Climate Change

You may recall that recently the White House altered a report on Global Warming, replacing a statement that temperatures have risen significantly in the last decades with a reference to a paper by two astronomers, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. The Soon and Baliunas paper argues that

…These results offer strong evidence that the climate of the 20th century was not unusual, but fell within the range experienced during the past 1,000 years…The available scientific evidence does not support the claim that the climate of the 20th century was unusual when compared to the climate of the previous 900 years.

That paper, its methodology, and its conclusion have been widely criticized (see also here).

Now, in his weekly newsletter, physicist Bob Park gives us some important background on Soon and Baliunas:

To appreciate its [the S&B paper] significance, we need to go back to March of 1998. We [presumably, members of the American Physical Society] all got a petition card in the mail urging the government to reject the Kyoto accord (WN 13 Mar 98). The cover letter was signed by “Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences.” Enclosed was what seemed to be a reprint of a journal article, in the style and font of Proceedings of the NAS. But it had not been published in PNAS, or anywhere else. The reprint was a fake. Two of the four authors of this non- article were Soon and Baliunas…The article claimed that the environmental effects of increased CO2 are all beneficial…It was a dark episode in the annals of scientific discourse.

Read the first part of Park’s newsletter for a little insight into how the current administration chooses among conflicting scientific–or purportedly scientific–reports.