This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Chemist William Moomaw has never won a Nobel Prize. But advertisements for his speaking engagements say otherwise.
Late last week, a press release announced that five bone fide Nobel Laureates (2 physicists, 2 economists, and an obscure Peace Prize winner), along with “more than 3,000 scientists from over 100 countries” have endorsed a document called the Groningen Science Declaration.
This declaration calls on world leaders to “change the way we understand, plan and invest for a changing climate.” It is a supporting piece of theater for the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 currently underway in the Netherlands (although most events appear to be taking place virtually).
If you click the Groningen Science Declaration link embedded in that press release you’re taken to a web page that fails to list the names of 3,000 scientists. Instead, you’re invited to download a 3-page pdf. The label along its left margin reads: “GCA Science Statement.” Presumably, this and the Groningen Science Declaration are one and the same, even if the word Groningen is nowhere to be found.
On the final page of that PDF, a grand total of six scientists endorse the statement. The first one – William R. Moomaw – is a real chemist. But he’s a fake Nobel laureate.
It takes five seconds to enter a name into the search box over at NobelPrize.org. Moomaw produces zero results. Between 1901 and 2020, eight individuals named William have been awarded a Nobel in chemistry. Moomaw is not amongst them.
But last February, when he delivered a talk to the Brussels Press Club, the entire European press corps was apparently clueless. The event was advertised as a “conversation with Nobel Laureate & Professor Emeritus William Moomaw.”
Also last year, a Harvard Medical School continuing education course was described this way:
our keynotes will be delivered by 2 Nobel laureates, Dr. William Moomaw (defined climate change and global warming) and Dr. William Kaelin (defined how cancer cells adjust to hypoxia). [bold added]
Kaelin is a bona fide Nobel laureate. In 2019, he and two others shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine. But the people who paid hundreds of dollars to take the Harvard course were profoundly misled. Moomaw has never won a Nobel Prize.
The audience at a Massachusetts youth center in early 2019 was similarly told that Moomaw is a “Nobel Peace Prize-winning” retired professor (my italics). Which brings us only slightly closer to the truth.
This is a sordid tale, about which I’ve written extensively (see here, here, here, here, and here). The short version is that, in 2007, a UN body called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was awarded half of the Nobel Peace Prize. Al Gore was awarded the other half. This was emphatically not a science award.
Rajendra Pachauri, who was then chairman of the IPCC, wrote to IPCC-affiliated academics en masse, including Moomaw. “This makes each of you Nobel Laureates,” Pachauri proclaimed. (In 2013, I estimated that 9,000 people had helped the IPCC write its reports during its then 25-year history).
Pachauri was mistaken. When the Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union in 2012, individuals associated with the EU did not become Nobel laureates. When the Peace Prize was awarded to the UN’s World Food Program a few months ago, no one there was instantly transformed into a Nobel laureate. In each case, the organization was being honoured.
In 2012, the IPCC issued a formal statement making this crystal clear. It reads, in part:
The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner. [bold added]
Nearly a decade later, William R. Moomaw still hasn’t received the memo. Audiences to whom he has spoken during the past two years were falsely advised that he is a Nobel laureate.
This, ladies and gentleman, is the person whose name appears first on the Science Statement issued by the Climate Adaptation Summit.
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