Canadians front and centre at 2nd Heartland Conference

Heartland Conference Logo - March 8-10, 2009

The “climate change skeptic” right-wing think tank Heartland Institute has been quietly updating its list of almost 60 speakers for the second annual International Conference on Climate Change to be held in New York this March – and Canadian skeptics are front and centre. And in at least two cases, the official affiliations listed for speakers appear unlikely to be bona fide.

Last year’s inaugural event was derided by climate scientists as a PR sham masquerading as a scientific conference. Conference speakers, most of whom are not practicing climate scientists, are paid a generous honorarium and all travel expenses. Funding sources are not disclosed, but the Heartland Institute has received $676,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

This year’s meeting will feature first time invitee Stephen McIntyre, founder of the popular ClimateAudit blog, as one of six headliners. McIntyre is described by Heartland as a “devastating critic of the temperature record of the past 1,000 years”, but has published only one peer-reviewed article in a recognized science journal.

Interestingly, McIntyre’s listed affiliation is with the University of Toronto. McIntyre’s connection to the University is unclear, although he does apparently have a University email address.

Among the other five confirmed Canadian speakers, undoubtedly the most controversial is Lawrence Solomon, listed as affiliated with the National Post, a national Canadian daily newspaper. Solomon is the author of The Deniers, a book based on a long series of individual profiles written for the Post. He has recently launched attacks in the Post on Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, as seen  here and here. Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a non-profit group that “works for  environmental sustainability by promoting property rights.” (Closer scrutiny of this group  is clearly warranted, but will have to wait for a future post).

At the time of writing, it was not clear if the supposed official affiliations with the University of Toronto (McIntyre) and the National Post (Solomon) were bona fide. Indeed it seems plausible that these affiliations are presumptuous overreaching on the part of the Heartland Institute.

[Update Feb. 12, 2009: Last week, I inquired about the above affiliations with both the National Post (on February 7) and McIntyre (on February 9). McIntyre promptly replied stating that he has asked Heartland to correct the mistaken U of T affiliation.  The National Post has yet to respond concerning Solomon's official affiliation. The Heartland speakers list was updated on February 10, but both affiliations remain unchanged].

The other four  Canadian speakers,  include:

Economics professor Ross McKitrick collaborates frequently with McIntyre; a complete list of their publications can be found on McKitrick’s Guelph University’s publications page. A list entitled “Peer-Reviewed Science Journal Articles”, includes seven of the pair’s publications. Only one is a peer-reviewed article in a recognized journal ( Geophysical Research Letters in 2005); the rest are various short, non-peer reviewed letters and comments or appeared in the “skeptic” social science journal Energy and Environment.

McKitrick is also the leading author of the Fraser Institute‘s  2007 Independent Summary for Policy Makers (ISPM), which purports to be an “independent” summary of the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change. McKitrick was also co-author, with Essex, of Taken by Storm and was one of four original “science contacts” for the Calgary-based anti-Kyoto group Friends of Science, along with Patterson, Tim Ball and Chris de Freitas.

Geology professor Tim Patterson is chairman of the shadowy International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), an affiliation which is not mentioned anywhere on Heartland’s website. The ICSC is headed up by Executive Director Tom Harris, who was also a conference speaker last year.

Harris and Patterson have collaborated frequently over the years, going back to a series of articles in the popular press from 1999 to 2002, mostly in the National Post. Harris’s resume includes a stint in 2002 as a legislative aide for Bob Mills, who was Canadian Alliance (and later Conservative) environment critic under then opposition leader Stephen Harper. Harris left Parliament Hill to become a PR consultant at APCO Worldwide’s Ottawa office, organizing an anti-Kyoto conference in Ottawa in the fall of 2002, and played a key role in the Friends of Science 2005 video, “Climate Catastrophe Cancelled”.

The Post has long provided a platform for Canadian skeptics, and played a key role in the dissemination of the Bali open letter, organized in late 2007 by Harris to attack the credibility of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and the International Panel on Climate Change. At the time, Harris was head of the “astroturf” group the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP).

Besides McIntyre, the other “headliners” are all well-known U.S. climate change skeptics:

  • Willie Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
About these ads

6 responses to “Canadians front and centre at 2nd Heartland Conference

  1. Climate Criminal

    I too favour the objective science and I don’t like what it says.

    If the septics think the IPCC is alarmist [natural conservatism among scientists means it isn't], what will they make of the latest from Chris Field of Stamford / Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology as reported at:

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/su-ccl021009.php

    If the septics will insist on spreading lies, then they must ultimately be prevented, how I neither know nor care.

    However, I believe that scientists should have the right to argue anything among themselves. Communicating to the public is different. Provided they do it honestly and from the mainstream science [no fringe c**p here]. But using fallacy, tricks, deceitful methods and lying to bamboozle the public must be absolutely off-limits.

    [Response: Field's update is the only the latest in a steady stream of findings that appear to indicate the IPCC was overly conservative in some projections. For example, most projections of sea level rise have been revised upward over the last couple of years.

    Preventing "spreading lies" is proving difficult. I believe that the key will be mainstream media exposure of the implicated PR consultants and think tanks, along with the corporations that have funded them.

    P.S. I have edited for language; I apologize if that seems overly Canadian of me]

  2. I am always appalled when I read the willful blindlessness and total lack of self awareness that passes for commentary on alarmist blogs.

    It is obvious to me that Field’s claims are meaningless conjecture that have no supporting evidence. Yet they are presented to the public as ‘fact’. I see this as rediculously dishonest behavoir on the part of alarmists.

    Despite this I see rants about about sceptics using ‘deceitful methods and lying to bamboozle the public must be absolutely off-limits.’

    People living in glass houses should not throw stones.

    [DC: Field is only one of many scientists who think that the IPCC has been too conservative in its projections. He did cite several lines of evidence, some of which were unavailable in 2006 when the AR4 report was written.

    I emphatically disagree with your accusation of Field, an eminent scientist, of engaging in "ridiculous dishonesty".

    If you want an example of dishonest research, look no further than the "climate research" fund at the University of Calgary, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled to projects run by PR professionals Tom Harris (of APCO Worldwide) and Morten Paulsen (initially self employed, later with Fleishman-Hillard).]

  3. Field has expressed his opinion that may be consistent with the data he choose to highlight. However, there is other data that makes his claims implausible – e.g. the globe was likely hotter 6000-8000 years ago and we did not see any massive feedback due to tundra melting.

    [DC: You have not cited any studies to support this statement and I'm not aware of any.]

    Obviously, he is entitled to his opinion but that does not make him correct. Nor does the number of other scientists who choose to express support for that view make it any more plausible.

    Also your hypocrisy is showing again. Take a look at the corporate sponsers for the recent event in Copenhagen:

    http://climatecongress.ku.dk/

    [DC: It is absurd to draw a parallel between the Copenhagen climate science conference, a meeting of top researchers from around the world, and the Heartland conference, a PR event explicitly designed to attract media attention for the anti-AGW position.]

    If I thought like an alarmist that would be all the evidence I need to claim that the scientists attending that conference are paid shills for the ‘green energy lobby’.

    The bottom line is the climate science is 10% data and 90% opinion disguised with statistics. We have no way to know who is correct nor who is likely to correct given the fact that everyone involved in the discussion is biased in some way.

    For that reason, accusing people who disgree with you of being dishonest is way out of line. They have a different opinion, an opinion that is supported by the data they look at. That makes them no different from anyone else who expresses an opinion on the topic.

    [DC: There are numerous examples of dishonesty among skeptics. Specifically regarding the Heartland conference:

    * Some listed affiliations were bogus. Steve McIntyre has no official connection with the University of Toronto, and Lawrence Solomon is not an employee of the National Post.

    * Relevant affiliations of other presenters have been well-hidden, as in the case of Tim Patterson (chairman of the International Climate Science Coalition) and Ross McKitrick (Fraser Institute).

    * Joseph's Bast's statements about the supposed lack of corporate sponsorship are highly misleading. For example, although ExxonMobil no longer directly supports Heartland, it continues to support many of the other co-sponsors.]

  4. This posting is pretty feeble.

    [DC: I know I should have come down harder on Heartland. But I guess as a typical Canadian I'm overly polite.]

  5. [The link to a paper by John McLean on the Science and Public Policy Institute website has been suppressed, per the Comment Policy.]

    [DC: The SPPI is a spin off of the ExxonMobil supported Frontiers of Freedom Institute. Neither organization is a reputable source of scientific information.]

    If you want to debate who is being honest and unbiased, check out this paper.

    “A report that shows more than 40 of the 53 authors of the crucial chapter of the IPCC 4AR had either worked together, co-authored papers together and in all probability acted as peer reviewers for each others’ work. Instead of being the product of a set of authors with a wide range of views, as the IPCC mandates, the key chapter comes from a narrow coterie of scientists. (John McLean – SPPI)”

    It is evident that the “Global Warming Consensus” is really manufactured by a small cabal of mutually reinforcing individuals with a political agenda. Anybody outside their clique who criticizes their work on scientific grounds gets attacked ad hominem and subject to discrediting character assassination techniques.

    [DC: John McLean's critique of some of the world's foremost climate scientists is itself "character assassination" and based on supposition and innuendo, rather than any actual evidence. The concept of a "key chapter" is preposterous, by the way; all of the chapters are crucial to an understanding of climate change.

    For those interested in further information on McLean, he is apparently a scientific advisor to the Australian Climate Science Coalition, an affiliate of the International Climate Science Coalition, now headquartered in Ottawa and run by ex-APCO operative Tom Harris

    Tim Lambert has written a good expose of the McLean and Harris critique of the IPCC, wherein they misleadingly claimed that 60% of reviewer comments on Chapter 9 of the AR$ WG1 report were rejected. It turned out half of these comments were made by fellow skeptic Vincent Gray, and almost all of these were rejected.]

  6. Thanks for highlighting our activities – people can learn more about us by going to our Web site at http://www.climatescienceinternational.org/

    Tom Harris

    [DC: A better source of information of Tom Harris's activities past and present is Sourcewatch.org:
    * Tom Harris
    * Friends of Science
    * Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP)
    * International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
    ]