The Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Salt Lake City, is mailing a global-warming report to 10,000 Utahns that contends scientists disagree about the phenomenon. But a University of Utah scientist and the Sierra Club say the information in the pamphlet is outdated, and the world's scientists and governments agree that humans burning fossil fuel is causing global warming.
The report from Sutherland should make it to residents' mailboxes this week, said the institute's Katie Christensen. The report is titled "Scientific Consensus on Global Warming: Results of an International Survey of Climate Scientists."
It was written by Joseph Bast and James M. Taylor and provided to the Sutherland Institute by the Heartland Institute, in Chicago. The authors said they compiled information from a survey by German environmental scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch.
A Sutherland Institute summary of the report says that a survey of more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries, carried out in 1996 and 2003, found that most of them don't believe that computer models accurately verify climate conditions, and that "most believe the science is too unsettled to form a basis for public policy."
Paul T. Mero, president of Sutherland, said the institute is part of a network of state-based think tanks called the State Policy Network, although each of the state groups is independent.
Heartland contacted the network asking if other institutes could use the booklet that it had produced on global warming. Mero said the scientists who carried out the survey are "the real deal" and that the information is important.
The Sutherland Institute typically involves itself in issues of family policy, education policy and health care. However, Mero said, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. made global warming a policy issue for Utah, and the institute is concerned that the global-warming debate could lead to governmental intrusions where they might not be warranted.
But Thomas Reichler, assistant professor of meteorology at the University of Utah, disputes the idea that scientists have not formed a consensus that global warming is real and caused by humans.
The survey that the institute is distributing was done in 2003. "Our knowledge has changed" since then, he said. "I think we are even more certain that global warming is happening than we were four years ago."
At one time, scientists debated the meaning of information returned by satellites and balloon-borne instruments and models, which seemed to give differing results on the question of global warming.
Climate scientists have spent much time on the question and have discovered the causes for differences. Those causes include calibration of different instruments and differences between satellite orbits and platforms.
This effort resulted in scientists "actually reconciling all these differences we see in the data sets," he said.
Scientists have formed a consensus that global warming is taking place and it is caused by humans, Reichler said. He cited the scientific journals that he regularly peruses and said he does not know of more than a handful of reports out of thousands "that disagree on global warming."
Josh Dorner, national Sierra Club spokesman for global warming and energy issues, said that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report last year stating it is unequivocal that humans are responsible for global warming."This is basically all the world's scientists" working on the issue, he said.