sent a letter to Lord Robert May (the drafter of the press release) expressing his dismay at the misleading and political statements made in it.

The press release came also as a surprise to the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). As Benny Peiser, a well-known British climate skeptic noted: "The Royal Society appears to have pressured its president, Yuri Osipov, into signing a politically motivated document against the expressed stance of its own organization. The RAS had never seen or discussed the text of the Academies' statement. After having done so, the RAS climate scientists have come to the conclusion that the statement of the Academies is 'lacking scientific proof and having contradictions in logic in its many assertions.' Russian scientists still believe that the Kyoto protocol is scientifically flawed. It is an ineffective way to try to achieve the aim of the UN convention on climate change. They also said it was harmful for the Russian economy. In the meantime, a special climate group of the RAS has requested the president of the Russian Academy of Science to repudiate his signature from the 'Academies' statement."

The press release by the Royal Society is just another example of the long string of manipulative and obfuscatory practices that have defined the climate debate and in which pro-Kyoto British scientists have played such a prominent role. The most notorious example is perhaps the behavior of the British delegation at a climate conference in Moscow in July 2003. According to Dr. Madhav L. Khandekar, a Canadian environmental consultant and research scientist, the UK delegation, led by Sir David King, chief scientific advisor to the British government, "behaved in a most obstructionist and unprofessional fashion throughout the event. The U.K. Delegation vehemently opposed allowing any of the experts who disagreed with the Kyoto science to even present our work." More particularly he complained: "In an attempt to deny dissenting scientists the time to speak, the UK delegation did not arrive until 11 a.m. on July 7, although the seminar was supposed to start at 9.30 a.m. Dr. King then insisted on delivering a long presentation that forced dissenting speakers to significantly shorten their talks. Even though we met until 7 p.m., the schedule for the first day had to be completed the following morning and, even then, Dr. King tried to bump us by speaking next morning for almost 40 minutes. The UK group refused to answer many of the questions of [Kremlin economic adviser Andrei] Illarionov and others. Professor Paul Reiter of Institute Pasteur in Paris questioned Dr. King's assertion that global warming has reduced the snow/ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro. Prof. Reiter, whose studies reveal that there has been no temperature change at the base of the mountain in the last decade, pointed out that ice cap changes could easily have been due to reasons other than global warming. Dr. King did not answer and instead suddenly walked away on the pretext that he had to meet a government official." And so he goes on.

One can only wonder whether there are any checks and balances to temper the excessive zeal of some scientists, especially those who are acting in some official capacity, to impose their views concerning climate change onto science and politics. All those who value impartiality and open-mindedness of science and its institutions will undoubtedly be utterly embarrassed by these practices. It is not only damaging for the reputation of the individual scientists involved, but also the institutions which they claim to represent. Moreover it may blot the reputation of science at large.

It's high time to stop those practices.



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