A Retraction?

A recent comment by a long-time reader brought a new piece of information to my attention. “What about the JSER?” they asked. “[Someone claimed] that it was a Japanese scientific society that endorsed the falsity of global warming…..What do you think?”

Did this bring the absense of disagreement among professional scientific organizations, at the top of our credibility spectrum, to a close?

I mulled it over and decided to do what seemed to be the most honest course of action. I would research this claim as thoroughly as my resources allowed, and if it turned out to be true, I would publish a retraction of my former statement regarding organizations.

First, however, I needed to get more information. I researched with the following questions in mind:

1) Is the JSER a professional scientific organization? This part of the claim appeared to be true – according to the English section of their website, they published a scientific journal, held conferences and seminars, and boasted over 1500 members.

However, the JSER – the Japan Society of Energy and Resources – likely has a high chance of bias. Its goal is “to promote the science and technology concerning energy and resources and thus to facilitate cooperation among industry academia and governmental sectors for coping with the problems in this field.” With today’s fossil-fuel dependent economy, the JSER likely has a lot of members representing the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas officials can easily fall prey to confirmation bias – their jobs depend on a resource which is causing dire problems for our planet. In their situation, it’s often easiest to deny such problems. In fact, the final scientific organization to change its statement from “humans aren’t affecting the climate” to “oops, yes they are” was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

2) Did the JSER officially state that humans aren’t affecting the climate? I found no evidence for an official statement.

3) So where did the claim come from? It started with a written discussion between five JSER representatives. One, the only climatologist of the five, defended the mainstream opinion that humans are causing climate change. One was undecided. The remaining three rejected the theory.

However, this discussion was mistakenly perceived as a “report” by The Register, a British media news source. I found no evidence that this so-called “report” was peer-reviewed (and how could it possibly have passed peer-review – it claimed that global warming stopped in 1998!). For example, the Register article noted, “Remarkably, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside.” One of the authors is alleged to have compared climatology to ancient astrology.

I think we can safely leave this source as an email debate between colleagues. I cannot imagine how it could be a peer-reviewed document worthy of consideration.

However, as always, I could be wrong. There is little on the Internet regarding the JSER and its report. If any readers have additional information, please comment.

Update: Thanks to John for pointing me to the website of James Annan, a climatologist living in Japan. He knows the authors of the document personally and says, “The “report” is simply the collation of one of these popular-but-pointless sceptic-vs-scientist debates, and has no official status.”

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