Despite overwhelming evidence that global warming and its causes are real, naysayers are out there, as always is the case with any contentious issue. But what’s unique and alarming about the global warming debate is that journalists are actually spreading the views of these “climate skeptics” without actually taking a look at the facts.

Take an article posted recently on Politico that’s titled, “Scientists urge caution on global warming,” by Erika Lovely. In it, the writer cites several global warming skeptics such as the infamous Senator James Inhofe — known to have relied on faulty theories to support his skeptical stance on climate change — to give the impression that the facts behind global warming are still up for debate, even though they clearly are not.

Additionally, the author writes that 31,000 “scientists” across the world have signed the Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP), a “declaration started by a group of American scientists that states man’s impact on climate change can’t be reasonably proven.” However, she conveniently leaves out a few crucial points, one of which was so obvious that it was pointed out by the first person to leave a comment under the article. According to SourceWatch an organization that actually looks into the facts behind news stories, one problem with the GWPP (aka Oregon Petition) is that most of the signers aren’t scientists. From SourceWatch:

"When questioned in 1998, OISM's [founder] Arthur Robinson admitted that only 2,100 signers of the Oregon Petition had identified themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists or meteorologists, 'and of those the greatest number are physicists.'"
 Even more outrageous and disturbing is this
"When the Oregon Petition first circulated, in fact, environmental activists successfully added the names of several fictional characters and celebrities to the list, including John Grisham, Michael J. Fox, Drs. Frank Burns, B. J. Honeycutt and Benjamin Pierce (from the TV show M*A*S*H), an individual by the name of "Dr. Red Wine," and Geraldine Halliwell, formerly known as pop singer Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls. Halliwell's field of scientific specialization was listed as "biology." Even in 2003, the list was loaded with misspellings, duplications, name and title fragments and names of non-persons, such as company names."
In addition to the petition, the mailing also included what appeared to be a misleading scientific paper, which was printed in the same typeface and format as the official Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), despite the fact that the NAS has nothing to do with the petition drive or the paper.

The author of the Politico article isn’t alone in citing this petition, unfortunately. According to SourceWatch, columns citing the petition and paper as credible sources of scientific expertise on the global warming issue have appeared in publications ranging from Newsday, the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post to the Austin-American StatesmanDenver Post and Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.

Whoops. They should have probably taken the advice of several bloggers and actually looked into some of their “facts” before printing them as such.

Thankfully, one can still look to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a scientific body with actual scientists — for its 2007 Synthesis Report. The report provides factual information on climate change that makes it clear we need to immediately slash greenhouse gas emissions or face catastrophic consequences. We at Plenty will take the word of actual scientists over a Spice Girl’s any day.

Story by Jessica A. Knoblauch. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008