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:
- Toronto, Ontario: September 29 at the Intercontinental Hotel (Economic Club of Toronto)
- Ottawa, Ontario: September 30 at the Westin Hotel (Economic Club of Canada, a.k.a. Economic Club of Toronto)
- Calgary, Alberta: October 1, Westin Hotel (Calgary Chamber of Commerce)
- Calgary, Alberta: October 1, Speaker’s evening at the Ranchmen’s Club (members only).
- Calgary, Alberta: October 2, private meetings (as noted at this Friends of Science tour Summary)
- Vancouver, British Columbia: October 6 at the Fraser Institute Main Boardroom (Fraser Institute)
- Regina, Saskatchewan: October 7 at the Delta Regina (Frontier Centre for Public Policy)
- Winnipeg, Manitoba: October 8 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre (Frontier Centre for Public Policy)
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.