Scientists and Engineers are upset


If you read this site often, you will know that I am an engineer by training (even though I don’t currently practice). I tend to respect this profession a great deal as being fairly straight-forward and hard working. As a group, they also tend to be a pretty smart bunch.

One of the major trade rags in engineering is C&EN (Chemical and Engineering News). It is edited by Mr. Rudy Baum. If you aren’t in that trade, you would probably never pick up an issue so you may not be familiar with it. I haven’t read the publication in a long time but was recently made aware of a bit of controversy by Climate Depot. While the readers of C&EN are likely not climatologists, the science of CO2 and its affect on the atmosphere is very steeped in chemistry which their target market knows a bit about.

Mr. Baum wrote an opinion in June that dealt with global warming and some of the recent politics of the cap and trade legislation. While Mr. Baum is certainly entitled to his opinion on this subject, it appears that his readers were not very happy with his stance and some of the phrasing that he used. I won’t reproduce the editorial here as you can jump over read it for yourself.  I will bring out a few excerpts that have been published in the recent letters to the editor.  Some of them even call for the firing of the man!

I am not going to identify the individual writer of each comment by name.  I don’t think I have that right.  I will simply suggest that you read all of the letters to the editor that are posted for July 27, 2009.

…Instead, what should be a noble organization is turning into another left-wing mouthpiece. I don’t agree with your climate-change views, and I am not happy that you continue to use the pulpit of your editorials to promote your left-wing opinions…

…Although under your editorial leadership, I suspect we would be treated to a biased and skewed version of scientific debate. I think its time to find a new editor.

I am always intrigued by claims that science is settled, especially when it comes to something as complex as climate. Rudy Baum’s remarks are particularly disquieting because of his hostility toward skepticism, which is part of every scientist’s soul. Let’s cut to the chase with some questions for Baum: Which of the 20-odd major climate models has settled the science, such that all of the rest are now discarded??…

…It makes sense to reduce the combustion of carbon-based fuels, if only to preserve their use as feedstocks for industry. However, I am appalled at the condescending attitude of Rudy Baum, Al Gore, President Barack Obama, et al., who essentially tell us that there is no need for further research—that the matter is solved….

Your editorial in the June 22 issue of C&EN was a disgrace. It was filled with misinformation, half-truths, and ad hominem attacks on those who dare disagree with you. Shameful!?…

…The more people try to trivialize global warming, the more we and our descendants will suffer the results, some of which have already been quantified (for example, glacier melting and polar ice disappearing). Weather disruptions and shore erosion, for example, will begin to occur. The people who deny global warming are in the same class as those who rejected the negative effects of DDT, those who denied the negative effects of CFCs on the atmosphere, and so on.?

…The only demonstrated way forward is nuclear power. But those who oppose nuclear power are somewhat similar to climate-change deniers. I predict nuclear power will be accepted when the fear of climate change exceeds the fear of nuclear power. When might this happen? Not soon. Among the population at large, climate-change fears are not even in the top 10 worries.?

…I can’t accept as facts the reports of federal agencies, because they have become political and are more likely to support the regime in power than not. Baum’s attempt to close out debate goes against all my scientific training, and to hear this from my ACS is certainly alarming to me.?

Your comments about the climate-change deniers are right on target. In fact, your closing paragraph, “Sow doubt; make up statistics,” etc., was one of the best summaries I’ve seen of the deceitful practices that the deniers are allowed to get away with….

…We cannot continue to burn organic fuels at billions of point sources without usefully recapturing the carbon (utilities should be able to do this)….

I am furious that idiots such as Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas) helped pass this cap-and-trade bill. How much of a payoff are they getting from General Electric to pass this stupid bill?…

Having worked as an atmospheric chemist for many years, I have extensive experience with environmental issues, and I usually agree with Rudy Baum’s editorials. But his use of “climate-change deniers” to pillory scientists who do not believe climate change is a crisis is disingenuous and unscientific….

…Given the climate’s complexity and these and other uncertainties, are we justified in legislating major increases in our energy costs unilaterally guided only by a moral imperative to “do our part” for Earth’s climate? I am among many environmentally responsible citizen-scientists who think this is stupid, both because our emissions reductions will be dwarfed by increases elsewhere (China and India, for example) and because the models have large uncertainties….

…Finally, I have very little in common with the philosophy of the Heartland Institute and other “free-market fanatics,” and I consider myself a progressive Democrat. Nevertheless, we scientists should know better than to propound scientific truth by consensus and to excoriate skeptics with purple prose.

The editor’s page of C&EN should not be a political page. Rudy Baum has been pushing the global warming (conveniently changed now to “climate change”) hypothesis as fact very strongly for some time now. He denigrates as foolish and ignorant folks who do not swallow the global warming hypothesis and his comments are rather arrogant….

…Are the temperature measurements accurate? Eighty-nine percent of the 860 monitoring stations inspected by meteorologist Anthony Watts and volunteers from the project failed to meet the National Weather Service’s siting requirements (they were too close to artificial heating or radiating/reflecting sources). This is not the only information that does not support Baum’s hypothesis….

…I would like to see the ACS Board cap Baum’s political pen and trade him to either the New York Times or Washington Post.

In the interest of brevity, I can limit my response to the diatribe of the editor-in-chief in the June 22 edition of C&EN to one word: Disgusting.


There are many more comments in the letters to Mr. Baum.  Many of them are quite well written and make excellent points.  I encourage you to go there and spend a few minutes reading them.

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