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.
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 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
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.