Answers in Genesis’ Climate Change Petition Hypocrisy

Answers in Genesis’ Climate Change Petition Hypocrisy February 25, 2020

Answers in Genesis is very very concerned about what you think of climate change. At root is a pretty simple issue: the Bible does not foretell a global climate catastrophe. Instead, it foretells a period of geological stability leading up to the tribulation and end times, when a laundry list of plagues will be poured out on society. How, then, is a good Bible believing Christian to view climate change? Answers in Genesis has answers. Sort of.

In their most recent piece, Answers in Genesis sets out to assure readers that there is no global climate crisis, because most of the scientists who signed a recent report attesting to said crisis aren’t climate scientists.

[T]his past November, 11,258 scientists from around the world added their names to a report that declares what they deem to be a climate change emergency caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The report, titled “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” was published in the journal Bioscience. But things may not be as dire as they first appear.

William Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University and colead author of the study, proclaimed, “Climate change has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected.”

But if they’re really trying to prove a climate emergency, then shouldn’t the majority of scientists who contributed to the report be qualified environmental scientists? You would think so. But one researcher found that only 240—just 2%—of the scientists who signed the report were considered experts in climate-related fields.

In defense, Ripple explained, “What we wanted was a wide diversity of scientists in many different disciplines because climate change has moved beyond a topic just for climate scientists.” The study’s numbers were bolstered by experts in unrelated fields such as paleontology, nutrition, computer science, and linguistics.

In reality, only a small sampling of climate scientists believe we are facing imminent doom. Furthermore, thousands of scientists with climate-related degrees have sent letters and signed petitions arguing against a climate crisis, further emphasizing that the scientific community can’t reach a consensus on the issue.

No, this is not in fact what this means.

The referenced report can be found here. A list of its signatories can be viewed here. The report was published in a scientific journal, but was published in its viewpoints section and is not a scientific study. Instead, it is effectively a petition signed by scientists; how its signers were approached is unclear.

A petition like this is low hanging fruit. Climate change skeptics can say that only 2% of its signatories were climate scientists, or that out of all climate scientists only 240 signed the petition. Latching onto a petition like this allows climate change skeptics to ignore what actually matters: research by climate scientists.

But hey, I can play this game too! The critique above claims that “thousands of scientists with climate-related degrees have sent letters and signed petitions arguing against a climate crisis.” There’s no footnote, but a quick web search turns up this tidbit from a 2013 Answers in Genesis article:

[A]lthough it is commonly claimed that there is a consensus of scientists that blame man for global warming, in actuality there is no consensus at all. Many prominent scientists disagree. Dr. Art Robinson has maintained a website since 1998, signed by around 20,000 scientists, saying that, as of 2009, there is no convincing scientific evidence that greenhouse gases are causing or will cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate. Of these, over 2,500 are physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists, who are particularly qualified to evaluate global warming.

There are a number of problems here.

First, it is unclear what the source Answers in Genesis relied on to calculate his claim that only 240 signatories of the climate emergency essay were climate scientists. I found the article that makes this allegation, but there is no list of which sort of degrees count. It’s impossible to tell that the same standard is being used in each case.

Of more import, Art Robinson’s petition does not list the qualifications and institution of each signer, offering instead only a summary of their qualifications. Names are offered in a bare list, with no links to where they work, leaving no way to verify any of their identities. Indeed, pranksters have taken advantage of this for years, successfully adding names from Star Wars and popular culture, complete with fake degrees, to the list.

And then there’s also the problem of people who have changed their minds since signing the petition, but whose names are maintained on the list regardless. In 2001, only three years after the petition was launched:

Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages.

The climate emergency essay, by the way, lists the specific qualifications and institution of each signer, offering far more transparency and the ability to verify individuals’ signatures.

I want to repeat what I said before: these sorts of petitions are limited in their worth. The real focus should be on the science that is being done. Still, it is laughable that Answers in Genesis would ding the signatories of Ripples’ climate change emergency petition for not all being climate scientists while simultaneously touting anti-climate change petitions that have this same problem and many many more besides. (Not listing individual qualifications of each signer is worse. It makes the signatures impossible to verify, which is very very bad.)

Why is Answers in Genesis so eager to discredit Ripples’ signers? This is why:

So why all the insistence on anxiety and panic?

Secular scientists approach the climate debate from an unbiblical perspective, believing that humans alone manage the rising temperatures. Certainly when we have clear evidence that we are abusing creation, we should take actions to correct it. But Christians know that God designed our magnificently complex climate and has promised that the present earth will be inhabitable until he creates a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17).

I’m going to assume that that last sentence has a typo in it. Surely the author means habitable. Regardless, it is perhaps unsurprising that a group that would insist that the Bible should be trusted over the findings of science on evolution would also insist that the Bible should be trusted over the findings of science on climate change.

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