APS Council Overwhelmingly Rejects Proposal to Replace Society’s Current Climate Change Statement

The Council of the American Physical Society has overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to replace the Society’s 2007 Statement on Climate Change with a version that raised doubts about global warming. The Council’s vote came after it received a report from a committee of eminent scientists who reviewed the existing statement in response to a petition submitted by a group of APS members.

The petition had requested that APS remove and replace the Society’s current statement. The committee recommended that the Council reject the petition. The committee also recommended that the current APS statement be allowed to stand, but it requested that the Society’s Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) examine the statement for possible improvements in clarity and tone. POPA regularly reviews all APS statements to ensure that they are relevant and up-to-date regarding new scientific findings.

Appointed by APS President Cherry Murray and chaired by MIT Physicist Daniel Kleppner, the committee examined the statement during the past four months. Dr. Kleppner’s committee reached its conclusion based upon a serious review of existing compilations of scientific research. APS members were also given an opportunity to advise the Council on the matter. On Nov. 8, the Council voted, accepting the committee’s recommendation to reject the proposed statement and refer the original statement to POPA for review. As a membership organization of more than 47,000 physicists, APS adheres to rigorous scientific standards in developing its statements. The Society is always open to review of its statements when significant numbers of its members request it to do so.


  1. Brad Hair
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I’m not a physicist, but did finish high school and even attended an institution of higher learning. I have been following two recent events in the “world of physics”; a report that Dr. Ivar Giaever had resigned from the APS over an official statement coming from the APS giving “incontrovertible” status to man-made climate change; and, more recently, news that the speed of light may not be “THE speed limit” as I was taught. I’m just wondering how us in the uneducated masses should interpret this. My on line dictionary says “incontrovertible” means “impossible to dispute; unquestionable”. Does that mean I should trust Al Gore more than Albert Einstein when it comes to scientific stuff?

  2. Kevin Hannigan
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Is this science – or The Theologians deciding how many angels fit on the head of a pin? The latter makes a “heretic” class and the subsequent punishments for lack of faith. Enjoying the spectacle.

  3. Ed Six
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

    If the science is settled, then why is a statement needed? How does the APS Climate Change Statement further the interests of APS members? Taking a stand on climate change (either way) is purely political and only stands to alienate many of its members, the public, and legislators.

  4. Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I commend George White for his 9/2009 piece entitled, “Testing the AGW Hypothesis” that was accessed through your ‘comments’ on the subject entry of 3 Dec/10. It is a concise, cogent, and eminently logical independent analysis of this important topic utilizing 25 years of satellite data, (from the NASA GISS website), as referenced therein.
    He directs attention to the seasonal variability of relevant atmospheric parameters extracted from these voluminous data, as opposed to the yearly average values thereof, (which has lead to the gratuitous assumption by the IPCC analysts that all such seasonal changes, when integrated over the Earth’s surface over any given year, are so small as to be ignored). Instead, by examining the Earth’s Albedo —and its components— on a seasonal basis, (as well as hemispheric asymmetry and other oceanic temperature considerations), he derives an atmospheric feedback parameter value that differs markedly from that on which the IPCC analysis is based.
    His results —which not only strongly dispute the IPCC position but also indicate the origin of the error— need to be explored further, rather than relegated to oblivion, as AGW activists are wont to do in this politically-charged atmosphere.
    In this vein, I urge all interested scientists to read “The Great Global Warming Blunder”, by Roy W. S;pencer (Encounter Books, 2010), which expands on the above short-term atmospheric feedback mechanism by presenting an admittedly heuristic study utilizing satellite data in which atmospheric water content, (in the form of cloud-cover) is used to derive a similar positive feedback value. Another tome, “Unstoppable Global Warming, by S. Fred Singer and Tennis T. Avery, (Lowell and Littlefield, 2007), provides a much broader perspective on this controversy by shedding light on the several overlapping epochal Solar Flux variations as the ultimate determinant of global warming, (and cooling), over many, many millenia of the Earth’s thermal history.

  5. Posted November 28, 2010 at 7:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I repeat:
    Global Warming is a highly specialized topic to which the vast majority of physicists have little or no useful knowledge. Thus, reliance on numbers of members who may be influenced by the general media information is a non-service to the community of APS. Its leadership has no business involved the organization in such a highly-charged issue with strong political overtones, especially after some of some prominent adherents to this dubious theory have been exposed as having manipulated crucial data pertaining thereto.

  6. Posted November 24, 2010 at 4:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The APS is wildly misdirected by insisting CAGW is something to worry about. The reason is misunderstood feedback, as Lindzen described in his recent congressional testimony. In the final analysis, the difference between CAGW alarmists and CAGW skeptics is that an alarmists believes the climate system has a gain of 1 and 11% positive feedback, while the skeptics believe that the climate system has a gain of about 1.4 and about 18% negative feedback.

    From Bode, 1/Go=1/Gc+f, where Go is the open loop gain, f is the feedback fraction and Gc is the closed loop gain. Solving for Gc, Gc=1/(1/Go-f). For Go=1 and f=+0.11, Gc=1.12 and for Go=1.4 and f=-.18, Gc=1.12. Applying a gain of 1.12 to the average solar constant of 341.5 W/m^2 results in 382 W/m^2, corresponding to about 287K. The data tells us that the open loop gain is certainly greater than 1 and would be 1 iff the Earth had no atmosphere and an intrinsic albedo of 0.

  7. Posted November 21, 2010 at 7:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

    As an APS member I feel uncomfortable with the Society statement on climate. It appears to be politically charged and does not stand up to the standards of scientific proof that we require in physics.

  8. Thomas E. Phipps, Jr.
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 1:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Dr. Yost says, “Until the petition, I did not know reasonable scientists could disagree with the APS statement on global warming.” The facts, available to anyone who seeks them, are that for the last decade world average temperatures (as measured by satellites) have been declining. This is entirely compatible with those temperatures being (temporarily) at unusually high values. It is not compatible with the fact that during the same period atmospheric carbon dioxide has been increasing, provided it is true that human-produced carbon dioxide is the causal agent responsible for global warming. Real scientists, among whom one would hope to find a few physicists, are very reluctant to make assumptions about causes … even when those assumptions are the common currency of political correctness.

  9. Posted January 3, 2010 at 9:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Although I did not sign the recent alternative petition, I found it to be an eye-opener, since its authors include people I consider to be reasonable physicists. Until the petition, I did not know reasonable scientists could disagree with the APS statement on global warming.

    In response, I read the first paragraph of the 2007 statement and also found it to be misleading, because it omits the number one greenhouse gas: water vapor, leading to the unjustified conclusion that greenhouse gasses are primarily the result of fossil fuel combustion and other human causes. The second paragraph seems purely alarmist – what is the evidence for “significant disruptions” of the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, given that the Earth, and humans, have weathered far more profound climate change than I have seen anyone attribute to the current global warming? What if global warming is beneficial? Would it be better to take measures to adapt to it than to try to change it? The first sentence of the third paragraph is by far the most reasonable, because it promotes answering such questions.

    Personally, I don’t have any of these answers. I don’t support either statement for the simple reason that I am not an expert in climate change, and have no scientific basis for supporting one over the other. I wonder how many of those who voted for either position are equally honest about their knowledge of this issue. In any case, science is not a democracy: majority doesn’t decide the truth. If there is significant reasoned disagreement, then there is no consensus, and any statement should reflect this, perhaps through a minority report.

    At the least, the APS statement should be backed up, somewhere, with quantitative data. If CO2 emission is truly detrimental, what is it’s economic cost? If there is a link between CO2 emission and climate change, how many tons of CO2 will raise the temperature 1 degree? If such questions can be answered (including error bars) then a scientific statement is appropriate, and the data backing it up should be made public. If not, the APS should be promoting research to find the answers, not advocating a policy that could turn out to be based on pseudo-science.

  10. Henry A. Miranda, Jr.
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 5:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    A Comment on the Position of the APS on Climate Change Derived from a Poll of its Membership
    The scientific community includes a plethora of specialties, most of which are not at all related to the issue of Climate Change. On the other hand, there exists a relatively small group of atmospheric scientists, (including meteorologists), who are most knowledgeable, (or rather, least ignorant), about the many interlocking aspects of the exchange between incoming and outgoing radiation throughout the entire atmosphere, (as well as surface vegetation and the vast expanses of ocean waters), and their multi-faceted effect on the “mean” temperature of the entire Globe. Why does the APS insist on soliciting the views of its entire membership on this important issue, (the vast majority of whom know little more about these complex factors than the average citizen), and then publish the results? Are not the views of these individuals, (who are, after all, as human as anyone else), as affected by the massive publicity in favor of this questionable hypothesis as the average citizen? Does this not create the illusion that the poll represents the facts of the matter? I think so.
    Does this not play into the hands of those who benefit greatly by promoting this hypothesis in the political arena, rather than in the arena of science, where truth is more likely to be served? I think so. Would it not have been eminently more fair to solicit the views of the above specialists in this field, and then to report the consensus of their views separately, as a bare minimum? I think so.
    What the APS has done is as silly as soliciting the views of geophysicists on, say, how patent law should be modified in light of the impact of quantum entanglement on encryption code security, (or any one of a hundred other equally esoteric aspects of scientific enquiry having serious political implications). Would we not all be much better off if the APS were to get out of the political arena entirely?

  11. John Mashey
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 3:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/icing-the-hype has some interesting commentary from Roger Cohen (one of the petition “organizers”.)

    In particular, he says that
    “Rather it was the petitioners themselves who directly contacted more than 10,000 members, and hundreds of them commented to the APS Council before the meeting, with more than 1/3 supporting our Open Letter or a substantial moderation or withdrawal of the existing statement.”

    Can anyone shed any light on that 10,000 claim?
    Is there a way to o that without using the APS Directory, i.e., can one rent mailing lists?

    Note: Happer is quoted assaying it was a great victory. Somewhat to my surprise, Tawanda is quoted in rebuttal.

  12. Tom Fuller
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 11:37 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Could someone clarify for me who voted on this? Was it the membership or just the Council?

  13. John Mashey
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 11:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In any case, for someone who wants to see my best of all this, with all the gory details I could find, the odd demographics, underlying social network, and raft of folks involved with SEPP, George C. Marshall, Heartland, and CATO, the hitory of past campaigns like this, and person-by-person analysis, there’s a big PDF (V.3.0)over at:

  14. Joel Shore
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    John Mashey,

    I agree with you. The recent letter that the group sent to the Senate ( http://www.openletter-globalwarming.info/Site/Letter_to_Senate.html ) was certainly strong evidence of the sort of political strategy that you describe.

    I think another aspect of their strategy may have been to adopt such an extreme position in the hopes that the APS council, in order to appease them, would change the statement to move only a small fraction in the direction of the proposed statement and this would already be a big victory for them. Sort of staking out a negotiating position.

  15. John Mashey
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 10:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I would guess that the petition organizers would have been a bit surprised had their version been accepted, but the *point* of all this was more likely to have been to generate doubt and confusion on the part of the public, as fodder for more “open letters”. For example, on August 19, Fred Singer gave talk to the Minnesota Free Market Institute, that claimed:
    Breatkthru: APS to Modify Climate Statement (2nd page)

    and later (p.30) there’s a whole slide on APS:
    “American Physical Society (APS)
    Statement on Climate Change
    • Double Breakthrough: This is the first time a
    professional scientific society has agreed to
    reconsider an alarmist policy statement on
    climate change. Nature magazine published
    our Letter announcing this fact.
    • Our Letter to Congress
    • Open Letter to APS Council
    • Our Letter to Nature”

    This is at:
    http://mnfreemarketinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Fred-Singer.pdf , an the symposium was: http://www.mnfmi.org/climate/ .

    Again, I doubt they expected APS to change, but that let them generate those other things.

  16. Joel Shore
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 5:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent news! I think the current APS statement is an accurate representation of the science and I am glad that the committee headed by Dr. Kleppner reached a similar conclusion.

    By contrast, the new version of the statement proposed by the petitioners would have been an embarrassment for our society. In fact, to see how extreme it really was, one need only compare it to the current statement on climate change from ExxonMobil ( http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/energy_climate_views.aspx ). That proposed APS statement would have made ExxonMobil look like an organization of tree-hugging environmental radicals by comparison! (And, no, I am not exaggerating…Just read the two side by side!) I am surprised that the petitioners had the gall to propose such a ridiculous alternative statement!

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