Friends of Science: They’re back!

It’s been quite a month for Friends of Science, the Calgary based astroturf group with a long history of engaging in climate science disinformation. First, RealClimate.org revealed that the supposedly “suppressed” EPA report, ostensibly by economist Alan Carlin, was based in large part on the pseudo-scientific musings of FoS director Ken Gregory (although it subsequently turned out that Patrick Michaels had a stronger claim on being anonymous lead author as detailed previously here and here).

Now it turns out that Friends of Science has big plans for this fall (which, not so coincidentally, will likely see another Canadian federal election). The group is co-sponsoring, along with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a cross-Canada speaking tour by none other than Lord Christopher Monckton, the “potty peer”. Also in the works is a cross-Canada “radio blitz” to promote Friends of Science and its website.

And it appears that at least some project funding will come via by anonymous tax-deductible donations to the preposterously named Science Education Fund at the charitable Calgary Foundation.

Observers of fossil-fuel industry funded astroturf groups will recognize much of this as a rerun of the Friends of Science saga from a few years ago. You can read about previous FoS shenanigans in excruciating detail at SourceWatch.org. But here’s a short summary, taken from that article (I’ve also linked to some of the various references):

[In August, 2006] The Globe and Mail revealed that the group had received significant funding via anonymous, indirect donations from the oil industry, including a major grant from the Science Education Fund, a donor-directed, flow-through charitable fund at the Calgary Foundation. The donations were funnelled through a University of Calgary trust account research set up and controlled by U of C Professor Barry Cooper. The revelations were based largely on the prior investigations of Desmogblog.com, which had reported on the background of FoS scientific advisors and Cooper’s role in FoS funding.

In the course of an internal review and audit begun in March of 2007, the University determined that some of the research funds accepted on behalf of the Friends of Science “had been used to support a partisan viewpoint on climate change”, and unspent grant money was returned on September 10, 2007, according to a Calgary Foundation statement. As a consequence, the University advised FoS “that it would no longer accept funds on the organization’s behalf”, according to an email from University legal counsel Elizabeth Osler sent on December 24, 2007. On February 17, 2008, CanWest News Service reported that U of C officials had shut down Cooper’s “‘Research on Climate Change’ trust account” …

In its heyday, Friends of Science managed to funnel hundreds of thousands dollars in non-taxable charitable donations to projects run by two of the top PR disinformation specialists in Canada:

Here is the corresponding part of the grant history of the Scientific Education Fund as of early last year (from an official Calgary Foundation statement in April 2008).

Grant History
$100,000 11/15/2005 University of Calgary
$100,000 03/15/2006 University of Calgary
To support academic research in the science of climate change

$25,000 06/07/2007 University of Calgary
<$25,000> 09/10/2007 University of Calgary returned
This donation was returned due to U of C investigation that found the funds supported a partisan viewpoint on climate change.

The timing of the first two “academic research” grants, totaling $200,000, indicates clearly that they were directed to support the above-mentioned activities of Morten Paulsen (i.e. the Ontario ad campaign in 2005-6 and lobbying efforts in 2006).

However, the grant history also shows that since the Globe and Mail revelations of 2006 and subsequent internal U of C investigations, Friends of Science activities have been greatly constrained. In 2007, a proposed Heartland-style climate conference, to be organized by Barry Cooper and Tim Patterson, was postponed and eventually cancelled. Presumably, the returned $25,000 grant had been earmarked for this purpose.

But it appears  that is all about to change, as detailed in the latest FoS newsletter, released at the end of June. The newsletter makes the political motivation and policy objectives of the two new projects very clear:

Public support for an alarmist driven agenda has been waning as evidence for a warming atmosphere has not materialized. But still Canadian media such as the CBC and the Globe & Mail continue to stress the coming climate disasters: rising sea levels, greater incidence of malaria, extensive droughts, etc….

The Friends have lobbied politicians in an attempt to encourage a debate between the two sides of the climate change issue. But we have failed. It has become clear that our “leaders” are reluctant to adopt a stance which they fear is politically incorrect. If change is to be accomplished it must be
driven by the “man on the street”. We won’t change the way politicians act until we change what the majority of Canadians believe.

The Friends feel that steps should be taken to make the Canadian public better aware of actual climatic events which render IPCC predictions unacceptable as a basis for government policy. To that end we are planning two projects: a Canada-wide speaking tour by Lord Christopher Monckton and a radio blitz which will direct the listener to the Friends of Science web page. [Emphasis added]

[Updates, July 16: Clarification of Monckton's role in the Thatcher government and rephrasing "embarrassment" description].

Monckton, of course, is the so-called “former science advisor” to British PM Margaret Thatcher, and would-be debating opponent of Al Gore. (Independent sources refer to Monckton’s role as “policy advisor” or simply “advisor” in the Thatcher government). No doubt his Canadian presentations will contain his widely derided analysis of IPCC projections. Even contrarians like Lucia of Blackboard fame, feel compelled to refute Monckton’s specious arguments. And some her acolytes consider him an embarrassment to the “skeptic” side of the climate science “debate”.

Monckton’s “luncheon presentations” are slated for late September and will be given in several Canadian cities, including Ottawa (Canada’s capital city), Toronto, Calgary (centre of the Alberta “oil patch”), and Vancouver.

The newsletter also states that the Monckton tour is “a collaborative association between FoS and The Frontier Centre for Public Policy.”

The Frontier Centre is a right-wing think tank based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It shares a number of affinities with Friends of Science, including an identical anti-science position on climate change. Long-time FoS “scientific advisor” Tim Ball is also Senior Fellow at the Frontier Center, and another FoS advisor, Madhav Khandekar, is author of a Frontier white paper on climate science and featured in a long four-part interview video.

Indications of a cosy relationship between the two organizations came soon after began after the cutoff of University of Calgary project funding and the return of remaining funds to the Science Education Fund at the Calgary Foundation. Astonishingly, after the university returned the third grant and stated that previous grants had been used to “promote a partisan viewpoint on climate change”, the Calgary Foundation did not shut down the fund, but permitted new grants to the Frontier Centre, as seen in the rest of the grant history.

$5000 10/15/2007 University of Calgary,
A scholarship, granted through a competitive process and administered by the Political Science Department, U of C, Graduate committee

$50,000 11/15/2007 Frontier Centre for Public Policy
To support for science education

$17,000 Grant pending Frontier Centre for Public Policy
Awaiting confirmation of use of funds from the $50,000, 11/15/2007 grant

(The scholarship was administered, under protest, by Graduate Coordinator Professor Lisa Young who was obliged to oversee the award despite her express concerns about the source of funding – concerns apparently shared by many others in the Political Science department. This was the last grant before the final shutdown of Barry Cooper’s climate “research” fund at the end of 2007.)

As to the purpose of the grants, Canwest reported that the Frontier Centre wanted “to produce a climate change video for children in schools”. However, a search of the Frontier Centre’s website has not unearthed any such video.

The Frontier Centre was also involved in the last two Friends of Science annual luncheons. Frontier president Peter Holle introduced featured speaker Patrick Michaels at the 2008 event. And this year, at a luncheon featuring Tim Ball, free copies of Alberta geologist Bruno Wiskel’s book “The Emperor’s New Climate” were given out to attendees, courtesy of The Frontier Centre.

The 2007-2008 Calgary Foundation report shows the two grants but also shows a full $132,178 remaining unspent as of March 2008 (PDF is here). The 2008-9 report has not been released yet, but it’s reasonable to infer that Science Education Fund support for current or future Frontier Centre projects has grown. So it’s plausible, even likely, that the joint Monkcton tour is intended to be funded from that source. The Friends of Science apparently had difficulty funding such a tour on its own, as noted back in March of 2008 :

Lord Monckton is well known for his efforts to have Al Gore debate and defend his views concerning AGW…. He plans a tour of American Universities in the autumn. The Friends are attempting to raise monies to have him lecture in Canada at that time.

The radio ad campaign also raises some interesting issues. As noted above, the first FoS radio ad campaign (described in detail at SourceWatch) was clearly intended to influence the 2006 Canadian federal election outcome. Two complaints alleging infringement of Canadian law on third-party election advertising were rejected by Elections Canada. Even though one of the ads was a thinly-veiled attack on the Liberal government “One Tonne Challenge” awareness campaign, Elections Canada ruled that the ads did not take a position on an “issue associated with a political party”. Elections Canada also claimed that all political parties had “acknowledged the problem of global warming”, touting the Conservative Party’s hollow “made in Canada” approach. (The rules do permit third-party election advertising, but such advertisers must register with Elections Canada, observe spending limits and reveal all funding sources).

But despite this previous success at flouting the spirit, if not the letter, of Canadian third-party election advertising rules, FoS looks to be at least a little more circumpspect this time around, as detailed in the June 2009 newsletter.

Radio messages will be broadcast at prominent locations across all areas of Canada. They will raise pertinent questions about actual climatic conditions in Canada and across the globe. Listeners will be directed to our web page for answers. Purposes of the messages will be to challenge the alarmist position on atmospheric warming, educate the public on actual climate behaviour and force supporters the likes of Al Gore into an open debate.

The scope of our “radio blitz” is still under discussion. It will be obviously limited by the funding we can obtain from fellow sceptics. But we are encouraged by the response that we have obtained to date and are optimistic about being able to conduct an effective campaign to have our politicians re-visit their plans for cap and trade.

All indications, then, are that the ads will strive to avoid any explicit mention of climate policy or political issues. But listeners will be directed to a website which will be presumably much less reticent on such matters, if the Friends website at the time of the 2006 election, with its vicious attacks on Liberal environment minister Stephane Dion, is anything to go by.

Of course, all this points up a glaring loophole in Canada’s third party election advertising law. Although websites themselves can not be regulated practically as “election advertising”, the definition of election advertising should be amended to include advertising that directs listeners or viewers to a website containing political messages.

As for the Calgary Foundation, it should be compelled to release complete up-to-date information on all past and pending Science Education Fund grants, as well as the Fund’s overall status. But, based on currently available information, it is clear that funded projects can not be supported as legitimate research or science education. That donations to support such projects are fully tax-deductible is a shocking abuse of Canada’s tax system. In effect, the Canadian taxpayer continues to subsidize climate science disinformation propagated by think tanks like the Frontier Centre and the Fraser Institute. Even worse, all indications are that at least some of the grants to the Frontier Centre are simply a way for the Calgary Foundation to restore funding to the Friends of Science via the back door.

So it’s high time that the Calgary Foundation did the right thing: close the Science Education Fund. And it’s also high time that the Canadian public spoke up. Let’s send the Calgary Foundation and Friends of Science this simple message: “Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us again, shame on us.”

$50,000 11/15/2007 Frontier Centre for Public Policy
To support for science education
$17,000 Grant pending Frontier Centre for Public Policy
Awaiting confirmation of use of funds from the $50,000, 11/15/2007 grant
About these ads

23 responses to “Friends of Science: They’re back!

  1. Hi Deep,

    Even contrarians like Lucia of Blackboard fame, are embarrased by Monckton’s specious arguments

    Embarrassed? Why would I be embarrassed by the behavior of any person so wholly unconnected with me?

    I disagreed with his representation of IPCC temperature projections and posted a criticism of what he wrote. That puts him in the company with Ramstorf, Gavin, and you whom I have also criticized for various and writings.

    None of these posts suggest that I am embarrassed by any argument any of the four of you have advanced.

    the self-described former adviser to British PM Margaret Thatcher

    Out of curiosity was Monckton an advisor or not? If he wasn’t, why not just say so? If he was, why add “self described”?

    [DC: I've clarified the part of the post you commented on. The point is that criticism of one contrarian by another is quite rare and suggests that other contrarians, including yourself, would prefer not to be associated with his views and indeed feel compelled to correct his obvious mistakes. Of course, I was not suggesting that you were personally emabarrassed by Monckton and I've clarified my post to make that clear.

    Of course, it's somewhat disingenuous of you to attempt to compare your disagreement with Monckton to your ongoing disagreements with actual mainstream climate scientists or their supporters. Nice try, though.

    Monckton has been widely described, by various contrarian think tanks and blogs, such as the Heartland Institute or Marc Morano's Climate Depot, as a "former science advisor" to Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps he does not describe himself that way at present, so I've removed the phrase "self-described", but he does nothing to correct it either. Yet, there is no independent indication that this was his title or actual role in the Thatcher government. Again, I've clarified that section.]

  2. Your site’s a great resource, keep it up!

    [DC: Thanks - your support means a lot to me.]

  3. Deep–
    I’m not sure what your contrarian label supposed to mean, so I’m not going to debate your choice of adjective. Did I ever say Monckton was an embarrassment to the skeptic side?

    I know some of my readers have. But… I think I rarely call anyone an embarrassment. I think I mostly stick to saying whether I agree or disagree with what they claim. I will sometimes suggest someone is disingenous or something like that. But, embarrassment? Doesn’t seem like something I worry about. (Oh well… I bet someone will google and find I am totally mistaken about my own behavior.)

    On “former science advisor”: I agree that Monckton has been described as a “former science advisor”. I just don’t have any idea if he was Thather’s science advisor. I don’t follow UK politics that closely and I’ve never checked. That’s why I asked. Was he? Or not? Beats me.

    Either way, his IPCC projections are not IPCC projections.

    [DC: There appears to be absolutely no evidence that Monckton was actually a "science advisor" to Margaret Thatcher. Either he or some PR type made that up, as far as I can see; I can find no independent source that refers to him in those terms.]

  4. Ian Forrester

    DC, here is a response I submitted to DeSmogBlog in rebuttal of his claims to be a “science advisor” to Margaret Thatcher.

    Dear Discount Monk of Bletchville (sorry I always get confused by these cheesy aristocratic titles) you claim to be a science adviser to Margaret Thatcher and her government.

    You offer three examples of the “advice” you have given to her. I assume that these are the best you have on file, otherwise you would have mentioned the better ones. Surely one of the qualities of scientific advice (and any type of advice for that matter) is that it be accepted by the person to whom it is offered.

    You claim to have given advice on the response to retro-viruses. Your “advice” was to put everyone testing positive for HIV into permanent quarantine.

    You offered advice during the Falklands War to the effect that the Brits should use biological warfare against the Argies. You claim to have given advice on the “hydrodynamics of warships”.

    I cannot find any evidence of this “advice” ever being accepted, in fact most of it was trashed in the popular press. The Royal Navy built 16 type 23 (Duke Class) frigates when you and your group were supporting the S90 type.

    So, please tell me how you can call yourself a “science adviser” when it appears that none of your “scientific advice” was ever accepted.

    In fact your position was never “Science Adviser” but was “Policy Adviser” in charge of “housing and parliamentary affairs” (heck, checking on parliamentary “affairs” would be a full time job) (The Times November 6, 1984).

    Since both Journalism and Science should be operated on an honest and truthful basis you are ill-suited for either.

  5. Yawn…I like it so much better when you get technical, DC. The graph of ten year trends over the last 30 was the shiznet. But the conspiracy tracking and dealing with the silliest of sillies…how boring. I know it gets your juices going, but it’s misdirected.

  6. But the conspiracy tracking and dealing with the silliest of sillies…how boring.

    Well, the political side of things often does seem silly until you remember that idiots like Monckton and Senator Inhofe have a great deal of influence.

    Here in the US we’re probably not going to get a climate bill through the Senate because of such things.

  7. Wow, TCO and Dhog posting without the use of the F word, how quaint.

    Dhog, when ranking IQs of politicians I guess you thnk Boxerand Pelosi are right up there.

  8. As a Canadian who has followed Tim Balls friends of science bull for some time I don’t look forward to this tour by Monckton at all. the timing of this with respect to a national election isn’t coincidence at all

    Harpers linkage to our own oil production is well documented and the political connections to this fund from the University of Calgary is disconcerting to say the least.

    At Least in the US you have a president with the guts to start a bill though the process. Up here in the GWN we are still living in little Bushisim.

    Sucks really

    As a layman I don’t have the background to argue the finer points of statisical analisis. To be blunt I don’t need to. The lies propagated by sites like Friends of science are easy to debunk and lack any scientific background despite being forwarded by a climatologist like Ball.

    Unfortunately given a stage to approach the public the average person might seem to think an Idiot like Monckton might make sense after all and Harper (little Bush) just might get in for another term

    Forget about Canada giving support to a Co2 reduction strategy we are still light years behind I’m sorry to say

    And not proud at all

  9. Deep,

    Why no post on the temp record as measured by satellites v that measured by GISS and HADCRU?

    You’ve been eloquent about the former elsewhere, why not here?

    [DC: I have posted in the past on this subject (specifically, three posts on the UAH annual cycle), but perhaps you are thinking of my more recent comments at Tamino's Open Mind. Anyway, my next post will be on that very subject. Stay tuned, and I thank you in advance for your patience.]

  10. Thanks for the reference again – check out our 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)
    ]

  11. Pingback: Firends of Science behind Monckton’s Magical Mystery Tour « Deep Climate

  12. Pingback: Vaclav Smil on climate change: “No global warming in past ten years” « Deep Climate

  13. I recently heard the media blitz of Frinds of Science. They certainly have some good ads and a good website. What exactly is it that you oppose? The fact that someone in a democracy within the scientific community has a different point of view? Both democracy and science are based on the free exchange of ideas. Do you oppose the fact that Friends of science gets funding from the private sector? I suppose if they received billions in government funding like the global warming community they would not be airing a contrary point of view as they would be bought and paid for by big government.
    The fact of the matter is that climate models predicted a future that pure fantasy. We have nod seen any warming over the past 10 years and every IPCC climate model has been wrong. Most theories are discounted when they fail to have any predictive abilities. Why is GLobal Warming any different? Clearly we do not have a full picture of how the climate syste works and the message of Friends of Science is just as credible and legitemate if not more so than the IPCC and their discredited Hockey stick graphs.

    [DC: I am afraid you are being misled by a slick public relations campaign that has little to do with actual science.

    The "scientific advisors" of the Friends of Science, such as Tim Ball, are rarely, if ever, published in the scientific literature on climate.

    The assertion that there has been no global warming "for the last 10 years" is simply false. The three surface temperature records (NOAA, NASA GISS, and HadCRu) show warming of 0.17C-0.19C in the 2000s relative to the 1990s. Even the more volatile and uncertain satellite-based record shows warming in the 2000s.

    The credibility of Friends of Science is highly questionable in at least two ways:
    a) Incorrect science: For example, as late as 2007, Friends of Science still claimed that the satellite record showed almost "imperceptible warming", in clear contradiction of the actual data. See:

    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Friends_of_Science#Discrepancy_between_satellite_and_surface_temperature_record

    b) PR funded by fossil fuel industry: Friends of Science projects are largely funded by oil and gas companies, along with related foundations and individuals, via various conduits, chiefly the Calgary Foundation. The funding has been largely used to fund projects executed by PR operatives like Tom Harris (ex-APCO) and Morten Paulsen (ex-Fleishman-Hillard).

    By the way, the anonymous funding is subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer, since all contributions to the Science Education Fund at the Calgary Foundation are tax-deductible.

    The full background is at:
    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Friends_of_Science ]

  14. The fact of the matter is that climate models predicted a future that pure fantasy. We have nod seen any warming over the past 10 years and every IPCC climate model has been wrong

    Oh dear, it appears you’re wrong.

    If you’re wrong about something so basic, I wonder if you might also be wrong about other things?

  15. Despite numerous claims that global warming ended in 1998, 2001, or 2003, etc., the data shows these claims are groundless.

    1) 19 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past 25 years. The warmest years globally have been 1998 and 2005 with the years 2002, 2007, and 2003 close behind. The warmest decade has been the last ten years and the warming has been widespread globally.

    2) If one “cherry-picks” a small subset of data, it may appear on the surface to show global cooling. However, if one looks at the long-term trends it is quite obvious that global temperatures have been increasing since 1880 and at a faster rate in the past two decades.

    3) A change in the heat stored in the ocean is a better indicator of climate change than changes in atmospheric heat. The oceans have warmed significantly in recent decades and the trend is 50% greater than that reported by the IPCC in 2007. There is certainly no global cooling in the oceans!

    4) Surface temperatures north of latitude 60 degrees are warming at an accelerated rate in the past few decades.

    5) The Arctic was experiencing long-term cooling in the past 2000 years according to Milankovitch cycles until very recently. The cooling trend was reversed during the 20th century, with four of the five warmest decades of the 2000-year-long reconstruction occurring between 1950 and 2000.

    6) Sea ice extent has been dramatically reduced since 1979.

    7) Since measurements began in 2004, there has been a dramatic decrease in sea ice thickness.

    8 ) The average mass balance of the glaciers with available long-term observation series around the world continues to decrease.

    9) 90% of worldwide glaciers are retreating.

  16. Pingback: Friends of Science hits the airwaves « Deep Climate

  17. Pingback: Bali 2007 revisited « Deep Climate

  18. FOS would make it easier if they could stick to one denial line and stop contradicting themselves.

    Case 1 – is it warming or not?

    1) “Media Bias and Sea Ice”
    By Tim Ball, September 2008
    http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FOS Sea Ice.pdf

    Page 11. “It is not possible to determine ‘ice loss since the 1970s has quickened’ because accurate satellite measures of Arctic ice only began in 1979. The fact ice extent reduced from then until 2000 is not surprising since global temperatures were rising during that period.”

    2) “On the real danger for Canada, global cooling”, By Tim Ball
    Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Nov 15, 2004 (52), http://www.fcpp.org/publication.php/864

    Tim Ball: Yes, it warmed from 1680 up to 1940, but since 1940 it’s been cooling down. The evidence for warming is because of distorted records. The satellite data, for example, shows cooling… The argument is that there has been warming since then but, in fact, almost all of that is due to what is called the “urban heat island” effect …

    [DC: Nice ...]

  19. The ability to edit previous predictions seems to improve FOS accuracy:

    Drought forecasting:

    1) 1996, Western Producer, Tim Ball describes his drought prediction method. Prediction: “The next hot drought won’t be until about 2035″. Based on his modeling method (adding 17), he also indicated that a minor “cold” drought could occur in 2006.

    2) 2001-2003: biggest summer drought of all time in some regions of Alberta.

    3) After the drought:
    Agvision TV Interview, “The Big Picture: Climate”. Kevin Stewart.
    Kevin: I’ve heard you say that the drought that results from climate change, like we’ve had in the past three years in the prairies, should come as no surprise, and that it was entirely predictable. Can you explain that?
    Ball: …I wrote a column 2 years ago predicting. this current drought. So there’s really no excuse for being caught or blind-sided by it.

    http://agvisiontv.farms.com/story.cfm?segment=129

    4) “Kevin Stewart interviews Dr. Tim Ball who insists the drought conditions of the past couple years were entirely predictable and should have come as no surprise.”

    http://agvisiontv.farms.com/home.cfm?showid=30

  20. Pingback: Thinking Big…With Small Minds « Spotlight on Politics

  21. oh isn’t it all just somebody’s opinion against somebody elses opinion. One political activist against another.

    [DC: Not really. It's the vast majority of climate scientists vs (in this particular case) a front group for activities by PR disinformation specialists, financed indirectly by fossil fuel companies and others opposed to regulation of GHG emission pollution.]

    We would all be in the S**t if the Climate didn’t change, that’s Geological History for you!

    [DC: The rapidity of recent climate change (e.g. 0.15-0.2 C/decade over the last three decades or so, rapid Arctic sea ice melting), accompanied by natural forcings that are if anything down over the same period, is a clear indicator of a very real problem.

    Please try to keep your comments focused on the topic at hand and substantive in future. Thanks! ]

  22. I would suggest FoS folk read — carefully — the following books: Lost Antarctica by James McClintock and Requiem for a Species by Clive Hamilton.

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