The Curious History of 'Global Climate Disruption'

Global warming alarmists are seriously considering rebranding their fear campaign in the face of public skepticism.

A September 16 Fox News report analyzed the suggestion by Science Czar John Holdren to rename global warming "global climate disruption," while also offering this tidbit:

In a 2007 presentation, Holdren suggested a similar phrase change -- "global climatic disruption."

The newest suggestion prompted many
satirical alternatives, however, his own 2007 variant actually goes back to 1997, revealing a far more serious association with an eco-advocacy group. 

According to a May 14, 1997 endorsement request to scientists made by directors of Ozone Action, "The enclosed statement was initiated and written by six of your colleagues who hope you will join them in raising awareness about the threat of climate change."

As I detailed in my July American Thinker article, Ozone Action seems to be the epicenter of a successful campaign to portray skeptic scientists as tools of Big Coal and Oil executives. The Statement the directors refer to is seen here: Scientists Statement on Global Climatic Disruption. One of the other six was Jane Lubchenco, current head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and founder of the Leopold Leadership Program, which she and another Statement signer, Hal Mooney, created in 1998 to "train mid-career academic environmental researchers to communicate effectively to non-scientific audiences." While she was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997, the AAAS website had a direct link to Ozone Action's page for the Statement. Arguably, the Leopold group, given Lubchenco's association with Ozone Action, would perhaps be good at communicating the IPCC version of global warming, while not speaking highly of skeptic scientists.

While the Scientists Statement was said to be "initiated and written" by the six scientists and promoted by Ozone Action, an alert by the Union of Concerned Scientists in March 1998 about an unpublished Wall Street Journal op-ed letter suggests that the origin of the effort wasn't necessarily arranged by the scientists: "In an effort organized by Ozone Action in response to the Petition Project, this letter has been endorsed and circulated by a prominent group of scientists."

The associations take a turn for the worse upon mention of the Oregon Petition Project, a list of scientists questioning the idea that human-induced CO2 disrupts the climate. Condemnations of the Petition having fake names are viral across the internet, apparently tracing back to a May 1, 1998 Seattle Times article by AP writer H. Josef Hebert:

Several environmental groups questioned dozens of the names: "Perry S. Mason" (the fictitious lawyer?), "Michael J. Fox" (the actor?), "Robert C. Byrd" (the senator?), "John C. Grisham" (the lawyer-author?). And then there's the Spice Girl, a k a. Geraldine Halliwell: The petition listed "Dr. Geri Halliwell" and "Dr. Halliwell."

Sounds initially damaging, until you read the same AP writer's long version written on the same day:

John Passacantando, executive director of the environmental group Ozone Action, scoffed at any claim that Robinson's petition represents the widespread views of scientists. He said his group scoured the list and found dozens of names unlikely to be scientists: "Perry S. Mason" (the fictitious lawyer?), "Michael J. Fox" (the actor?), "Robert C. Byrd" (the senator?), "John C. Grisham" (the lawyer-author?).  There also were Drs. "Frank Burns" "Honeycutt" and "Pierce" (Remember the trio from M A S H?), not to mention the Spice Girl, a.k.a. Geraldine Halliwell, who was on the petition as "Dr. Geri Halliwel" and again as simply "Dr. Halliwell."

Several groups, or just Ozone Action? In his May 20, 1998 letter to the NY Times, Passacantando actually names "Hawkeye Pierce and BJ Honeycutt," but he fails to mention any other groups spotting those. Ozone Action's Brandon MacGillis' April 24, 1998 letter to the Washington Times (pg. 7 here) said:

Several members of the scientific community have looked over the signatories listed on the petition's web site, and they did not recognize a single scientist known for work on climate change. ... I did recognize one name: Geri Halliwell, a k a Ginger Spice.

It's possible to view 1998 archive web pages of the Petition (oldest link here, which may be for a page dating from June 1998 or earlier) and see if names matching the M*A*S*H doctors really are there, or if Richard Lindzen, S. Fred Singer, and Sherwood B. Idso -- scientists Holdren and Lubchenco should have been familiar with -- are there. If it's troubling to find the Mason and Grisham names on the list, does that imply that an example like the current Arizona state government is equally troubling because of Hollywood celebrities on its elected officials list, like Dean Martin, Paul Newman, and Linda Gray?

The trouble for Holdren lies in the Greenpeace archive scan page following MacGillis' letter; a scan of a letter by Holdren and George Woodwell to the International Herald Tribune, November 14-15, 1998, mimicking the Passacantando and MacGillis letters; and the H. Josef Hebert article.

Or was Holdren's/Woodwell's letter ghostwritten by Ozone Action? That was an assertion posed to the ombudsman at the now-defunct media watchdog magazine Brill's Content, as described in his May 1999 analysis of the IHT letter and protests by Candace Crandall (an associate at Fred Singer's Science & Environmental Policy Project), Passacantando, and IHT editor Michael Getler (the same Getler who is now ombudsman for PBS). Ombudsman Kovach's analysis is marvelous to read, with a powerful ending about the importance of fact versus opinion. Two troubling statements about Ozone Action's association with science speakers are made, the first here:

"... complicating this is Ozone Action's acknowledgement in its own letter that the group helped Woodwell with research for the op-ed."

And second, about Holdren/Woodwell:

"They also said that they had used Ozone Action, with whom they have worked frequently on global warming issues, to place articles in newspapers which had carried an earlier article they wanted to dispute."

Scientists certainly are glad to accept good research help on other matters and assistance to broaden public understanding of their work. But Holdren, Lubchenco, and other scientists allied with Ozone Action, a group that was the epicenter of Ross Gelbspan's campaign initiated in 1996 to portray skeptic scientists as tools of Big Coal and Oil executives, and Holdren himself became entangled in highly questionable allegations about the Petition Project.

Each set of accusations starts to crumble under simple fact-checking and leads only to more questions about the motivations and actions of all involved. When the mainstream media failed to notice these red flags over a decade ago, they essentially became part of the orthodoxy of man-caused global warming believers, telling everyone to ignore, ridicule, ostracize, and -- in regard to the latest horrific video -- strongly suggest in ironic fashion that nonbelievers are under "no pressure" to change their ways.

This cumulative effort prompts an unavoidable question: Do the believers ultimately have no confidence that the underlying science can be defended on its own?