October 12, 2010

APS Comments on Harold Lewis’ Resignation of his Society Membership

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a recent letter to the American Physical Society (APS) President Curtis A. Callan, chair of the Princeton University Physics Department, Harold Lewis, emeritus physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, announced that he was resigning his APS membership.

In response to numerous accusations in the letter, APS issues the following statement:

There is no truth to Dr. Lewis’ assertion that APS policy statements are driven by financial gain. To the contrary, as a membership organization of more than 48,000 physicists, APS adheres to rigorous ethical standards in developing its statements. The Society is open to review of its statements if members petition the APS Council – the Society’s democratically elected governing body – to do so.

Dr. Lewis’ specific charge that APS as an organization is benefitting financially from climate change funding is equally false. Neither the operating officers nor the elected leaders of the Society have a monetary stake in such funding. Moreover, relatively few APS members conduct climate change research, and therefore the vast majority of the Society’s members derive no personal benefit from such research support.

On the matter of global climate change, APS notes that virtually all reputable scientists agree with the following observations:

  • Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere due to human activity;
  • Carbon dioxide is an excellent infrared absorber, and therefore, its increasing presence in the atmosphere contributes to global warming; and
  • The dwell time of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is hundreds of years.

On these matters, APS judges the science to be quite clear. However, APS continues to recognize that climate models are far from adequate, and the extent of global warming and climatic disruptions produced by sustained increases in atmospheric carbon loading remain uncertain. In light of the significant settled aspects of the science, APS totally rejects Dr. Lewis’ claim that global warming is a “scam” and a “pseudoscientific fraud.”

Additionally, APS notes that it has taken extraordinary steps to solicit opinions from its membership on climate change. After receiving significant commentary from APS members, the Society’s Panel on Public Affairs finalized an addendum to the APS climate change statement reaffirming the significance of the issue. The APS Council overwhelmingly endorsed the reaffirmation.

Lastly, in response to widespread interest expressed by its members, the APS is in the process of organizing a Topical Group to feature forefront research and to encourage exchange of information on the physics of climate.

Gray arrowGray arrow  APS Climate Change Statement and Commentary


About APS

The American Physical Society (www.aps.org) is a non-profit 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 51,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, DC.

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