The OMSI-AMS Global Warming Debacle of 2011

November 28, 2011

Maybe the title is a bit dramatic?  Well, I figure when a Oregon AMS (American Meteorological Society) meeting makes good fodder (it did today) for local conservative radio talk shows, it should be something I mention here on our weather blog.  Sure they’ll move on to something more spicy tomorrow but let’s chat about it.

Here’s the story:

For the past 5 weeks or so, our local AMS chapter has had a meeting scheduled at OMSI (we just use their space, they don’t participate) for tomorrow, Tuesday, the 29th.  The subject matter is global warming; we’ve had a few of those talks in the past, along with a climate debate with the previous State Climatologist George Taylor and current State Climatologist Phil Mote.  In the past year or so the AMS Executive Committee (I’m the Secretary) has been approached by some of the critics of the human-caused global warming theory.  They’d like to present their thoughts.  So we decided to give them a podium for the night.  No big deal, at least to us.  One is a meteorologist (Chuck Wiese) and the other is a physicist (Gordon Fulks).  The meeting is all scheduled, and just 5 days before, OMSI abruptly cancels it. 

Here is the Oregon AMS press release sent to our members, cancelling the meeting:

“On behalf of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and its Executive Council, we regret to inform our members that the Oregon AMS meeting originally scheduled for this coming Tuesday, November 29th 7pm at OMSI in Portland has been postponed due to circumstances beyond the control of the Oregon AMS. We also regret the short notice of this information, again due to circumstances beyond our control. Please try to help offset the timing of this information by immediately forwarding this communication to anyone you may have originally notified. 
If you have any questions surrounding this decision, please contact either myself or OMSI Planetarium Manager Jim Todd. Please note — Jim is the Oregon AMS liaison at OMSI. If he can not address your questions directly, he will forward them to the appropriate individuals within the OMSI organization, for a response. The Oregon AMS Executive Council will meet soon to discuss rescheduling this meeting. As always, we will keep our members updated promptly”
Steve Pierce 
President, Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society
Then OMSI sent their reasoning in a press release this Monday afternoon:
“On October 22, the Oregon chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) asked OMSI if they could hold their November 29 meeting at OMSI, after hours, at no charge. AMS has been a longtime community partner and we agreed without knowing the nature of the program planned for the meeting. The AMS sent OMSI additional details about the event on November 3, including the topic, scheduled speakers, and the plan to open the meeting to the general public. Due to the public invitation, OMSI became concerned that the event might be misconstrued as an OMSI-endorsed event and we had not been involved in the development of the programming. After a great deal of discussion and consideration, we came to the conclusion that it was not appropriate for OMSI to serve as a venue for the event without proper opportunity for our full involvement.

We have apologized to the AMS for the inconvenience that this has caused. OMSI is unwavering in our commitment to provide life-long science opportunities for children and adults. We have extended a formal invitation to the AMS to jointly develop and co-host a public forum on the science behind the human impact on climate change. We look forward to setting a date for this event and communicating it out soon.”

This is our Executive Council’s reaction to their press release (released this evening)

“The Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society is disappointed that the November 29th meeting on Global Warming will not continue as originally planned. While we understand that OMSI has reservations related to our meeting’s  topic on global warming, our chapter has not taken a stance on this issue. The Oregon AMS mission statement reads, “the purpose of this society shall be to advance professional ideals in the science of meteorology and to promote the development, exchange, and application of meteorological knowledge.” As such, we planned this as part of our normal public meeting schedule so those who are opposed to anthropogenic global warming could present their views.  Additionally, our plan was to schedule future meetings with speakers of differing views so the public could be exposed to both sides of this topic.” 
“We appreciate OMSI’s support of our past meetings, such as last month’s 19th annual Winter Weather Conference, and look forward to future partnerships. We welcome OMSI’s offer to co-host a public forum on this topic and are taking that into consideration. We are currently looking for a new venue to reschedule the November 29th meeting.” 
And our president, Steve Pierce sent this note to our local chapter members as well:  “We are now moving forward with a positive outlook and a new venue. We would like to thank all those who commented today, along with offers to host the meeting. The Oregon AMS executive council will keep our members posted on a new date and time.”
My thoughts, and mine alone, not the AMS Chapter or Exec. Council thoughts:
1. OMSI just made the speakers  “martyrs for their cause”…don’t they study history?  They are a private organization of course, so they can do whatever they want, but it was a poor choice.
2. A quote on the Oregon Live website is not at all correct:  “But Mark Patel, OMSI’s vice president of marketing, said the museum told organizers in early November that they needed a balanced panel and offered to move the meeting to its “science pub” event at the Bagdad Theater, picking up half the cost of the move. With no progress made, the museum cancelled the event last week”.  This never happened.  I don’t know where that came from.   No fault to the Oregonian of course; this is directed at OMSI.
3. Jim Todd at OMSI, the planetarium manager and our main contact,  is great.  He’s been very supportive of our organization in the past.
4. I don’t believe it’s a “vast left-wing (or right-wing) conspiracy”, but some academic pressure from others making OMSI get cold feet.
So for now, no anti-global warming meeting this week, but remember, the wording is “postponed”.  It was just cancelled at OMSI, not within our organization.  We’ll be meeting later this week (the AMS Board) to see what our next steps will be.
I was off for one day today, but NOTHING going on weatherwise the next week or so anyway.  December starts real slow in the weather department.
For fun, here’s a poll.  I think this blog has a good cross-section of the public.  I’m guessing we’ve got both leftist tree-huggers and some right wing Koolaid drinkers out there.  I love you all! 
Update: 12:30pm Tuesday…I just closed the poll, results are straightforward and you can take a look still:
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen