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Odd Names Added to Greenhouse Plea

May 1, 1998 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It was supposed to be a collection of signatures of thousands of scientists ready to debunk global warming. But the petition, embraced in recent weeks by critics of the Kyoto climate agreement, bore some surprising names.

Perry Mason?

The TV attorney was among the 15,000 signatories, along with author John Grisham, three doctors from the TV series M A S H _ even one of the Spice Girls. Too much of a coincidence for those to also be the names of real scientists, said environmentalists scouring the list.

Arthur Robinson, a physical chemist from Cave Junction, Ore., who circulated the petition by mail within the scientific community, says the questionable names are the work of pranksters and shouldn’t take away from the fact that the document reflects the view of many scientists that the Kyoto climate agreement should be shelved.

``When we’re getting thousands of signatures there’s no way of filtering out a fake,″ said Robinson, 56, an unabashed skeptic about the threat of global warming.

While acknowledging that he made little attempt to verify the credentials of those who responded to the petition, Robinson stands by the document which he says shows that the scientific community isn’t marching in lockstep when it comes to global warming.

It includes thousands of people ``qualified to speak on this subject″ including biochemists, geophysicists and climatologists, Robinson said in a telephone interview from Oregon. He is one of six faculty members at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a research group he founded.

His critics contend few of the names are of scientists who have studied long-range climate change and that Robinson, a chemist, has done no independent research on global warming.

The petition urges the rejection of the Kyoto accord and maintains the growth of carbon dioxide emissions _ the principal greenhouse gas _ may, in fact, be beneficial to plants and humans. It is a theme Robinson also expounded in an eight-page ``article″ he distributed with the petition.

His article, largely a review of scientific literature, also has been the subject of controversy. It was criticized by some scientists because it followed the format, even typeface, of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy’s governing council issued a statement saying the group did not endorse it or have any connection to it. Robinson said he never mentions the academy, but just liked the format and wasn’t trying to fool anyone.

John Passacantando,executivedirector of the environmental group Ozone Action, scoffed at any claim that Robinson’s petition represents the widespread views of scientists.

He said his group scoured the list and found dozens of names unlikely to be scientists: ``Perry S. Mason″ (the fictitious lawyer?), ``Michael J. Fox″ (the actor?), ``Robert C. Byrd″ (the senator?), ``John C. Grisham″ (the lawyer-author?).

There also were Drs. ``Frank Burns″ ``Honeycutt″ and ``Pierce″ (Remember the trio from M A S H?), not to mention the Spice Girl, a.k.a. Geraldine Halliwell, who was on the petition as ``Dr. Geri Halliwel″ and again as simply ``Dr. Halliwell.″

Robinson said Halliwell’s petition response described her as a biochemist from Boston. ``It was a fake,″ he acknowledged.

But those shortcomings haven’t prevented global warming skeptics from embracing the petition as a sign of widespread scientific opposition to the Kyoto climate agreement, which would require reductions in greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, recently cited the petition in a Senate floor speech as evidence that ``the vast majority″ of scientists consider global warming an ″exaggerated threat.″