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A LETTER ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING TO JOURNALISTS AND EDITORS

F. SHERWOOD ROWLAND,1 JOHN P. HOLDEN2 GEORGE M. WOODWELL,3 HAROLD A. MOONEY,4 PETER RAVEN,5 and JANE LUBCHENCO6

1 University of California, Irvine, 2 Harvard University, 3 Woods Hole Research Center, 4 Stanford University, 5 Missouri Botanical Garden, 6 Oregon State University

Dear Editor or Journalist:

The question of global warming has been of continuing professional interest to large numbers of scientists in the United States and around the world, and to a much larger number of concerned citizens. The scientific points of view on its various aspects have been put forth in literally tens of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications, and have been the subject of countless additional op-ed pieces, pamphlets, advertisements and polemics. The 1996 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created through the study of approximately 2,000 of the most significant peer-reviewed scientific articles by groups of scientists, about 2,000 in all, chosen from the most expert in the world in the various areas of concern. Two especially pertinent conclusions from this IPCC report are that the world has warmed approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.625 Celcius) over the past century, and that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate."

We call this to your attention because of a current massive petition campaign in progress in the United States which calls upon our government not to act on the Kyoto agreement of last December. The request for signatures to this petititon was accompanied by a summary view of the situation as expressed in an op-ed article published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on December 4, 1997, and by a pamphlet in scientific format which carries no indication that it has been published anywhere. A computer search for the names of the authors of the op-ed article does not turn up a single publication by either of them in any area of science pertinent to global warming.

We are enclosing with our letter a response to this op-ed article from three of the most distinguished climatologists in the world, which refutes in detail its arguments. This letter was submitted to The Wall Street Journal on December 18, 1997, by Drs. Karl, Trenberth and Hansen, and is as yet unpublished. Since that letter was written, the scientific announcement was carried world-wide in February that 1997 was the warmest year in the 145 years since global records have been available.

The debate within the scientific arena about global warming has been very full and vigorous for several decades, and has amply demonstrated the value of peer review in confronting the mistakes and errors of omission made by scientists trying to reduce the uncertainties implicit in frontier scientific research.

The nation is ill-served in determining public policy by attempts to bypass the error-finding mechanisms of science through petitions even when signed by thousands who have self-identified themselves as knowledgeable experts. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Signed by Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, Dr. John P. Holdren, Dr. George M. Woodwell, Dr. Harold A. Mooney, Dr. Peter Raven and Dr. Jane Lubchenco

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