"If you look at the signatories of the op-ed, you won't find people more qualified than that," William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University and a signatory, told Design News. "These people are really heavyweights of the scientific world." (See a list of the scientists below.)
It's worth noting that the 16 scientists who signed the editorial aren't alone. Happer told Design News that after the editorial appeared, he received calls from colleagues who wanted to know why they weren't given a chance to sign.
The signatories aren't making a case for coal, oil, nuclear, wind, or solar power. They don't mention whether we should buy electric cars or gas guzzlers. By most measures, their opinion seems apolitical. They just believe that CO2 isn't a problem.
"The demonization of carbon has really distorted everything we do," Happer told us. "If we could back off and say, 'CO2 is probably good,' it would change the way we do things. We'd like to get back to an honest economic discussion not based on carbon footprints or assumptions about 'evil CO2.' "
Whether we agree or disagree with that assessment, it has the potential to affect everything that engineers do. Every day, engineers make decisions about the design of cars, trucks, furnaces, refrigerators, washers, dryers, and all kinds of industrial products. And the emission of CO2 plays into all those decisions. So a solid understanding of global warming science is critical.
In the wild world of the Internet, many bloggers argue that the science is settled. It's "incontrovertible," they say. But is it? Most scientists would acknowledge that the First Law of Thermodynamics is incontrovertible. So is the Second Law, Ohm's Law, Newton's laws, Bernoulli's equation, and a lot of other bedrock scientific principles. But does anthropogenic global warming really belong in the same breath as those?