Environment/Nature

The OISM’s climate change-denying Petition Project is a small percentage of the AMS, AGU, APS, ACS, and IEEE membership

Compared to the membership of five major professional science and engineering organizations, the Global Warming Petition Project’s signers are still a small minority.

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

In May, 2008, the climate change-denying Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) published their Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP). This petition falsely claimed to be a counter-consensus against the authentic consensus that climate change is happening, that it’s largely the result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and that the changes will be disruptive to both the global climate and human society. In reality, the number of GWPP signatures is a tiny minority of both the science and engineering degrees that were awarded between 1970 and 2013 and of the number of scientists and engineers working in their fields in 2013 (the latest years that data is available). And this is even using the GWPP’s own overly broad criteria for who qualifies as having an informed opinion on the subject of industrial climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change).

Beyond comparing the GWPP’s numbers against graduation and employment data, there is another set of comparisons that can be made. Specifically, we can compare the GWPP’s signers to the membership of major professional organizations for both scientists and engineers. As with the graduation and employment data, however, this comparison shows a third time that the GWPP’s signers represent a small minority of the overall population.

American Meteorological Society comparison

Founded in 1919, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) is one of the most prestigious weather and climate-focused scientific organizations in the world. Given its prominence, S&R compared the number of GWPP signers to the US membership of the AMS in Figure 1.

Comparison between the number of atmospheric scientists claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the US professional membership of the American Meteorological Society, the number of earth science graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of atmospheric scientists employed in 2013.

Figure 1. Comparison between the number of atmospheric scientists claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the US professional membership of the American Meteorological Society, the number of earth science graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of atmospheric scientists employed in 2013.

Assuming that a) every GWPP signer with a weather or water-focused degree qualifies for professional membership and b) that every qualified GWPP signer actually is an AMS member, Figure N shows that the GWPP signers represent only 5.9% of the AMS’ US membership as of 2014.

We can check this result against a recent survey published by the AMS itself. IN 2013 the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a study titled “Meteorologists” Views About Global Warming – A Survey of American Meteorological Society Professional Members” by Neil Senhouse et al (hereafter Stenhouse et al 2013). This study found that only 9% of all respondents thought that climate change was either not happening at all or driven mostly natural factors , contrary to repeatedly misrepresentations by the climate disruption-denying Heartland Institute.

Furthermore, there are only about half as many professional members as there were working atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic scientist in 2013. That means we can estimate that only about half of the atmospheric scientists who signed the GWPP are actually AMS members. This drops the percentage of AMS members from 5.9% to about 2.9%. We cannot say the same about the Department of Education (DoEd) data, however, because the DoEd doesn’t break down earth science or physics or chemistry sufficiently to separate the atmospheric scientists from the geologists from the astronomers.

American Geophysical Union comparison

While the AMS is largely focused on meteorology and related sciences, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) is interested in the whole of earth sciences, including meteorology. Figure 2 below shows how the GWPP numbers compare to the number of US AGU members.

Comparison between the number of earth and atmospheric scientists claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the estimated US membership of the American Geophysical Union, the number of earth science graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of earth and atmospheric scientists employed in 2013

Figure 2. Comparison between the number of earth and atmospheric scientists claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the estimated US membership of the American Geophysical Union, the number of earth science graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of earth and atmospheric scientists employed in 2013

This figure shows that, as with the AMS, the GWPP members represent a small percentage of the estimated US membership of the AGU – just 7.5%. This calculation again assumes that every person who signed the GWPP is a member of the AGU. But we see that this isn’t a good assumption. First, AGU members make up only about 60% of the people employed in the earth sciences and teaching earth science at the postsecondary level. Second, the AGU members make up only 20.4% of the total number of earth science degrees awarded between 1970 and 2013. So it’s likely that the number of AGU members among the GWPP signers is somewhere between 20 and 60%, or between 580 and 1,706 signatures.

That’s only between 1.5 and 4.5% of US AGU members.

There are a couple of specific fields for which we can make direct comparisons to estimated group membership – the hydrology and ocean science groups. When we compare the number of hydrologists claimed by the GWPP (22) vs. the estimated number of hydrologists in the AGU (4,540), we find that the GWPP numbers are only one half of one percent (0.5%) of all the US hydrologists in the AGU. Similarly, when we compare the number of ocean scientists claimed by the GWPP (83) vs the number of ocean scientists estimated by the AGU (4,160), we find that the GWPP numbers are only 2.0% of all the US-based ocean scientists in the AGU.

These comparisons all show the same thing – the GWPP signatures represent a small minority of the earth scientists who are qualified to be members of the AGU.

American Physical Society comparison

In part two of this series, S&R found that a larger percentage of physicists than expected signed the GWPP. We also found that this was largely because physics graduates often worked in other fields and so weren’t tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as physicists. Figure 3 below compares the number of physicists who signed the GWPP to the membership of the American Physical Society (APS).

Comparison between the number of physicists claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the US resident membership of the American Physical Society, the number of physics graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of physicists employed in 2013

Figure 3. Comparison between the number of physicists claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the US resident membership of the American Physical Society, the number of physics graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of physicists employed in 2013

If we again assume that every one of the physicists who signed the GWPP is a member of the APS, then the GWPP would represent 10.5% of the membership of the APS. While high, this isn’t impossible given the results of the many consensus studies that have been published since 2008. However, we can again see that this isn’t a good assumption. Physicists employed in 2013 as college professors or as physicists are less than 20% of all the physics degrees earned between 1970 and 2013, and APS members are only 15% of the physics degrees.

If we assume that only about 15% of the GWPP-claimed physicists are actually APS members, then the percentage of APS members who signed the GWPP drops to about 2%.

American Chemical Society comparison

The main professional organization for chemists in the US is the American Chemistry Society (ACS). The ACS accepts not just chemists, but also chemical engineers. Figure 4 below compares the GWPP to the ACS membership.

Comparison between the number of chemists and chemical engineers claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the global membership of the American Chemical Society, the number of chemistry and chemical engineering graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of chemists employed in 2013

Figure 4. Comparison between the number of chemists and chemical engineers claimed by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the global membership of the American Chemical Society, the number of chemistry and chemical engineering graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of chemists employed in 2013

Assuming that every one of the GWPP signers with a chemistry or chemical engineering degree was also a member of the ACS, than the GWPP signers would represent about 4.2% of the global membership of the ACS. Part two found that the GWPP signers represented 4.04% of the number of chemists and chemical engineers employed in those fields in 2013.

We can see from Figure N that the membership of the ACS is only about 20% of the total number of chemistry and chemical engineering degrees awarded between 1970 and 2013. So again, we see that our initial assumption is very likely not correct. Instead, it’s more likely that the GWPP signers represent less than one percent (0.8%), a tiny minority.

S&R asked the ACS for information on the number of US members vs. global, but that information was not available by the time we published. We will update this section accordingly if/when we get this data.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers comparison

While mechanical engineers have at least a half dozen different professional organizations to which they might belong, there is only one major organization in the US for electrical engineers – the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Figure 5 below compares the number of GWPP signers to the membership of IEEE.

Comparison between the number of computer scientists and electrical engineers by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the US membership of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the number of electrical engineering and computer science graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of electrical engineers and programmers employed in 2013

Figure 5. Comparison between the number of computer scientists and electrical engineers by the Global Warming Petition Project vs. the US membership of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the number of electrical engineering and computer science graduates between 1970 and 2013, and the number of electrical engineers and programmers employed in 2013

If we again assume that every GWPP signer with an electrical engineering or computer science degree is a member of IEEE, then the GWPP represents only about 1.4% of the US membership of IEEE. But again, it’s clear that there are many engineers who qualify for IEEE membership who are not members. Since 1970, nearly ten times as many degrees have been awarded than there are IEEE members, and there were 14 times more people employed in 2013 than there were US members of IEEE. If only one out of every 14 GWPP signatures is an IEEE member, then the GWPP would represent only one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of the membership of IEEE.

Unlike the calculations for the APS, AGU, et al, this data does not include either computer science or electrical engineering professors in the employment data. The reason is that the BLS doesn’t track electrical engineering professors separately from other types of engineering instructors. However, there are more engineers working as engineers rather than as professors, so this error is smaller than it would be for physics, chemistry, or earth science.

The organizers behind the GWPP want people to believe that their petition somehow disproves the authentic scientific consensus about industrial climate disruption. In part one, S&R showed that the GWPP’s anti-consensus narrative was false because their signatures represented one quarter of one percent (0.25%) of all the people who met their own criteria and could have signed the GWPP. In part two, S&R found that the GWPP signatures represented less than one half of one percent (0.44%) of all the people currently employed in the fields identified by the GWPP. This again showed that the GWPP’s anti-consensus narrative was false. And S&R just showed that the GWPP signatures again represent a small minority when compared against the membership of five large and respected professional organizations – the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

At this point the conclusion is inescapable – the signers of the Global Warming Petition Project are a small minority whose signatures do nothing to cast doubt on the reality of industrial climate disruption. And anyone making claims to the contrary is either ignorant of the facts, irrationally biased against the facts, or intentionally spreading lies.

In the next installment of this series, S&R looks at the times the GWPP’s false narrative has been repeated in Congress in both “expert” testimony and by legislators.

Appendix

Comparison of GWPP signers to AMS, AGU, APS, ACS, and IEEE membership, with Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Education data for reference.

Table 1. Comparison of GWPP signers to AMS, AGU, APS, ACS, and IEEE membership, with Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Education data for reference.

  1. Global Warming Petition Project data from Qualifications of Signers (accessed 8/22/2015).
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014 National Occupational employment and Wage Estimates
  3. US Department of Education Graduation Data from 2014 Digest of Education Statistics, #325
  4. US membership of the American Meteorological Society provided via email from Christine Kassas on 10/20/2015. GWPP signatures based on the sum of atmospheric science, climatology, meteorology, and hydrology categories from Qualifications of Signers. BLS data from the sum of Occupation Codes 19-2021 and 19-2043 (atmospheric/space scientists and hydrologists respectively). DoEd graduation data from earth science degrees in Table 325.72.
  5. US membership of the American Geophysical Union estimated from 2014 demographics. GWPP signatures based on the sum of atmospheric science, climatology, meteorology, astrophysics, earth science, geochemistry, geoscience, hydrology, and oceanography categories from Qualifications of Signers. BLS data from the sum of Occupation Codes 19-2011, 19-2021, 19-2042, 19-2043, and 25-1051 (astronomers, atmospheric & space scientists, geoscientists except hydrologists and geographers, hydrologists, and postsecondary teachers of atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences, respectively). DoEd graduation data from earth science degrees in Table 325.72.
  6. US resident membership of the American Physical Society provided via email from Trish Lettieri on 10/14/2015. GWPP signatures based on the sum of astrophysics, geophysics, physics, and biophysics categories from Qualifications of Signers. BLS data from the sum of Occupation Codes 19-2012 and 25-1054 (physicists and postsecondary physics teachers respectively). DoEd graduation data from physics degrees in Table 325.72
  7. Global membership of the American Chemical Society from the ACS About ACS page (accessed 10/20/2015). GWPP signatures based on the sum of geochemistry, chemistry, chemical engineering, and biochemistry categories. BLS data from the sum of Occupation Codes 17-2040, 19-2031, and 25-1052 (chemists, chemical engineers, and postsecondary chemistry teachers respectively). DoEd data from the sum of chemistry and chemical engineering degrees from Tables 325.47 and 325.72 respectively.
  8. US membership of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers provided via email from Chris McManes on 10/8/2015. GWPP signatures based on the sum of computer science and electrical engineering categories from Qualifications of Signers. BLS data from the sum of Occupation Codes 15-1110, 15-1120, 15-1130, 17-2061, and 17-2070 (computer and information research scientists, computer and information analysts, software developers and programmers, computer hardware engineers, and electrical/electronics engineers respectively). DoEd data from the sum of computer science and electrical engineering graduates from Tables 325.35 and 325.47 respectively.

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