Oregon Petition

Oregon Petition

The infamous “Oregon Petition”

The Oregon Petition has been used by climate change skeptics as proof that there is no scientific consensus, however they fail to note the controversy surrounding the petition itself.

In April 1998, Art Robinson and his organization the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, along with the Exxon-backed George C. Marshall Institute, co-published the infamous “Oregon Petition” claiming to have collected 17,000 signatories to a document arguing against the realities of global warming.

Along with the petition there was a cover letter from Dr. Fred Seitz, a well-known climate change skeptic (and tobacco scientist), who over 30 years ago was the president of the National Academy of Science. Also attached to the petition was a “research paper” titled: Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.

The Oregon Petition's Disguise Attempt 

The petition and the documents included were all made to look like official papers from the prestigious National Academy of Science. They weren't, and this attempt to mislead has been well-documented. 

The included research paper was also made to mimic the style of the National Academy’s prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy journal. 

With the signature of a former NAS president, and a research paper that appeared to be published in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, many scientists were duped into signing a petition based on a false impression.  In fact, the documents had been authored by Art Robinson, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon (both who receive funding from the oil industry) and Robinson’s son Zachary.

The petition was so misleading that the National Academy issued a news release stating that: “The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.”

The Oregon Petition and Big Tobacco

It’s interesting to note that Fred Seitz, the author of the cover letter, is also the former medical advisor to RJ Reynolds medical research program. A 1989 Philip Morris memo stated that Seitz was “quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice.”

However, nine years later, it seems that he was “sufficiently rational” to lead the charge on Robinson’s Oregon Petition. It also seems that Seitz was still sufficiently rational to sit as the Chair of Fred Singer's, Science and Environmental Policy Project.

Seitz passed away on March 2, 2008, after spending his declining years working with global warming skeptics such as Fred Singer.

Fake Names including The Spice Girls

According to the May 1998 Associated Press article, the Oregon petition included names that were intentionally placed to prove the invalid methodology with which the names of scientists were collected.

The petition included the names of “Drs. 'Frank Burns' 'Honeycutt' and 'Pierce' from the hit-show M*A*S*H and Spice Girls, a.k.a. Geraldine Halliwell, who was on the petition as 'Dr. Geri Halliwel' and again as simply 'Dr. Halliwell.' “

In response to the issue of the fake names, Robinson said, “When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake.”

Articles on the Oregon Petition: