Even before the UN climate conference in Kyoto in 1997, environmentalist groups and leading climate researchers began joining forces to put pressure on industry and politicians. In August 1997, Greenpeace sent a letter to The Times newspaper in London, appealing on behalf of British researchers. All the climatologists had to do was sign on the dotted line. In October of that year, other climate researchers -- ostensibly acting on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF -- e-mailed hundreds of colleagues calling on them to sign an appeal to the politicians in connection with the Kyoto conference.
The tactic was controversial. Whereas German scientists immediately put their names on the list, others had their doubts. In a leaked e-mail dated Nov. 25, 1997, renowned American paleoclimatologist Tom Wigley told a colleague he was worried that such appeals were almost as "dishonest " as the propaganda employed by the skeptics' lobby. Personal views, Wigley said, should not be confused with scientific facts.
Researchers 'Beef Up' Appeals by Environmental Groups
Wigley's calls fell on deaf ears, and many of his colleagues unthinkingly fell in line with the environmental lobby. Asked to comment by WWF, climate researchers in Australia and Britain, for example, made particularly pessimistic predictions. What's more, the experts said they had been fully aware that the WWF wanted to have the warnings "beefed up," as it had stated in an e-mail dated July 1999. One Australian climatologist wrote to colleagues on July 28, 1999, that he would be "very concerned" if environmental protection literature contained data that might suggest "large areas of the world will have negligible climate change."
Two years later, German climate researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and from the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Meteorology also drew up a position paper together with WWF. Germany's Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy scientific research institute was a pioneer in this respect. It was very open about working together with the environmental group BUND, the German chapter of Friends of the Earth, in developing climate protection strategy recommendations in the mid-1990s.
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