MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Yesterday, the creation of the first annual Flat Earth Award-to be given to an individual who vehemently denies the scientific consensus about global warming-was announced at Middlebury College at a conference on climate change titled “What Works? New Strategies for a Melting Planet.” The award will be presented to the public figure who has been the most vocal climate change naysayer over the course of the previous year. It is named for doubters who continued to insist that the Earth was flat even after years of scientific research established that the planet was round.

This year’s nominees are talk show host Rush Limbaugh, bestselling novelist Michael Crichton, and S. Fred Singer, president and founder of the Arlington, Va.-based Science and Environmental Policy Project.

The winner, to be decided in an online election at www.flatearthaward.org, will be announced on April 22, which is Earth Day, by the Portland, Ore.-based Green House Network (www.greenhousenet.org), a nonprofit educational organization that provides grassroots training to advocates who support the fight against global warming. The winner will receive a copy of the book “The Discovery of Global Warming” by physicist Spencer Weart of the Maryland-based American Institute of Physics.

The award was developed by three Middlebury College students in partnership with Eban Goodstein, founder and director of the Green House Network. The students, sophomores Minna Brown and Makely Lyon of Portland, Ore., and senior John Hanley of Scarsdale, N.Y., collaborated on the development of the prize as a part of their work for a course, “Building the New Climate Movement,” taught by Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Economics Jonathan Isham.

According to Goodstein, the 2005 nominees were chosen on the basis of their outspoken denial of global warming despite more than 100 years of scientific study which has led to international scientific consensus on the subject.

Goodstein said Limbaugh was nominated for his repeated insistence that evidence of global warming is pseudo-science. Crichton earned his nomination for his 2004 novel “State of Fear,” a psychological thriller about ecoterrorism and a global warming hoax. His book also includes an author’s message and appendices that dispute current climate science. Singer’s nomination is based on his lifelong claims that the climate is not warming, computer climate modeling is inaccurate, and warming would be generally beneficial. Singer is a scientist and author who has held numerous university and government positions, and has testified before Congress.

Voting for the Flat Earth Award will take place at www.flatearthaward.org between Jan. 27 and Earth Day on April 22. The Web site, which was also developed by the three Middlebury students working with Goodstein, offers more information about the nominees, the history of global warming, and links to organizations involved in the campaign to stop global warming.

The “What Works? New Strategies for a Melting Planet” conference brought together prominent national leaders and grassroots organizers concerned with the climate crisis from the nonprofit, business, government and university sectors. Conference participants engaged in discussions to develop strategies to build a grassroots climate change movement. The conference will conclude this afternoon with remarks by “End of Nature” author and Middlebury College Scholar-in-Residence in Environmental Studies Bill McKibben. More information about the conference is available at www.whatworks-climate.org. Conference proceedings will be posted online in mid-February.

— end —