I called William Gray cantankerous. Not the same thing as calling the global warming denier wrong. I didn't. In my column, I just said it was difficult believing the famous old hurricane forecaster in the face of overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that global warming was both man-made and inevitable unless we stopped dumping so many tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
And I got hammered. What about, the e-mails kept saying, the 32,000 scientists who've signed a petition saying they disputed the global warming. That it was so much hype. What about that, you lousy reporter? the e-mails asked. It was as if there were 32,000 scientists on one side of the argument and Al Gore on the other and . . .well . . . you know where the liberal media is going to line up on that one.
The famous petition was started back in the late 1998 by an outfit called the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, located on a farm outside Cave Junction, Oregon. And, in addition to running the deniers petition, also peddles nuclear war survivor kits and home schooling packages ($200 each), ""teach your children to teach themselves and to acquire superior knowledge as did many of America's most outstanding citizens in the days before socialism in education."
The petition was originally circulated in 1998 with a reprint of scientific paper, doubting man-made global warming, and it appeared to have been prepared under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Sciences was not pleased and issued the following statement:
"The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal, The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.
The NSA statement added that its own studies had shown that "even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises."
But the petition kept growing. Thousands of signers purporting to be scientists were added. Many, in the early years, by simply signing on-line. Except the Institute appeared to make no effort to vet the names. Rock stars. Basketball stars. Fictional characters signed up. A number of actual scientists whose names were signed later claimed that they had never added their names to the petition and actually held quite the opposite point of view. A report in Scientific American found that only 1,400 of the petition's signatories claimed to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science.
But whats really important to note: The scientific paper behind the petition has never been published in a peer reviewed journal.
Here's a link to fine profile of William Gray by Joel Achenbach, the author, science writer and columnist with the Washington Post.