The 1983 National Academy of Sciences report entitled Changing Climate, authored by a committee of physical and social scientists chaired by William Nierenberg, was an early comprehensive review of the effects of human-caused increases in the levels of atmospheric CO2. Study of the events surrounding the committee's creation, deliberations, and subsequent report demonstrates that the conclusions of the report were the consensus of the entire committee and in line with the scientific consensus of the time. This result contraverts a 2008 paper in which Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway, and Matthew Shindell asserted that the report contradicted a growing consensus about climate change, and that Nierenberg for political reasons deliberately altered the summary and conclusions of the report in a way that played down the concerns of the other physical scientists on the committee. Examining the production of the report and contextualizing it in contemporaneous scientific and political discussion, we instead show how it was a multi-year effort with work divided among the various members of the committee according to their expertise. The synthesis and conclusions were expressly a joint statement of the committee and were consistent with other assessments of that time expressing deep concern over the potential issues while stopping short of recommending major policy changes due to the uncertainties, and to a lack of good alternatives.
Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate
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Nicolas Nierenberg, Walter R. Tschinkel, Victoria J. Tschinkel; Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 August 2010; 40 (3): 318–349. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2010.40.3.318
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