Search
  • Jonah Busch

Ask the American Museum of Natural History to Remove Misinformation on Climate Change in David M.

Updated: Jan 8, 2018

Create a blog post subtitle that summarizes your post in a few short, punchy sentences and entices your audience to continue reading.


Welcome to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more. Design with Ease

Do you have a design in mind for your blog? Whether you prefer a trendy postcard look or you’re going for a more editorial style blog - there’s a stunning layout for everyone.

Every layout comes with the latest social features built in. Readers will be able to easily share posts on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, view how many people have liked a post, made comments and more. With the Wix, building your online community has never been easier.

Create Relevant Content

You’ll be posting loads of engaging content, so be sure to keep your blog organized with Categories that also allow readers to explore more of what interests them. Each category of your blog has its own page that’s fully customizable. Add a catchy title, a brief description and a beautiful image to the category page header to truly make it your own. You can also add tags (#vacation #dream #summer) throughout your posts to reach more people, and help readers search for relevant content. Using hashtags can expand your post reach and help people find the content that matters to them. Go ahead, #hashtag away.

Stun Your Readers

Be original, show off your style, and tell your story.

Blogging gives your site a voice, so let your business’ personality shine through. Are you a creative agency? Go wild with original blog posts about recent projects, cool inspirational ideas, or what your company culture is like. Add images, and videos to really spice it up, and pepper it with slang to keep readers interested. Are you a programmer? Stay on the more technical side by offering weekly tips, tricks, and hacks that show off your knowledge of the industry. No matter what type of business you have, one thing is for sure - blogging gives your business the opportunity to be heard in a way in a different and unconventional way.

📷[Tagline] The visit. The tweets. The reaction. Steps for action.

The visit. Last month my sister gave me and my wife a wonderful holiday present—a membership to the American Museum of Natural History. We were delighted because we’d just moved to New York City and couldn’t wait to return to visit the institution that was the center of so many wonderful childhood memories. That whale, those fish, the gems, and most of all, the dinosaurs.

On Saturday, January 6, my wife and I braved the snow and rode the New York subway several blocks uptown to the museum. We visited cool temporary exhibits on butterflies and mummies, along with a trip to the beautifully renovated Hall of Ocean Life. But what really stuck out was the David M. Koch Dinosaur Wing.

Everything was fine at first. The fossilized feather prints of an archaeopteryx. Figuring out how fast dinosaurs ran by measuring the distance between their footprints. Then I saw a panel that left me dumbstruck and livid.

[picture of panel]

I decided to put a few of my thoughts on Twitter:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I am shocked and saddened to see the American Museum of Natural History <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amnh</a> promoting misinformation on climate change in its David M. Koch-funded Dinosaur Wing 1/ <a href="https://t.co/mUkx6PDEml">pic.twitter.com/mUkx6PDEml</a></p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949774167276220416?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">David M. Koch Dinosaur Wing: “There is no reason to think another ice age won’t come”<br><br>Ganopolski et al. (Nature, 2016): The current pace of CO2 emissions will delay the onset of the next ice age by 100,000 years. <br><br>2/ <a href="https://t.co/8uci7WJwQ1">pic.twitter.com/8uci7WJwQ1</a></p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949774372197330945?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">David M. Koch Dinosaur Wing: “Human-made pollutants may also have an effect on the Earth’s climatic cycles”<br><br>may? MAY?<br><br>IPCC 5AR (2014): Greenhouse gas emissions are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.<br><br>3/</p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949774603345416192?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The American Museum of Natural History <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amnh</a> does a great job of explaining climate change accurately in its other exhibits. Why the obfuscation in the David M. Koch-funded Dinosaur Wing?<br>4/ <a href="https://t.co/7PMxKeiKSn">pic.twitter.com/7PMxKeiKSn</a></p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949774895289954304?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Why does this matter? Millions of children and adults visit the <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amnh</a> every year. Most are not climate experts. If all they see is this panel they will worry about an ice age that will never come in their lifetime rather than global warming that, beyond any doubt, will.<br>5/</p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949775090652246016?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">In explaining climate change to the public, scientists paddle against a river of Koch-funded misinformation in the media, in Congress, and elsewhere. They shouldn’t have to fight it at the <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amnh</a> too.<br>6/</p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949775334064443397?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I’ve loved visiting <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amnh</a> since I was a child. There may be no other institution more responsible for drawing me to science and the natural world. It’s collections and interpretations are, by and large, stellar. I hope it will separate this panel from its donor’s interest. 7/7</p>&mdash; Jonah Busch (@jonahbusch) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonahbusch/status/949775501022978052?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Going Viral. After writing these seven tweets I closed my laptop and went to eat dinner with some friends we were hosting. And then this happened:

[screenshot of viral tweet]

It seems that a lot of other people find the misinformation about climate change in the David M. Koch Dinosaur Wing of the American Natural History Museum as outrageous as I do. As of time X, the tweet has been retweeted Y times and counting. A number of “power tweeters” spread the word, including Michael Mann (@MichaelEMann), Brandon Nygard, Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett), Jeffrey Ventre (@Jeffrey_Ventre), Karen James (@kejames), and Chris Blattman (@cblatts), among others.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">My friends at <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AMNH</a>: I do think this requires both explanation and action. It suggests a breach of the firewall that is supposed to stand between the agenda of the donor and the objectivity of scientific content.</p>&mdash; Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) <a href="https://twitter.com/MichaelEMann/status/949797932831772672?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

But for the most part the tweets appeared to speed across the Twitterverse organically. Reactions in the tweets ranged from cynical (“Why are you surprised? Money always wins.”) to action-oriented (“Raise hell. Tweet your outrage @amnh”).

If I had to guess why these tweets went viral when my previous 3000 or so tweets didn’t, it’s because it connects to a larger national mood of outrage and resistance. The appearance of the villainous Koch Brothers corrupting the integrity of a beloved museum is emblematic of a small circle of billionaires purchasing yet another one of our national institutions.[JB1]

How long has the panel been up? Many tweeters wondered when the panel went up. I don’t know. Robert Rohde (@rarohde) turned up photo evidence going back at least as far as 2006:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">If the date on this website is accurate, the same text has been presented at <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AMNH</a> since at least 2006.<a href="https://t.co/fLDfmP734u">https://t.co/fLDfmP734u</a></p>&mdash; Robert Rohde (@rarohde) <a href="https://twitter.com/rarohde/status/949995625780785152?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

It appears from the blog link that at least that visitor took the authority of the museum display over that of scientists. I suspect many other visitors over the years may have done the same.

Ben Miller (@Bhmllr) thinks the copy was written in 1995, perhaps earlier.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This label copy was written in 1995, perhaps earlier. This is an excellent example of the fact that museums rarely have the resources to keep every placard up to date. As you mention, newer exhibits in AMNH present up-to-date information on climate risks. <a href="https://t.co/IWCJYiGhrt">https://t.co/IWCJYiGhrt</a></p>&mdash; Ben Miller (@Bhmllr) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bhmllr/status/950205002370506755?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 8, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That got me thinking a lot more about this plaque in the exhibit:

[Exxon photo]

Exxon Corporation has been just as notorious a funder of climate denial over the years as the Koch Brothers, if not more so. Maybe Exxon, and not David M. Koch, was the financial patron when the panel was written. Had I, and many of the people responding to my tweets, been mentally attributing the misleading panel to the wrong climate denier?

Deliberately wrong or wrong due to the passage of time? The longer ago the panel went up, the less egregiously wrong the text might have been relative to scientific understanding at the time it was written. This is more the case for the ice age science, which is fairly recent. Bryan Lougheed (@bryanlougheed) pointed out a review article in Science in 2002 questioning whether an ice age would come in 50,000 years, which would contradict the “no reason to think...” phrasing. For the assertion that “human pollutants *may* affect Earth’s climate”, however, it’s been It’s been decades since this could be seen an accurate descriptor of research-in-progress rather than a misleading understatement of the near-universal consensus among scientists that humans’ greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet (CIT 97%).

It’d be nice to think that the AMNH wouldn’t have posted something deliberately wrong, but rather posted something that became wrong with the passage of time. But the “Exxon” and “Koch” names on the exhibit make it harder than it should be to give the panel writers the benefit of the doubt.

Ultimately, whether the panel was written during the Exxon Corporation-funded renovation in 1994, or during the more recent Koch-funded era, the text is clearly wrong today. It needs to be fixed.

Initial reaction from the Museum. Within hours of the initial tweet, AMNH curator Susan Perkins (@NYCuratrix) responded:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Seems like a good time to announce that Natalie Goodkin, our new spokesperson on climate change and assistant curator of Earth and Planetary Science just started at <a href="https://twitter.com/AMNH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amnh</a>. Koch is off the board. Changes coming.</p>&mdash; Susan Perkins (@NYCuratrix) <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCuratrix/status/949854003034296320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

This certainly sounds encouraging. I hope something comes of it. I look forward to tweeting about good changes the museum makes.

Steps for action.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This is outrageous. I hope the opposition to this goes beyond complaining on twitter. Scientific societies need to get on this, and experts need to write articles and editorials.</p>&mdash; Michael E. Smith (@MichaelESmith) <a href="https://twitter.com/MichaelESmith/status/949821488584056832?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

For those wishing to take constructive action, I suggest the following:

Please contact the American Museum of Natural History via their Twitter handle (@amnh) or online comment form. Express your disapproval of misinformation in the the text of the “Recent Climatic Changes and Extinctions” panel in the David M. Koch Dinosaur Wing and ask the museum to:

1) EXPLAIN how the text of the “Recent Climatic Changes and Extinctions” panel came to be and stay up for so long, including what museum policy prevents donor funding from influencing exhibition content, and how that policy was applied in the case of the Exxon Corporation-funded exhibit in the David M. Koch Dinosaur Wing.

2) UPDATE the “Recent Climatic Changes and Extinctions” panel to reflect the best current scientific understanding of climate change and ice ages. (Mine might be something like: climate change. Ice ages. Imminent threat of heating)

3) REVIEW other exhibits related to climate change for scientific accuracy, starting with and paying special attention to those exhibits funded by David M. Koch, Mercer Foundation, or Exxon Corporation.

Please DO NOT:

1) Be rude. Boycott the museum. Cancel your membership. I believe that appeals by loyal members and enthusiastic visitors to uphold the world-class standards for which the AMNH is known will be most effective. Besides, the AMNH is a treasure. If you stay away the Kochs win twice—once by injecting bad content; a second time by driving people away from good content.

Kicker. I


3 views

© 2020 by Jonah Busch, Ph.D.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/khlongwangchao

  • Google Scholar
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter Clean Grey