An Open Letter to Museums from Members of the Scientific Community

  • Mar 24, 2015

Note: The Natural History Museum is a new, mobile museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature. Ours is an independent museum that does not take money from the fossil fuel industry or corporate polluters. We rely on individual donations from people just like you. Please consider making a donation to support our work:

To Museums of Science and Natural History:

As members of the scientific community we devote our lives to understanding the world, and sharing this understanding with the public. We are deeply concerned by the links between museums of science and natural history with those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science.

Museums are trusted sources of scientific information, some of our most important resources for educating children and shaping public understanding.

The Code of Ethics for Museums, adopted in 1991 by the Board of Directors of the American Alliance of Museums, states:

“It is incumbent on museums to be resources for humankind and in all their activities to foster an informed appreciation of the rich and diverse world we have inherited. It is also incumbent upon them to preserve that inheritance for posterity.”

“Museums are grounded in the tradition of public service. They are organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve…Museums and those responsible for them must do more than avoid legal liability, they must take affirmative steps to maintain their integrity so as to warrant public confidence. They must act not only legally but also ethically.”

We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.

For example, David Koch is a major donor, exhibit sponsor and trustee on the Board of Directors at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History. David Koch’s oil and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Mr. Koch also funds a large network of climate-change-denying organizations, spending over $67 million since 1997 to fund groups denying climate change science.

When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.

Drawing on both our scientific expertise and personal care for our planet and people, we believe that the only ethical way forward for our museums is to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation.

With concern,

1. James Hansen, Climatologist; former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

2. James Powell, Geochemist; Former President of the Franklin Institute Science Museum and former President and Director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

3. Bob Corell, Climatologist; Head of US Office for the Global Energy Assessment; former Assistant Director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation

4. Kevin E Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Lead Author 2001 and 2007 IPCC report which won a Nobel Prize

5. Danny Harvey, Professor of Geography and Climatology, University of Toronto, IPCC Convening Lead Author and Lead Author; Deputy Editor of Climatic Change

6. Eric Chivian, founder and Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985

7. Henry Pollack, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Michigan; Advisor to the National Science Foundation, IPCC member

8. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology; Director, Earth System Science Center, The Pennsylvania State University

9. Joseph J. Romm, Physicist, Climatologist; Former Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy; founder and editor of Climate Progress

10. George Woodwell, Ecologist; Founder and Director Emeritus, Woods Hole Research Center

11. Calvin B. DeWitt, Environmental Scientist, Co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, President of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists, and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

12. Dr Stuart Parkinson, Climatologist; Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK

13. Jason Box, Climatologist, Professor of Glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland; Co-author of 2007 IPCC report which won a Nobel Prize

14. Mike MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute

15. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, University of Queensland, Australia

16. Robert R. Janes, Ph.D. , Archaleologist, Museologist, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Museum Management and Curatorship

17. Matt Lappe, Paleoclimatologist, Environmental Hydrologist, Executive Director, Alliance for Climate Education

18. Greg Laden, Paleoanthropologist, Independent Scholar, Writer at National Geographic Scienceblogs

19. Sarah Kornbluth, Biologist; Affiliate of Bee Database Project, American Museum of Natural History and Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University

20. Sergio Jarillo de la Torre, PhD, Anthropologist, American Museum of Natural History

21. Dr Simon L Lewis, Reader, Global Change Science, at University College London and University of Leeds

22. Roger Fouquet, Principal Research Fellow, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

23. Brad Johnson, Science writer; MS geosciences, MIT

24. Emmanuel Vincent, Assistant Project Scientist at the University of California, Merced

25. Jonathan Oppenheim, Professor of Quantum Theory, University College London; Royal Society Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics

26. David Webb; Emeritus Professor; Previously Professor of Engineering, Leeds Metropolitan University

27. Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick, Physicist, University College London

28. Scott A. Mandia, Asst. Chair /Professor – Physical Sciences, Suffolk County Community College

29. Mona Mehdy, Molecular Biologist, Associate Professor in Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology, University of Texas at Austin

30. Judith S. Weis, Professor Emerita, Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University

31. Jonathan Tunik, Former Evaluation Studies Associate for the American Institute of Physics

32. Aerin Jacob, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Applied Conservation Science Lab, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

33. Shaun Lovejoy, Professor of Physics, McGill University, Canada; Formerly at the Climate Diagnostics Centre of NOAA

34. Lindy Weilgart, Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada

35. Dr. Sophie Levina, MD, PhD and Doctor of Medical Sciences

36. Dr. Susan Spencer, Solar Scientist, Founder/President of

37. Erika Crispo, PhD, Evolutionary Ecologist and Biologist, Pace University, NYC

38. Lucky Tran, PhD, Biologist, University of Cambridge

39. Damian Alexander Stanley, Ph.D., Neuroscientist, California Institute of Technology

40. Hanah Chapman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College, CUNY

41. Dr. John Abraham, University of St. Thomas, School of Engineering

42. Mark Mason, PhD, former primate evolution researcher, UC Berkeley

43. Dr. Nicholas R. White, Independent Industrial Scientist, Albion Beams, Inc.

44. David Grinspoon, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute; Former Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

45. Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Department of Environmental Studies and Science, Ithica College, Ithica, New York

46. Steven R. Dickman, Professor of Geophysics, Department of Geological Sciences, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York

47. Daniel H. McIntosh, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Missouri-Kansas City

48. Harry Frank, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Social Psychology, Associate Professor Emeritus of Earth and Resource Science, University of Michigan-Flint

49. Lawrence Licklider, PhD Chemistry, University of California, Riverside

50. Andrew H. Maxwell, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Montclair State University

51. Luca Lombroso, Weather broadcaster, DIEF Geophysical Observatory, Italy

52. Richard H. Gammon, Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Oceanography, University of Washington; Former Head of CO2 Research Group, Global Monitoring for Climate Change (GMCC), NOAA, Boulder, Colorado

53. Dr. Julianne Heinlein, Aquatic Ecologist, Research Associate, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University

54. Andrew S. Johnson, PhD, Research Scientist, Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

55. Dr. Harry Dowsett, Editor of Micropaleontology

56. Jerry Landrum, retired US Navy Physical Scientist, Chairman Eureka Springs Citizens Climate Action Progress Committee

57. Paul A. Selden, PhD, Director, Paleontological Institute, University of Kansas

58. Claudio Cassardo, PhD, Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Climate Physics and Meteorology, Department of Physics, University of Torino, Italy

59. PZ Myers, PhD, Professor of Biology, Division of Science & Mathematics, University of Minnesota Morris

60. Dr. Robert Tracy, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Geosciences, and Director of the Museum of Geosciences, Virginia Tech

61. Timon McPhearson, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urban Ecology, Tishman Environment and Design Center, The New School, NY

62. Dr. Tanya O’Garra, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Earth Institute, Columbia University, NY

63. Jan Salick, PhD, Senior Curator and Climate Change Scientist, Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis, MO

64. John Olson, PhD in Geophysics, MIT

65. Kathleen D. White, PhD, PE

66. B. Cael Barry, MSc, PhD candidate, MIT Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

67. Karen Richardson, Physicist, formerly at Bell Labs

68. Charles Daniel McConnell, Graphic Artist/Scientific Illustrator, Central Washington University and the University of Washington Scientific Illustration Program

69. Dr. Reese Halter, Distinguished Conservation Biologist, MUSE School, CA

70. Scott Vlaun, MFA, Permaculturist, Executive Director, Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, Norway, Maine

71. Jennifer Lind-Riehl, MS, PhD, Molecular Biologist, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences, Michigan Technological University

72. Shannan K. Sweet, PhD Candidate, Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, NY

73. Dr. Charles Greene, Director, Ocean Resources & Ecosystems Program, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

74. Iain Martyn, Graduate Fellow, The Rockefeller University

75. Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD Candidate, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

76. Geoffrey J. Supran, PhD Candidate, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

77. Nicholas T. Hertz, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow, The Rockefeller University

78. Roger LeB. Hooke, Research Professor, Department of Geological Sciences and Climate Change Institute, University of Maine; Professor of Geology (geomorphology) Emeritus, University of Minnesota

79. Linda E. Sohl, PhD, Paleoclimatologist, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University

80. Rajendra Paudel, Senior Hydrologist, Everglades Foundation Inc., Florida

81. Tammy Newcomer Johnson, PhD Candidate in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science, University of Maryland, MD

82. Elizabeth Sanders, Professor of Government, Cornell University

83. Amalia Almada, PhD, Biological Oceanographer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

84. Naomi Oreskes, PhD, Professor of History of Science, Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

85. Tony M. Liss, PhD, Martin & Michele Cohen Dean of Science, Professor of Physics, City College of New York

86. Reto A. Ruedy, PhD, Mathematics, Project Manager and Manager of Climate Modeling Group, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

87. Jonathan King, PhD, Professor of Molecular Biology, MIT; Former President of the Biophysical Society, Guggenheim Fellow, NIH MERIT Awardee, Fellow of the AAAS

88. Warren Abrahamson, Evolutionary Ecologist, Professor of Biology Emeritus, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

89. William F. McDonough, Professor of Geology, University of Maryland

90. John E. Roemer, Elizabeth S. & A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science & Economics, Yale University

91. Dr. Vivien Cumming, Geochemist, Research Associate, Harvard University, Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University

92. Martha J. Hauff, PhD, University of Connecticut Department of Marine Sciences

93. Lynn R. Sykes, Higgins Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Science, Columbia University; Earthquake Studies, Control of Nuclear Weapons, Member of U.S. National Academy of Sciences

94. David Shalloway, PhD, Greater Philadelphia Professor in Biological Sciences, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University

95. Stephen P. Ellner, PhD, Horace White Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

96. Michelle Bamberger, MS, DVM, Veterinarian, Ithaca, NY; Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy Advisory Board

97. Eri Saikawa, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Emory University

98. Aakash Basu, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, The Rockefeller University

99. Elmer E. Ewing, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ithaca, New York

100. Dr. Wenze Yang, Assistant Research Scientist, University of Maryland, ESSIC/CICS-MD

101. Bruce Monger, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University

102. Julianne Lutz Warren, PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology; Fellow, Center for Humans and Nature

103. Rainer Bleck, Former Professor of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, University of Miami

104. Dr. Danae Schulz, PhD, Scientist at The Rockefeller University

105. Robert E. Oswald, PhD, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University

106. Dr. Simona Giunta, PhD, Cancer Research Scientist, Laboratory of Chromosomal and Cell Biology, The Rockefeller University

107. Eustace Mendis, PhD, formerly Chief Scientist, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto

108. Cameron Ingram, BS, MD candidate, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH

109. Nancy Santanello, M.D., M.S., FISPE

110. Dr. Stephen M. Coghlan, Jr., Associate Professor of Freshwater Fisheries Ecology, University of Maine

111. James F. Booth, Assistant Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, City College of New York

112. Jed Fuhrman, PhD, McCulloch Crosby Chair of Marine Biology, University of Southern California; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

113. Christina Tonitto, PhD, Ecosystem Scientist, Cornell University

114. Kenneth Strothkamp, PhD, Adjunct Instructor in Prepatory & General Chemistry, Portland State University

115. Britta Voss, Postdoctoral Researcher, PhD in Geosciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

116. Michael J. Antal, Jr., PhD, Coral Industries Distinguished Professor of Renewable Energy Resources, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa

117. Dr. Martin Fricke, Senior Fellow of the American Physical Society, formerly member of Panel on Public Affairs

118. Albert Burchsted, PhD, Retired Field Biologist, College of Staten Island, CUNY, NY

119. Dr. Roy S. Jacobson, Retired Environmental Scientist (Mathematical Modeler), Leidos Corporation

120. C. Randal Linder, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

121. Dr. John C. Armstrong, Associate Professor of Physics, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

122. Gregory Weiland, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Department of Molecular Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

123. William B. Upholt, PhD in Chemistry (Caltech), Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut Health Center

124. Dr. Timothy A. Livengood, Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland

125. David Jay Burdige, Professor and Eminent Scholar, Department of Ocean, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University

126. Robert H. Knapp, Jr., Member of the Faculty Emeritus (Physics and Sustainable Design), Evergreen State College; Rhodes Scholar, PhD Oxford

127. Rebecca Yuet May Poon, PhD in Biology from University of California, Los Angeles; formerly at Washington University at St. Louis

128. John K. Munro, Jr., PhD in Physics, Global Carbon Cycle Modeler, Oak Ridge, TN

129. Robert M. Jennings, MA Anthropology, PhD Student in Archaeology, Departments of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

130. Joshua A. Lieberman, MD, PhD, University of Maryland, School of Medicine

131. Ray H. White, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of San Diego

132. Andrea Ford, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

133. Neal B. Keating, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Museum Studies/Public History, Department of Anthropology, The College at Brockport, SUNY

134. James L. Swarts, MA, M.Div., Lecturer in History (and Science History), SUNY Geneseo

135. Mallory G. James, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

136. Jeff Angermann, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada

137. Kathleen Barker, PhD in Microbiology, scientist and author

138. Roger Cochran, PhD in Sociology, MA in Anthropology, MSHS in Health Systems; Partner at Morgan Healthcare Consulting, Atlanta, GA; formerly Executive Director of Southwest Georgia Health Systems Agency

139. Nathan Jack Robinson, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in Conservation Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

140. John Grouard Mason, PhD, Professor of Politics, Acting Director of the MA Program in Public Policy and International Affairs, Political Science Department, William Paterson University of New Jersey

141. Peter J. Auster, PhD, Research Professor Emeritus of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut

142. John Lamperti, PhD, Professor of Mathematics (emeritus), Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

143. Vinh Cam, PhD, CEO, CAMTEC Inc., Greenwich, CT

144. Allan Stewart-Oaten, PhD in Statistics, Emeritus Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of Santa Barbara, CA

145. Paul M. Rybski, PhD, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI

146. Annalisa Alvrus, PhD in Biological Anthropology, Anthropology Faculty, Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ

147. Lauri J. Romanzi, MD, FACOG, FPMRS, Former Visiting Associate Professor, Yale University, Human Resources for Health

148. Terrence Gerlach, PhD, Geochemist; Former Project Chief of Volcano Emissions, USGS Volcano Hazards Team

To sign the letter please email info [at] with your full name, scientific credentials, and affiliation (past or present) as you’d like it listed.