April 17, 2015

APS Corrects Misstatements in ClimateWire Article

There were several misstatements in the article, "Semantic battle among physicists forces a restatement of their stance on climate change."  Following is the American Physical Society's (APS) official response:

The current draft Statement on Earth's Changing Climate is not a "step back" from the APS 2007 Statement and 2010 Commentary on climate change.  In fact, the draft reiterates all the critical points from 2007 and 2010: global warming is occurring, humans are contributing, the risks are increasing, and we must take actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The draft makes several new points, including urging physicists to collaborate across disciplines in climate research and contribute to the public dialogue.

APS has not "clarified its position on climate change" as the story states. Instead, APS was following its policies and procedures that require the review of all APS statements every five years.  As part of that process, the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) produced a draft Statement on Earth's Changing Climate that is being reviewed by the Society's membership and will be considered by the APS Board and Council.  As a draft, it is not the position of APS.

Finally, the story states that there was a "coup d'état" that led to the resignation of Steve Koonin. That is not correct. Rather, Dr. Koonin chose to resign in mid-August, 2014, in order to be able to express publicly a more detailed view of climate change than is possible in an APS statement, which ideally should be direct and brief.  APS appreciates Dr. Koonin's leadership, hard work, and expertise during the great bulk of the statement review process.

"Overall, POPA worked in a professional and collegial fashion while drafting the statement," said Robert Jaffe, past POPA chair. "Our focus right now is making sure we hear from our membership on the statement before we move forward." 

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The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, D.C.