ACS webinar: the backstory

by Pete Bonk

Now that it’s over it’s time to hear the rest of the story about the recent ACS symposium.

To recap the symposium/webinar, it went well. The technical glitches- feedback during the first talk by William Stewart, and an inability to get the “Chat” function to work with the online attendees, were rookie mistakes by me.  In the room in Denver the sound was good, no lags even from Bob Carter far away in Australia.

Not to break any illusions, but the American Chemical Society, (ACS) as represented by the DC HQ folks, have not changed their CAGW official position.

The symposium came about from an internal grant I wrote in 2009 for the ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses (SCHB) for a symposium that would challenge the existing ACS Public Policy Statement on Climate Change, [which was due to be reviewed in 2010].

It was a serious and well written proposal, but frankly, I was shocked that it was accepted.  The grant was awarded for the maximum amount of $7500. I had planned for a traditional symposium at the Spring 2010 ACS meeting in San Francisco, but the additional ~$20K funding needed could not be obtained.  Early this year the webinar format was selected as a cost effective way to have the symposium without the usual travel expenses.

Not everyone in the ACS or SCHB was especially happy with the idea of this symposium.  It came about because I was able to get good speakers to participate in an unusual venue arrangement.  The morning session was created as a counter balance to what I was trying to do.

During the recently concluded ACS meeting in Denver I did get a lot of interest from the ACS offices.  The interest was both for the unusual webinar/symposium format as well as the content. The folks in the ACS Policy office have expressed a desire to do a “Point/CounterPoint” on this topic at a future meeting. I guess that is progress of a sort!

I knew many of the ACS HQ folks from the ‘Open Letter to the Board of Directors of the ACS” for which I had collected 150 signatures from current and former ACS members, asking that the Policy Statement on Climate Change be re-examined.  I presented the letters and signatures to the CEO and other officers of the ACS in February 1st, 2010, about 3 months after Climategate broke.  I could not get Rudy Baum, editor of “Chemical & Engineering News” [the magazine that goes out weekly to all 162,000 ACS members] to publish the Open Letter, after an earlier promise to do so.

Despite the “Official” ACS Policy there are many chemists that are skeptical of the ACS position. As chemists few work in climate science, but all of us know about radiation, kinetics, solubilities and heat capacities, etc.  We all have our views, but few of us have an immediate financial interest in climate work.

So, no, despite this symposium, it does not reflect a significant change of the official ACS party line. At the Heartland Institute 2nd ICCC in NYC in March 2009, Professor Lindzen had suggested that scientists who found themselves at odds with their professional societies should leave those groups. I decided to try and change things from within. I can’t say I have been successful, but I have been persistent!

What I have found is that most scientists take a much more nuanced view of what we do and do not know about climate than those who deal mostly with policy.

The two symposia held by the ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses in Denver were meant to focus on the science, not policy.  While not perfectly adhered to, the science was predominate in both events.

The full afternoon symposium that Prof. Curry participated in was recorded via the GoToWebinar package.  I am reviewing it now and will make it available as soon as I can after returning from an overseas trip.  The morning session was recorded by the ACS, and I will find out if/when that recording will be accessible to non-ACS members.

On a personal note, it was a lot of fun (with a dollop of stress) putting this together.  To collaborate with folks one has never even met, halfway around the world, is amazing.  It was very cool that Prof. Curry posted the event on Climate Etc. and let the group comment/edit/nitpick on her upcoming presentation. Even the light blogging during the event was fascinating to observe.

I am going to work to bring this live symposium/webinar format to more ACS meeting symposia; certainly other scientific societies could also do this as well.

I have put some personal information on the “Denizens” post.  I am also running for the General Assembly in Rhode Island. If elected, I will work to get RI to withdraw from the RGGI compact.  Send me a private message if you wish to know more.

Thanks again Prof. Curry!

30 responses to “ACS webinar: the backstory

  1. It would seem to me that the ACS having any position at all on climatology is good evidence that it’s a political rather than scientific stance. Do the meteorologists have an official position on injection molding temperatures for polystyrenes?

    • You are exactly right!

      Politically-correct, consensus “science” brought the United States and the rest of the world to the brink of economic and social collapse, as former President Eisenhower warned us in 1961 would happen if a “scientific-technological elite” ever took control of public policy:

      Despite Eisenhower’s warning, the people’s control of government was inadvertently sold out in 1971 by secret agreements between leaders of East and West to avoid the threat of mutual nuclear annihilation by:

      a.) Uniting Nations,
      b.) Reducing Nationalism,
      c.) Ending the Arms and Space Races,
      d.) Making Global Climate Change our “Common Enemy”, and
      e.) Adopting the Bilderberg Model of the Sun as a Stable H-Fusion Reactor that does NOT change Earth’s climate.

      No wonder the public is fed-up with politicians worldwide. For 40 years Left-Wing/Right Wing, Republicans/Democrats, Liberals/Conservatives have dismantled the world’s greatest economic, scientific, democratic system to achieve these noble goals.

      President Obama’s belated admission that CO2 is the exhaust gas of our economic engines was the first step back toward reality:

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • Great comment and a very good point.

    • Talk to some of the atmospheric chemists @ Ga Tech School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

  2. Good luck bringing about change from within. Hal Lewis tried that approach. It’s a bit like changing the course of a school of fish that is busy gobbling up government cheese.

    • That is a good analogy.

      But Obama’s new decision on CO2 emissions shows that politicians are still capable of learning.

      The fish will disperse if government funds for cheese are eliminated!

      • Can you post a link to
        Obama’s new decision on CO2 emissions

      • The link and comments by physicists are above at PhysOrg,com

      • Oliver,

        Obama learns nothing he did all already know to get elected. By throwing the EPA bone out there the illusion of compromise and moderation is created. The left will have its usual fit and I doubt the business community will accept their deregulation “ration” in good order.

        The EPA and AGW crowd are baggage at this point. Why do you think cap and trade died on the vine? Nice rhetoric for stirring up the left base but impossible to execute in the real world. Regardless even the threat caused huge damages and will be tied to his election defeat.

  3. Hi Pete

    Please be sure to make sure that any future presenters appreciate in advance how different a webinar is from a ‘normal’ seminar in terms of attendees background, presentation style needed and level and quantity of content.

    Bob Carter was your strongest presenter and understood these well. The others varied from ‘good but inexperienced’ to ‘less than satisfactory’ on these points. Perhaps you should ask them to spend the time saved in travelling on extra preparation until they are entirely at ease with the new medium :-)

    But overall a successful experiment. How rarely do we hear the ‘E’ word in climatology? It seems to be the idea that dare not speak its name! Your webinar should be a catalyst for more reliance on experiment/observation and less on models.

    • I also appreciate Pete’s work in putting together the ACS webinar.

      I know several other professional chemists who were pleased to learn that ACS is not so dogmatically aligned with AGW propaganda as we had supposed.

    • Latimer, Good points, but this was terra incognito for all the speakers, being on the content provider side of a webinar. Radio DJs talk to an invisible audience all the time, but it is no doubt an acquired skill. All the speakers had a practice session, but the focus of those were the nuts and bolts of how to use GoToWebinar.

      We did go over who the likely audience would be, at least in the room where it would all be chemists. I knew that we would have a range of delivery styles, etc.

      My biggest worries were would the technology work; I had to do some very last minute changes to get an Irene affected Bill Stewart to be able to present.

      I know Prof. Lindzen’s presentation came in for some criticism, but I felt it was quite good, walking us all thru the steps. I had the luxury of seeing the presentation in several previous versions, and Prof. Lindzen did a good job focusing and refining the presentation he actually gave even more so than what I had reviewed. He knews about reading a slide, but for the detail of his talk I think that could be forgiven.

      • Sure. I hope my remarks didn’t read as hypercritical, but rather as constructive criticism. If not, mea culpa.

        It was a good experiment and will lead the way to many more I’m sure.

        But to persuade a wider audience than the already converted and committed, attention to the style as well as the totality of the content is important. It is no good Distinguished Academic xyz making the most telling point possible if I have already left the webinar to take the dog for a walk having being bored witless by poor presentation.

        End of homilies! Thanks again..and good luck for the next ones. You’ve had your baptism of fire and the rest will be a breeze….:-)

  4. I had every intention of attending the webinar but hurricane Irene had other plans for me. Sunday morning lights went out and stayed out for the next four days. I am interested in the package you are preparing but do not belong to ACS. Hope it will be available to non-members.

  5. Pete Bonk:

    I’m a former chemist turned geochemist turned geologist, and still read C&EN now & then. Thanks for your efforts to change the ACS’s Policy Statement on Climate Change, and for organizing a nice presentation of the climate-skeptic viewpoint there. Good job!

    Cheers — Pete Tillman
    Geologist & geochemist

    • Pete, I too am a bastardized chemist hybrid: Nuclear, geo-, cosmo-chemist.

      Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg became my friend in 1975 after Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu, Dr. Edward Hennecke, and I challenged claims that meteorites contained products of spontaneous fission from superheavy elements.

      O. K. Manuel, E. W. Hennecke, and D. D. Sabu, “Xenon in carbonaceous
      chondrites”, Nature 240, 99-101 (1972)

      E. Anders, H. Higuchi, J. Gros, H. Takahashi and J.W. Morgan, “Extinct
      super-heavy element in Allende meteorite,” Science 190, 1262-1271 (1975)

      O. K. Manuel and D. D. Sabu, “Elemental and isotopic inhomogeneities in
      noble gases: The case for local synthesis of the chemical elements”, Transactions Missouri Academy of Science 9, 104-122 (1975)

      Twenty-four years later the AGW scam might have been aborted in 1999 when Glenn and I organized a 1999 ACS symposium in the geochemistry division of ACS: “Origin of Elements in the Solar System: Implications of Post 1957 Observations.”

      Unfortunately Dr. Seaborg died shortly before the symposium occurred. Another great scientist, the late Geoffrey Burbidge, agreed to give the keynote address instead.

      Of course none of us had any idea that science had been misdirected from above since 1971 to promote the AGW concept by protecting the illusion that Earth’s heat source is a steady H-fusion reactor!

      “Oh what a tangled web we weave,

  6. Thanks to you Pete and to Judith. I am a retired electrical engineer with Air Force weather training. The webinar worked well for me. Some of the visuals were not displayed long enough for me to digest, but otherwise it was fine.
    Best wishes to you both.

  7. Thanks for a very interesting seminar.

    Changing the official political standpoint of ACS management was probably a bit too much to expect, but the seminar has shown that the “consensus” view on the science behind AGW is not held by all climate scientists, and that is a first step.

    ACS management may not yet have gotten the word, but the “science is NOT settled”.

    Max (chemical engineer)

  8. Thanks Pete for an excellent groundbreaking webinar content (which we managed to hear despite the feedback.)
    Please especially post Nir Shaviv’s presentation and slides.

    I encourage you to pursue this format with further speakers in a similar vein.

  9. John Carpenter


    I have been a member of the ACS for 20+ years now. I did not know you were trying to initiate a change in the Policy Statement on climate change. I hold zero sway in ACS, but if I can be of any help in your endeavor, please let me know. Thanks for including the afternoon session of speakers in your program… I’m sure Rudy Baum was pleased! :) I can’t wait to see how C&EN covers (spins) it.

  10. Oh no–I have just received notice of some dramatic news. The American-Australian Chemical Society of Crapulent Pale Ale Brewers and Hourglass Makers Against Digital Data now fear global warming!

  11. Peter Bonk implies that the ACS Position Statement on Climate Change is a product of ACS’s “DC HQ folks,” who could change that position if they chose to do so. This is not true. The ACS Position Statement on Climate Change was developed in 2007 by the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement (CEI), which is broadly representative of the ACS membership. It was reviewed in 2010 by the ACS Board Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR) as required by the ACS Constitution & Bylaws. Working with CEI, PA&PR reaffirmed the position statement after seeking broad input, including a town hall meeting during the 2010 fall national meeting in Boston. The full ACS Board of Directors also voted to reaffirm the society’s Position Statement on Climate Change.

  12. Yes indeed, this is what our highly compensated, “non-profit” organization executive (Baum) has to say while on spin-cycle.

    “What amazes me about climate-change skeptics and deniers is their rejection of the principle of Occam’s razor. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, its atmospheric concentration has been rising for 150 years, Earth’s temperature is rising—these are empirical facts. Why do some individuals go to such lengths to deny their connection? ”

    Of course, one could just as reasonably use Occam’s razor to conclude that natural variability swamps AGW so much that the effects may never be provable.

    Of course, that’s perfect for grant-seeking academics and highly compensated non-profit magazine editors.

  13. A real scientific organization would never take an official political position.


    • A real scientific organization wouldn’t pay its “CEO” in the neighborhood of a million bucks either.

  14. The first thing the ACS does in *their* Position Statement is quote the IPCC! Nothin says “Brain Dead” right off the bat quite the way that does.