Friends of Science behind Monckton’s Magical Mystery Tour

Lord Christopher Monckton‘s tour of the colonies (a.k.a. Canada), first reported here two months ago, is finally at hand. The details of Monckton’s Apocalypse Cancelled luncheon lecture series were released late last week by tour organizer Friends of Science, the Calgary-based “astroturf” group devoted to opposing the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Fittingly, the centrepiece of the tour is a cluster of events in Calgary, the province of Alberta’s economic capital, and centre of the Canadian oil and gas industry.

Although event details have now finally been revealed, funding details for this latest Friends project remain mysterious. However, emerging evidence points to the possible role of the Calgary Foundation and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (the Winnipeg-based think tank that is also hosting two of the tour events).

[Update, Sept. 24: Be sure to read Monckton's comments and my reply below.

Update, May 2, 2010: See the end of the piece for information on ex-Fleishmann-Hillard lobysist and Conservative activist Morten Paulsen's possible involvement in the Monckton tour.]

Here are all the planned event dates, from the Friends of Science press release, with event sponsors in parentheses. All are luncheon speeches, except where noted:

The Monckton tour thus represents an unprecedented collaboration between Friends of Science, and two other notorious Canadian skeptic groups, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Fraser Institute.

The loquacious “Lord of the Lies” has a shaky grasp on climate science, as has been well documented in a thorough debunking by RealClimate.org of Monckton’s fanciful and deceptive interpretations of IPCC global temperature projections. Nevertheless, the Frontier Centre, for one, still offers up the canard that Monckton was “science advisor” to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, even though that falsehood was dropped from Monckton’s official biography long ago.

As noted in my previous post, Friends of Science have been attempting to “raise monies” for a Canadian lecture tour as far back as March 2008. And the latest Friends of Science newsletter states that the Monckton project was “initiated” by the group, and that Friends of Science are “collaborating” with the host organizations. Even so, mention of Friends of Science involvement is curiously absent from the publicity blurbs for all the events. (The one exception is the Ranchmen’s Club in Calgary, who in a touching moment of honesty, or perhaps naivete, state that Monckton is being presented in “conjunction with the Friends of Science”). [Update,  Sept. 30: The Calgary Chamber of Commerce Facebook blurb does state that Monckton's lecture is "sponsored by Friends of Science". But there is no reference to Friends of Science on the Chamber's website. It is not known if advertising for the event in the Calgary Herald mentioned Friends of Science sponsorship.]

However, Craig Watt of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce graciously answered my questions about Friends of Science involvement. He corroborated the impression that the group is the prime mover behind the tour. Watt carefully explained that his “understanding” is that Friends of Science “arranged” for payment of Monckton’s travel expenses. He also noted that no revenues from the Chamber’s event would be shared with Friends of Science, Monckton or anyone else.

Watt also pointed out that the Chamber also presented Al Gore in 2008, an initiative apparently roundly criticized by the several Chamber members. But never let it be said that the Chamber has failed to present both sides in the ongoing debate between scientific fact and denialist fantasy.

Anyway, all this raises, of course, yet another “magical mystery”: where is Friends of Science getting the money to pay Monckton’s speaking fees and travel expenses?

The full answer is not known yet, but an indication may lie in the shadowy Science Education Fund, a “donor advised” flow through fund at the Calgary Foundation. As I wrote previously, the ongoing collaboration between Friends of Science and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, especially their shared history with the Calgary Foundation, is certainly noteworthy:

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.

Since then, the Calgary Foundation has released its 2008-2009 annual report (PDF), which covers activities up to the end of March. In that year, the Science Education Fund gave out a total $142,685 to the Frontier Centre, in addition to the $50,000 given in 2007-2008 (PDF). That total, at almost $193,000, is close to the $200,000 the Science Education Fund gave to the University of Calgary’s bogus “climate research” fund, back in the heyday of Friends of Science.

Last week, I wrote the Calgary Foundation requesting an update on Science Education Fund grant activity, since no information after March 2009 is available. I also asked for details on the purpose and details of grant-funded projects, which are utterly non-existent at present. No answer has been forthcoming, but perhaps others will have better luck.

So many mysteries remain. And not just about funding – one would certainly like to be a fly on the wall for some of those Calgary “private meetings” scheduled for Monckton.

Perhaps some of those mysteries could be cleared up by one Eva Friesen. The redoutable Ms. Friesen is, of course, CEO of the Calgary Foundation. But she is also happens to be a director of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, so she would appear to be well-placed to shed light on the matter.

One enduring mystery, of course, is the ultimate source of funds for the Monckton tour. It would be bad enough if, as seems likely, those funds come from fossil fuel industry backers. But it would be doubly outrageous if the anonymous contributors are receiving tax deductible receipts for their “charitable” donations, as would be the case for any donation to the Calgary Foundation’s Science Education Fund. This de facto taxpayer subsidy of politically motivated activity should be stopped once and for all.

After all, the political objective of the Monckton tour has been made crystal clear by the Friends of Science from the beginning:

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.

One way or another, let us hope that some day transparency and accountability will rule, and that what goes down in Calgary doesn’t stay in Calgary. Enough is enough.

Update: May 2, 2010:

Ex-Feishman-Hillard lobbyist and federal Conservative activist Morten Paulsen appears to have played a key  role in organizing the Monckton itinerary.  Paulsen was not only publicist for Friends of Science in 2005-6, but also planned and executed a Friends of Science radio ad campaign that coincided with the 2006 Canadian federal election campaign that brought Prime Minister Stephen Harper to power. The ads were targeted at key ridings in the battleground province of Ontario and were designed to undermine public support for the then Liberal government’s climate change policies, according to various Friends of Science statements.

Paulsen was listed as the author of the official Friends of Science press release announcing the Monckton tour. It is therefore reasonable to infer that he arranged that tour, although actual publicity was handled by the hosts in each venue.

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19 responses to “Friends of Science behind Monckton’s Magical Mystery Tour

  1. Pingback: Desmogblog » Friends of Science Lurking Behind Monckton

  2. Thanks for your WEB site. I am just ramping up on the issues surrounding the deniers and their efforts.

    I can’t believe the stuff I see and read on this topic.

    If these people’s points of view prevail and over the next hundred years we see 1B people die as a result of doing nothing, then we can rightly call these people mass murderers …. if our species goes down then it becomes the ultimate crime against humanity.

    Gord

    [DC: While I understand and share your concern and anger, I don't agree with "mass murderer" rhetoric, which implies a greater degree of control, co-ordination and intention than is operating in the diffuse anti-science climate contrarian PR effort.

    Having said that, of course, the retrograde elements of the fossil fuel industry, along with their PR shills and their political allies, have much to answer for. Humanity is at a crossroads and the stakes are high indeed. Yet these reprobates are doing their utmost to block effective action. And so far there have been no consequences for their reprehensible behaviour.

    As a fellow Canadian, I hope you'll join me in supporting legislation and other initaitives forcing greater transparency and accountability for corporate interests, PR professionals and political parties.

    Thanks for stopping by. I checked out your energy project and so far I'm impressed with your disciplined analytical approach.]

  3. I do agree with the rhetoric. They are purposely impeding progress in the interests of pure greed. There ought to be serious consequences for ” their reprehensible behaviour”.

  4. I neither know nor care who is funding my forthcoming speaking tour of Canada, during which – as is my custom – I shall merely report on those aspects of the peer-reviewed science that are not usually covered in the mainstream media, so that my audience can verify for themselves whether I have presented the material fairly and reasonably. I do not act as a mouthpiece for fossil-fuel or any other vested interests. For refutations of RealClimate’s various scientifically-illiterate highly-politicized, ad-hominem attempts to refute my own researches, go to http://www.scienceandpublicpolicy.org. And, whether the author of your blog likes it or not, I did indeed advise Margaret Thatcher on numerous scientific and technical questions, from 1982-1986. Finally, it would surely be more grown-up if your blog concentrated on discussing the science and economics of the climate scare ad rem rather than ad hominem. The measured change in outgoing radiation per unit change in global mean sea-surface temperature is seven times greater than the UN’s models predict. So we now know that climate sensitivity not only to CO2 but to all greenhouse gases is one-seventh of the UN’s central estimate. The scare is over. Get used to it. – Monckton of Brenchley

    [DC: You may not care who is funding your tour - so long as you get paid, of course - but hundreds of thousands of Canadians do. The secret funding of your tour by fossil fuel interests, with apparent de facto subsidy via tax concessions to donors and presenters alike, is an abysmal perversion of democracy in the interest of naked greed.

    The Frontier Centre for Public Policy has described you as "former Science Advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher". Not only does this perpetrate the blatant falsehood that your primary role was to advise Thatcher on scientific matters, but the Frontier Centre compounds the error by even suggesting that your actual job title was "Science Advisor".

    Your complaint about ad hominem discussion is flabbergasting, coming as it does from one who recently claimed that global warming is a "scientific fraud" perpetrated by "the intellectual descendants of Goebbels". Nevertheless, since you ask, I do intend to post concerning your various claims and I will be sure to address both ad hominem and ad rem aspects of your arguments in the same proportion as they are found in your SPPI brief entitled Twisted Science, Crooked Policy, mutatis mutandis as it were.]

  5. It’s really amazing some joke wrote that a billion people are gonna die in the next 100yrs and then we can really call them mass murderers. Whats the scare? We know the temperature has been higher and we know there has been more CO2 in the atmosphere than there is now. By the way, you realize it takes 5yrs to add 1 molecule of CO2 to 100,000 parts of atmosphere. So we’re at 39 parts right now, we have thousands of years to find a new energy source and nobody is gonna sign up to reduce their emissions anyway. Why don’t you all do something useful and take a ship out to that trash heap in the ocean and clean it up.

    [DC: Clever trick, that, changing from parts per million to parts per 100,000. I haven't seen that one before.

    Anyway, however you want to measure it, CO2 has increased by well over a third in 150 years. If current rates of emissions are not curbed, it is set to double later this century. The scientific evidence is unambiguous that climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is approximately 3C. So, yes, the "scare" is emininently justified.]

  6. > measured change in outgoing radiation
    > per unit change in global mean
    > sea-surface temperature ….

    Does “change in … per unit change” make any sense?

    Google suggests only such things as

    — change in emission per unit change
    in GDP
    — emissions per unit of output

    “Citation needed.”

  7. Ah, when Scholar fails, try plain Google.

    I’d guess that’s Lindzen and Choi,
    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L16705, doi:10.1029/2009GL039628, 2009

    http://www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/seminars/pdfs/lindzen.choi.grl.2009.pdf

    Cited by one, per Scholar.

    Scrutinized among other places here:

    http://groups.google.com/group/globalchange/browse_thread/thread/796e8951bc6a5b92?pli=1

    and here:

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/08/quick-comment-on-lindzen-and-choi.html

    Too recent to know if anyone is publishing a response in any of the science journals

    But not too soon to PRclaim it overthrows all the previous work in the field, of course.

    [DC: Hank, many thanks for chasing this down. The "mighty" James Annan has clearly been on a roll of late.]

  8. Pingback: NYT’s Andy Revkin backtracks (but not nearly enough) « Deep Climate

  9. Stupid Monckton complains about ad hominem attacks. What a hypocrite! And he says funding isn’t important. Double hypocrite!!

    http://www.desmogblog.com/littlemore-vs-monckton-with-facts-this-time

    He starts of a ‘debate’ with this:
    “Well let’s first of all begin on this question of funding, and let us talk about the funding for DeSmog Blog. Now DeSmog Blog was founded with $300,000 of money from a man called John Lefebvre who is an Internet gaming fraudster convicted last year of making hundreds of millions of dollars — a large chunk of which he is now being made to pay back to the U.S. government — by unlawfully laundering money to do with unlawful Internet gaming.”

    Then he goes on to say that Lefebvre has a vested interest because of solar investments. Of course, he can’t even be bothered to ensure that the ad hominem attack is true. What a dork!

  10. Eli may have fallen off the carrot truck but even he don’t believe that Monckton doesn’t have a contract for his tour. So the useful question is what does he get per appearance.

    [DC: And I think I know who should be asked that question (besides Monckton himself) - not that anyone will actually answer. Hint: There are others at this particular trough besides Monckton. Stay tuned ...]

  11. Oh, please. Rather than repeat the nonsensical “money laundering” notion, point to where it’s already been debunked:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/08/monckton_and_bolt_defame_john.php

    The Heartland hypocrites fought against limitations on individual freedom to gamble online for years — until they found it snuck into a port protection bill for the protection of the casino industry in a certain landlocked state — and then discovered it could be used to attack DeSmog’s donor — a citizen of an other country, engaged in legal activity there.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/08/monckton_and_bolt_defame_john.php#comment-1065531

  12. Lord Monckton,

    Your erroneous science notwithstanding, seeing that you are the kind of person to claim membership of the House of Lords in a communication to members of the US Senate when you were actually not a member deserves opprobrium.

    In my opinion such misrepresentation is a very low act indeed.

  13. Some more links that relate to Monckton’s smear of DeSmogBlog patron John Lefebvre.

    From the U.K. Telegraph in January 2007: “These subpoenas and arrests are sheer hypocrisy”

    The US crackdown on online gaming may not be so much about morals as hard cash, Mark Choueke discovers. The Americans, suggest the cynics, want to drive foreigners out to establish their own Vegas gambling brands

    From the Canadian national newspaper Globe and Mail, also in January 2007 (reprinted in DeSmogblog)

    While the U.S. authorities would like to paint the two as criminal masterminds, the fact is that they have broken no laws in either Canada or Britain, where their company is based. Instead, they have run afoul of the hypocritical U.S. desire to restrict gambling on the Internet while allowing it to flourish at home, where it produces billions of dollars in tourism and tax revenue.

    The U.K. internet payment company that Lefebvre founded has finally “cleared the slate” with the U.S. DoJ, after a two-year probation period:

    Neteller has now met all pending requirements and has received the Notice of Dismissal from the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) that brings a difficult period in its history to a complete end.

    … As a part of the settlement Neteller had to forgo an amount of $136 million and had to accept charges of conducting an “unlicensed money transmitting business” and facilitating “unlawful transactions” between online gambling operators and players in the United States. Neteller in turn gained a deferred prosecution order for a period of two years.

    My take on this was that Lefevbre and co-founder Steve Lawrence, neither of whom were even involved with the company when arrested, were only charged as leverage to get at Neteller. They both arrived at a plea bargain that called for full co-operation in the prosecution of Neteller (and no prison time).

    As noted in the international reaction above, the whole exercise reeked of hypocrisy.

  14. I am a musician interested in the sciences. I am passionate about preserving the planet from pollution and other man-made effects.
    Having listened to both sides of the anthropomorphic global warming debate, I find no evidence that a doubling of CO2 will harm the planet– there’s good reason to believe that the very slight warming that will result will benefit more people than not.

    Two other points:
    1. The “deniers” mostly talk science in debates while the “believers” quote ‘scientific consensus’ and insult their opponents or accuse them interested motives.

    2. The members of a research team, employed by industry, would soon lose their jobs if their research pointed to results their employers did not like. Similarly scientists working for IPCC and connected institutions investigating anthropomorphic global warming would soon lose their funding if the results of their research showed we had no need to worry about human-related CO2 emissions.

    [DC: I take it you mean anthropogenic global warming, not "antropomorphic".

    I'm not sure from what sources you are deriving your beliefs, but the evidence for AGW in the actual peer-reviewed scientific literature is overwhelming. Perhaps you could tell us what single source or citation you find the most convincing in support of your assertion that "very slight warming will result" from a doubling of CO2. You may be interested in discussions of climate sensitivity at RealClimate.org, such as this one, which discusses Annan and Hargreaves 2006 GRL paper (central estimate of 2.9C from CO2 doubling).

    Above, I have supplied but a small sample of Monckton's ad hominem invective which goes beyond "insults" and represents in fact unspeakably reprehensible slander against the whole climate science community. And there are many other "deniers" who employ similar rhetoric of scientific fraud or misconduct, such as Tim Ball or Steve McIntyre.

    On the other hand, blogs such as RealClimate.org provide excellent discussion of the scientific issues, with a minimum of rhetoric. Even my humble efforts concentrate on "following the science" as often as not, and I would submit are much closer to the mark than Monckton. And when I do "follow the money" and make accusations of "interested motives", they are based on actual evidence. That's an important distinction as far as I'm concerned.

    You appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the structure of the IPCC. The scientist authors of the IPCC reports are not employed by the IPCC. Rather the IPCC reports represent a compendium of all the relevant scientific literature, summarized by the leading climate scientists of the world.]

  15. And, if I might add to the very accurate information provided by DC, above.

    One: don’t get your scientific information from the blogosphere, which is about the only place left on Earth where there might seem like there is an argument about the correctness of scientific view about AGW. There is no debate in the scientific literature, which unequivocally falls in line with the consensus (but is often more worrying than the IPCC views).

    Research grants to the deniers are provided by those with an overt agenda, frequently the oil and gas industry or front groups funded by them. These groups are clear that they exist to derail responses to AGW.

    Conversely, science in general, is funded by public granting agencies that are very clear that they fund only excellent science and do not further an agenda. Unless you believe that the whole world is in on some kind of conspiracy, that is, which would be an interesting new take on conspiracy theories. That science is synthesized by the monumental efforts of the IPCC, who summarize ALL science published in the peer-reviewed literature, not just the stuff that Greenpeace wishes they would cover. If they did not do such a comprehensive job, Saudi Arabia, the US, China, Canada, etc. would never agree to endorse their findings.

    This brings me to the most important point: there is fortune and glory for any scientist who can find an alternative explanation for the masses of independent observational evidence consistent with AGW. I think it’s fair to say that we would really like to be wrong about this science and find it was all a false alarm. The problem is, that this as yet undiscovered alternative explanation actually has to be plausible, and that is where the nonsense routinely coming from Monckton and his ilk falls down. Reason and evidence indicate, rather mercilessly, that the consensus view is correct and virtually all new evidence being published daily in the peer-reviewed journals around the world make that consensus stronger and more precise.

    If Choi and Lindzen, for example, manage to publish a contrarian paper in the peer-reviewed literature, and they’re right, their views will propagate because their results will lead to better predictions than the previous approaches. But, if by some strange twist of fate, they are incorrect, well science isn’t perfect but is generally very, very good as self-correction. In that case, their paper will be refuted or fade away as a simple mistake.

    “Successful prediction is the best evidence that science has an objective grip on reality.” -Gottfried and Wilson 1997 (Nature).

    (BTW, how many times do people like Monckton and Ball have to be caught lying publicly before people stop defaulting to the view that they are always telling the truth? 10 times? 50 times? Really, IS there a threshold? The answer to this question, which I think is “There is no limit”, is very informative about the true nature of climate change contrarianism. It’s a political/sociological phenomenon, not a scientific one. The phenomenon allows those with Monckton’s or Ball’s flavour of personality disorder to flourish when they could never do so, and demonstrably never did so, as scientists. )

  16. I think people need to understand that climate change numerical prediction is still a research topic. Each IPCC report is very different from the previous. An example is in the radiative forcings which change from report to report. If the science of climate change was settled there would be no need to publish these reports. I invite those interested in the climate change debate to view on the internet the WCC3 conference which took place in Geneva in August/September this year. Observe the stricking difference in the level of alarmism between the politicians and the quasi-humility of the climate modellers describing the uncertainties in predicting the natural multi-decadal phenomenon which are greatly influenced by ocean circulation. Mojib Latif suggests, as other climate modellers, that decadal variations could explain the variations in Sahel rainfall, or the variations in Atlantic hurricane activity or sea level. In one of his slides he asks “‘how much did internal decadal variability contribute to the warming during the recent decades ?”‘. He then writes”we need climate observations to initialize the models to forecast variations up to decadal time scales”. He concludes by writing “we need good models. Biases in climate models are still large. Why is there such a difference in tone between the climate modellers who make the predictions and the politicians announcing a climate apocalypse ?

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

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

  19. Pingback: Greenhoof » Blog Archive » Third Viscount Monckton of Benchmark Crude

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