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An Unfortunate Statement from the Editor-in-Chief of Science
Volume 4, Number 16: 18 April 2001

In an Editorial chastising U.S. President George W. Bush about "An unfortunate U-turn on carbon," Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy makes some unfortunate remarks of his own, proving the truth of his opening sentence: "Every once in a while, one misfortune begets another."

What is unfortunate about Kennedy's comments is the pall of suspicion they cast upon the objectivity that should be the primary concern of any reputable science journal and its editors.  Kennedy applauds the journal over which he presides, for example, for publishing over 30 peer-reviewed reports and articles related to global climate change over the past year, all of which, he says, "support the concerns that the president now says he is not prepared to address."

This statement is disturbing.  It suggests that Science may not be inclined - or even able - to look objectively upon a global change manuscript that runs counter to the mind-set of the journal's editorial staff, which presumably responds to the signals that emanate from the desk of its leader.  It also suggests that manuscripts that support the politically-correct "consensus," about which the Editor-in-Chief writes so approvingly, may well find publication in the pages of Science rather smooth sailing, and possibly infinitely easier than one so bold as to question the wisdom of IPCC luminaries John Houghton and Robert Watson.  "There is room for arguments about the economics," Kennedy asserts; but by offering that crumb of condescension, he effectively closes the door to the hope that anyone could ever argue the science of the subject, which is pretty strange for a journal whose first, middle and last names are one and the same, i.e., Science.  "How much should we reduce emissions?  How fast?  And at what cost?  These questions are open to debate," Kennedy says, reinforcing his message that questions about the science of global climate change are not. How sad, we say again, for a journal named Science.

The biased attitude or lack of knowledge (choose one or the other - or both!) of Science's Editor-in-Chief is also manifest in his remarks about the global warming consensus and the global warming skeptics.  "The scientific consensus on global warming is so strong that it leaves little room for the defensive assertions that keep emerging from ... a shrinking coterie of scientific skeptics," he says.  The truth, however, is that the ranks of the scientific skeptics are growing, and at a dramatic rate.  Two decades ago there was but a single voice raised against the politically correct view of CO2 and climate, that of our father, Dr. Sherwood B. Idso, who was described by Nature (Vol. 298, p. 411) as "a vocal minority, of virtually one, in dissenting from the generally accepted view of the effects of carbon dioxide increases," whereas today the CO2-climate skeptics (we would call them realists) number in the hundreds, if not the thousands.  Furthermore, this burgeoning group of deeply concerned scientists is publishing a plethora of scientific papers in a number of refereed science journals, respected publications that have refused to surrender their objectivity about the matter and that still consider challenges to the global warming hypothesis to be important, which is, after all what science is all about, i.e., the making and testing of hypotheses.

What is missing from the Editor-in-Chief's editorial also speaks volumes about his objectivity.  Not a word is mentioned about the multitude of profusely-documented biological benefits that come from the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content, things such as the growth-promoting influence of carbon dioxide's aerial fertilization effect on both agricultural crops and natural vegetation - which is the real CO2 "greenhouse effect" - as well as its transpiration-reducing influence that so greatly enhances plant water use efficiency.  As the world's population continues to grow, the effects of these CO2-enhanced phenomena may well mean the difference between food sufficiency and devastating hunger for millions of people all across the globe, as well as the planet's wildlife that depends upon natural vegetation for its sustenance.  Clearly, these subjects should figure prominently in the international debate over what to do, or not do, about anthropogenic CO2 emissions; yet Science's Kennedy is silent, not only on the merits of these phenomena, but on their very existence, preferring instead to present but one very-much-debated side of the story, and a very-much-distorted one at that.

In conclusion, we could perhaps finish our editorial as Donald Kennedy finishes his, saying, "Mr. President, on this one the science is clear."  But it is not; and we refuse to insult your intelligence by claiming otherwise.  There is still much to be learned and much to be debated about what already is known, as well as what is only conjectured.  To say differently, or do differently, is to shut one's eyes to the very purpose for which science exists, which is to learn ever more about everything.  It is absolutely pathetic that the Editor-in-Chief of Science would limit the scope of the flagship journal of this most important of enterprises - science, with a small "s" - for the sake of almighty Political Correctness.

Dr. Craig D. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Kennedy, D.  2001.  An unfortunate U-turn on carbon.  Science 291: 2515.