Scientists on nuclear winter
Integrity in science is so important that the column `` `Nuclear Winter' more propaganda than science for now'' [Feb. 11] deserves comment. The writer deplores ``the appearance of results in popular literature before being exposed to the rigors of peer review [by other scientists].'' The report of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council of Scientific Unions was extensively reviewed at a workshop at the University of Essex in 1985. Scientists from United States nuclear weapons laboratories participated. The physical and atmospheric effects were in substantial agreement with the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, published in December 1985, following what was probably the most comprehensive review ever.
The academy report concluded: ``A major nuclear exchange would insert significant amounts of smoke, fine dust, and undesirable chemicals into the atmosphere. These deposits could dramatically perturb the atmosphere for at least several weeks.''
The column suggests that the authors of the SCOPE study represent scientists ``who want to mold public opinion'' by using ``fear of nuclear winter to bolster their case.'' The SCOPE volumes dealt exclusively with scientific issues. They meticulously avoided advocacy on public policy issues. Congress has requested that the Pentagon reexamine nuclear weapons policies in the light of these findings. Thomas F. Malone Saint Joseph College Scholar in Residence West Hartford, Conn.
Articles such as this one are essential if the role of activist scientists is to be understood by the public. Such scientists have produced similar distortions of the facts in other areas such as the Boeing Supersonic Airliner, nuclear power, the SDI program, and various environmental issues. Donald C. Schluderberg PIMS Inc.
The article, leaning heavily on the assertions of one scientist, condemns those who have advanced the nuclear winter hypothesis for having violated the widely accepted methods used for analyzing and testing such hypotheses.
The hypothesis can be tested only at the global level by having a nuclear war. That step is almost universally unacceptable. The scientific community has performed admirably. The study reported at the Washington symposium in 1983 was reviewed earlier at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and circulated widely within the scientific community. G. M. Woodwell Woods Hole Woods Hole, Mass. Research Center