Former Congressmen John Linder and Ron Paul made wrong and misleading claims about OISM Global Warming Petition Project

While Representatives John Linder of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas are no longer representing their states, while they were in the House, they both made misleading and incorrect statements regarding the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s Global Warming Petition Project.

Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Comparison between total U.S. Department of Education Bachelor of Science degrees and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

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.

The Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP), organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and published most recently in May 2008, is an attempt to counter the many studies that have found an overwhelming scientific consensus by climate experts that climate change is occurring, is largely driven by industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and will be disruptive to ecosystems and human society. S&R has shown that this attempt represents a false narrative for two reasons. First, the GWPP’s criteria are so broad that a stay-at-home parent with a veterinary degree who has never studied climate is considered qualified to have an informed opinion on the subject. This position is obviously absurd. Second, S&R has shown that, even if we give the GWPP the greatest possible benefit of the doubt, their signers represent tiny minorities of the total number of people who could have signed – one quarter of one percent (0.25%) of people with the GWPP’s selected degrees, less than one half of one percent (0.44%) of people who work in the selected fields, and no more than about 7% of the members of various scientific and technical professional organizations.

As part of our series on the GWPP, S&R searched through official government records of floor speeches and hearings from U.S. Representatives and Senators. We found two former and 11 current members of Congress who have referenced the GWPP, directly or indirectly, since it was published. Today S&R focuses on the two former members, John Linder of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas.

John Linder, former Representative for Georgia

John Linder (Image Credit: Govtrack.us)

John Linder (Image Credit: Govtrack.us)

John Linder served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011 in various Congressional districts. Following the publication of the GWPP, he was the third member of Congress to enter the Petition Project into official records, and he did so a total of four times between September 2008 and December 2009. And each time he misrepresented the petition’s signers.

The first time Linder mentioned the GWPP was on September 11, 2008, in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing titled “Policy Options to Prevent Climate Change.” Linder asked Peter R. Orszag of the Congressional Budget Office if Orszag had seen “the petition signed by 31,000 scientists, 9,000 who have Ph.D.’s in the science, 22,000 with masters in science, that take issue with this theory?”

Linder again referenced the GWPP on March, 12, 2009, during a hearing on “Protecting Lower-Income Families While Fighting Global Warming.” In this case, he used the GWPP in an attempt to counter Michigan Representative Levin’s reference to a public position statement by asking “are you aware that 32,000 scientists, 10,000 of whom have PhDs in the sciences and the rest of whom have masters have signed a position that’s opposite to the one that you hold, that your 1700 people hold?”

During floor debate in the House on June 26, 2009, Linder referenced the GWPP a third time, saying that “There are 32,000 scientists, 9,000 Ph.D.s and 23,000 masters in science who signed a petition against this silliness that we’re discussing….” And Linder invoked the GWPP one last time on December 8, 2009 during debate on the House floor over allegations (later disproven) that the Climategate emails showed scientists had committed scientific misconduct. This time Linder said

What is not popularly known is that 32,000 scientists, including Edward Teller, 9,000 of whom are Ph.D.s and the rest masters, have signed a statement that says there is no evidence that humans are causing any impact on the global warming that occurred between 1975 and 1998, none whatsoever.

In three of the four cases described above, Linder explicitly invoked the false narrative that the GWPP represents a counter-consensus against the reality of global warming. In each case he made two errors of fact. The first error is that the GWPP signers are not all “scientists,” as S&R has previously shown. The second error is that he claimed the GWPP’s signers all held advanced degrees (PhDs and Masters), when the GWPP itself claims the following: “9,029 PhD; 7,157 MS; 2,586 MD and DVM; and 12,715 BS or equivalent academic degrees.”

Ron Paul, former Representative for Texas

Ron Paul (Image credit: Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity)

Ron Paul (Image credit: Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity)

Former Texas Representative Ron Paul only invoked the GWPP once, compared to the four times Linder did. But in Paul’s remarks on the House floor on June 6, 2009, he went farther than Linder ever did and essentially parroted most of the claims made by the GWPP on their website. Furthermore, there is no indication that Paul bothered to fact-check any those claims. For example, Paul said the petition was “supported by a definitive review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature,” specifically by a supposedly peer-reviewed summary titled “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.” This article was written by just three people – Arthur Robinson, the GWPP’s organizer, Robinson’s son Noah, and Willie Soon. Given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) requires hundreds or thousands of experts to write accurately, it’s extremely unlikely that three men, two of whom are intimately tied to the GWPP itself, could write a “definitive review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature.” Furthermore, the summary was published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPANDS), a non-climate “journal” that has published HIV-AIDS denial, claimed that vaccines cause autism, and alleged that abortion causes breast cancer.

Paul also said that “all 31,478 of the signers have the necessary training in physics, chemistry, and mathematics to understand and evaluate the scientific data relevant to the human-caused global warming hypothesis and to the effects of human activities upon environmental quality.” This claim is absurd, a point that Paul, a former physician himself, should understand. As S&R reported in the first part of this series, “the mere fact someone has a college degree in [a non-climate related scientific, technical, or medical field] does not automatically grant that person an informed opinion or make them an actual expert [emphasis original].”

It’s perhaps not surprising that Paul failed to fact check the GWPP’s claims, given he very likely knows the GWPP’s organizers personally. S&R bases this claim on the following facts:

  • JPANDS is published by the libertarian Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) , an organization that once counted both Ron and Rand Paul among its members (Rand quit after being elected to the US Senate).
  • AAPS itself shares an address in Arizona with Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP), and both groups have Jane Orient as their leader (Orient is the Executive Director for AAPS and the President of the DDP).
  • Jane Orient is also on the faculty of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, whose founders include Arthur and Noah Robinson, two of the three authors (with Willie Soon) of the summary distributed with the GWPP’s petition card.
  • Arthur Robinson is the Vice President of the DDP and was the chief organizer of the GWPP.

We cannot expect our representatives in Congress to be experts on every topic. Yet even so, it’s reasonable to expect them to not make blatant errors like John Linder did. It’s also reasonable to expect that they not deceive or mislead their constituents with claims that they have to know are absurd, as Ron Paul did. Yet the fact that Linder and Paul did those things indicates that they were more interested in playing political games than in the facts.

Linder and Paul are no longer members of Congress. As a result, their ability to mislead and deceive the American people through ignorance or dishonesty is more limited than it once was. But the same cannot be said of the 11 other Representatives and Senators who are still in Congress. More on that in the next article of this series.

7 replies »

  1. I read the claim, I only see trivial issues with it. As in that he correctly identifies 9000+ PhD, and incorrectly assumes the rest are MS. That is not a significant error. You then attack persons who signed the document for guilt by association with Dr. Paul. which is ludicrous and reminds me of McCarthyism.

    [ADMIN: Off-topic content clipped.]

    • First, long-winded explanations for why you do or don’t think industrial climate disruption is real are not on topic here. Let’s stay focused on the Global Warming Petition Project says and what John Linder and Ron Paul said.

      Second, it’s not clear which “he” you mean when you say that “he correctly identifies 9000+ PhD, and incorrectly assumes the rest are MS.” The rest of the context of your paragraph implies that you mean Paul, but it was actually Linder who made that mistake.

      Third, it is not correct to say that everyone who signed the GWPP was a scientist. Engineers are not scientists, and nor are medical doctors, veterinarians, computer programmers, mathematicians, etc. Furthermore, almost none of the fields are sufficiently close to climate-related sciences to have informed opinions on climate. Individuals within those fields may have taught themselves enough to have an informed opinion, but very few fields should be assumed to automatically grant climate expertise. After all, meteorology and climatology are both branches of atmospheric sciences, yet there are a lot of meteorologists who have no clue about climatology and vice-versa. Or, if you prefer, just because I’m an electrical engineer doesn’t mean that I’m equally good at designing power supplies, camera interfaces, power supplies, and computer motherboards.

      The GWPP’s criteria for who is and is not a scientist are absurd. Their criteria are so broad that someone who earned a biology degree but never used it, stayed at home to take care of the family, and who has never read a single peer-reviewed scientific paper on climate is assumed to have an informed opinion equal to that of a trained climatologist. If you think that’s OK, then I would guess that you’re also OK with a medical doctor telling you when you’re wrong about your mechanical engineering and that you are OK with consulting with an aerospace engineer for an informed opinion about your next surgery.

      Fourth, I’m sure that you’re correct that Linder assumed that the rest of the GWPP signers had MSc degrees. But he made the same mistake four times over the course of 15 months. And it was a mistake that he wouldn’t have made if he’d bothered to spend 15 seconds with Google and a decent Internet connection. That he, nor any of his staff, bothered to get this right means he didn’t care that he was getting it wrong. This is a serious error not because he made a wrong assumption, but because an elected Representative didn’t care enough to get his facts straight. And given he didn’t get something this easy right, what else did Linder screw up? We should demand better from our legislators.

      Fifth, what I did was propose a possible rationale for Paul’s repetition of errors. That is not the same as “guilt by association,” which is a type ad hominem logical fallacy. For me to have been guilty of that fallacy, I would have had to dismissed Paul’s arguments because of his association with AAPS and DDP, rather than tackling Paul’s arguments directly. If you reread the OP, you’ll see that I did nothing of the sort.

      Sixth, would you please show me, via quoting my words in the OP, where I attack the people who signed the GWPP for being associated with Paul? I point out that Paul might have been less willing to fact-check what he said because Paul is friends with the GWPP’s organizers, but that says nothing about the tens of thousands of people who signed the GWPP. Unless all 31,487 signers are prophets, they had no way to know when they signed the GWPP between 1997 and 2008 that Paul would misrepresent the GWPP’s claims in 2009.

  2. And again you are back to censorship. Cheapshot way to “win” arguements except it is really admitting your argument is weak.

    ADMIN: please familiarize yourself with our comment policy. You’ll notice that nowhere does it say you are permitted to drag a discussion off topic with ramblings about your ME background and radiative transfer models. Modeling was not the topic of the original post, so the 75% or so of your original comment that was off topic was deleted. You are welcome to find a different post here at S&R for that discussion if you are so inclined, and you are invited to address Brian’s criticisms of the on topic aspects of your comment here. If you’re not interested in staying on topic, we suggest you not waste any more of either of our time.