Category Archives: Climate science disinformation

Tom Harris, Heartland and the 2007 Bali open letter to the U.N.

Tom Harris

There has been renewed scrutiny of climate contrarian PR specialist Tom Harris in the wake of a highly critical report on a controversial course Harris taught at Carleton University, most recently in 2011. Much of the current interest in Harris has naturally focused on his involvement with the Heartland Institute, itself very much in the news following the leak of detailed budget and fundraising plans (accompanied by a suspect two-page strategy memo).

Today I’ll take a close look at the beginning of the Harris-Heartland connection in 2007, based on Heartland’s publicly available 2007 tax declaration and December 2007 press releases, as well as the illuminating full recorded interview of Harris by Suzanne Goldberg of the Guardian. Taken together, these provide compelling evidence that Heartland funded Tom Harris’s Natural Resource Stewardship Project right around the time that Harris was organizing the Bali contrarian petition attacking climate science, part of a broader attempt by Heartland to disrupt the December 2007 UNFCCC conference.

National Post financial editor Terence Corcoran essentially provided Harris the sole (but very powerful) PR channel for the petition, while hiding Harris’s involvement, a fact that the Post has never publicly acknowledged to this day. Now that it turns out that the effort was likely funded by the Heartland Institute, the Post’s credibility has been compromised even further.

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Open Thread, March-April 2012

Some possible topics that have come up in other threads:

1) CASS has issued a critique of Tom Harris‘s Carleton University climate change course (press release and full report), detailing “142 erroneous and fully-quoted claims”. This was covered by the Guardian (Suzanne Goldenberg), Post Media (Mike de Souza) and CBC. [h/t Holly Stick]

2) The Virginia Supreme Court has shot down Ken Cuccinelli’s CID fishing expedition seeking a broad swathe of material from Michael Mann’s time at University of Virginia. [The NCSE account and analysis of this development is now online – h/t Snapple]. Presumably, the focus will now be on the American Tradition Institute’s abusive efforts to get their hands on all of Mann’s UVa emails (as I recall they already have been given those they were entitled to). [h/t Rattus Norvegicus]

3) James Annan weighs in on Peter Gleick (and adds more in comments, expressing doubts about Gleick’s story concerning the Climate Strategy document. ).[h/t Gryposaurus with some replies as well (but that thread is really, really long now).]

Or anything else that comes up …

GMU contradictory decisions on Wegman: Plagiarism in CSDA, but not in 2006 congressional report

[Updates, Feb. 23-24: I have added extensive discussion “below the fold”, starting with the section entitled GMU Process. The summary has been updated with additional links to side-by-side comparisons  to enable readers to make their own judgments.]

Dan Vergano of USA Today reports on an “all faculty” announcement from George Mason University concerning the outcome of two faculty committee  investigations of plagiarism charges against GMU statistics professor Edward Wegman.

One investigation concerned a 20o8 article by Wegman protege Yasmin Said, Wegman himself and two others in Computational Statistics & Data Analysis (CSDA). The committee upheld CSDAs previous plagiarism finding; as “team leader”, Wegman was found to bear responsibility and has been asked to retract the article and apologize to CSDA’s editor. GMU has also issued an official letter of reprimand confirming that finding of research misconduct.

A separate GMU committee investigated the 2006 congressional report commonly known as the Wegman Report, a critique of the Mann-Bradley-Hughes “hockey stick” reconstruction. That investigation held that “no scientific misconduct was involved”,  only “extensive paraphrasing of another work” that was “referenced repeatedly”.  [That finding holds that there was no plagiarism in Wegman Report background material derived from Raymond Bradley’s Paleoclimatolgy; readers may judge side-by-side comparisons of the passages on tree-rings and ice core and coral proxies for themselves].  However, in a bizarre twist, it appears that the committee did not even consider side-by-side comparison of the Wegman Report’s long and unreferenced background section on social network analysis, part of which was reused in the later CSDA article and gave rise to the plagiarism finding in the other GMU case!

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Heartland’s “Anonymous Donor”?

In the wake of the leak of several apparently official documents from the Heartland Institute (along with one highly disputed two-page memo), much speculation has focused on the identity of an anonymous donor who has reportedly donated more than $13 million to Heartland in the last six years.

A number of possibilities have been put forward over the last days, but a clear front runner has emerged as Heartland’s likely primary donor. And the winner is …

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Heartland Institute budget and strategy revealed

[Update Feb. 15.  John Mashey has released a very timely report on Heartland and SEPP, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax, at Desmogblog (PDF 5Mb) with  summaries from Richard Littlemore,  and Mashey himself.]

[Update Feb. 15. Several news outles (e.g. the Guardian) are reporting that Heartland  has branded one of the Heartland documents, the 2012 Climate Strategy, to be a forgery. (See also the Heartland press release).  Since its authenticity is in question, I have decided to remove quotes from it as well as the link to that particular document. The Heartland projects discussed remain the same. I have removed one paragraph quoting the “expanded communication strategy”.]

[Update Feb. 23. On Feruary 20, Peter Gleick, head of the Pacific Institute, admitted to using deception to obtain the Heartland documents and has apologized for doing so. He says he did so in a misguided effort to confirm details in the controversial Climate Strategy memo that he had received anonymously in the mail. For its part, Heartland branded Gleick’s story as “unbelievable”, implicitly accusing him of having forged the document. ]


DesmogBlog today released an archive of Heartland Institute budget and  strategy documents apparently leaked by someone with high level access.

An anonymous donor calling him (or her)self “Heartland Insider” has released the Heartland Institute’s budget, fundraising plan, its Climate Strategy for 2012 and sundry other documents (all attached) that prove all of the worst allegations that have been levelled against the organization.

The documents give a clear picture of Heartland money flows, showing exact amounts being paid to Heartland employees, and more importantly, the scientists involved in the ongoing NIPCC effort to disrupt the forthcoming IPCC AR5.

Heartland’s  list of  major projects also includes a new K-12 “global warming curriculum”.   The curriculum will promote the idea  that anthropogenic climate change is  a “major scientific controversy”, and seems to steer clear of the actual science.

Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”), climate models (“models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).

This “teach the controversy” approach (as opposed to teaching the actual science)  seems similar to  the anti-science effort of the Fraser Institute a couple of years back.

And most of Heartland’s funding sources have now been laid bare, with the notable exception of the  tightly guarded identity of a single “anonymous donor” who has given $13 million over the last five years. Other donors range from the Charles Koch foundation down through several recognizable tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, and even Microsoft.

Here are three  two of the most important released documents, with some highlights from each.

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Environment Canada and NRTEE versus the Fraser Institute: An issue of quality

The Fraser Institute recently issued a report on Canadian air quality that achieved moderate coverage, but little critical scrutiny  (apart from a devastating critique from the Suzuki Foundation). In Canadian Environmental Indicators – Air Quality, Fraser Senior Economic Researcher Joel Wood claims that concentrations of five major pollutants, including the particularly worrying duo of fine particulate matter and ground level ozone, are in decline. Wood even accuses ENGOs and the Canadian Medical Association of trying to “scare” the public with claims that are “exaggerated or outright wrong”, particularly in their concerns about ozone.

But in a shocking development (or perhaps not), it turns out that Environment Canada’s official air quality indicator for ozone shows a statistically significant worsening over the last two decades, while both fine particulate matter and ozone show no significant trend in the last decade. The Environment Canada indicators, the very existence of which appears to have been totally missed by Wood and the various reviewers of his work, are based on complete warm season averages weighted by population, and thus provide a much better indicator than Wood’s ad hoc analysis.

This same ineptitude can also be seen in Wood’s short climate policy analyses, where he gets the basics totally wrong, while questioning the validity of climate science itself. Thus the ignorance, incompetence and bias of  Canada’s self-styled “leading public policy think tank” is demonstrated once again.

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Open Thread, February 2012

Here are a couple of items currently in the news.

Fallout from the Wall Street Journal 16 op-ed continues. The Journal printed a response from actual climate scientists, apparently drafted by NCAR scientists Kevin Trenberth. Meanwhile Patrick Michaels weighs in at Forbes.

There are many other takedowns of the WSJ 16 piece out there; here is one from Media Matters.

There has also been a ragged rollout of the plan for a more rigourous oil sands monitoring program, with attendant confusion about whether there will be independent governance. As far as I can tell, Alberta is willing to go along with this in order to ensure the program’s credibility, but the federal environment minister Peter Kent seems cool to the idea.

Joe Oliver recycles debunked talking points on oilsands emissions, refuses to accept climate science

Recently I noted that planned expansion of  the Alberta oil sands can not possibly be reconciled with the Harper government’s promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions  over the next few decades. (And Simon Fraser climate policy researcher Mark Jaccard apparently agrees). And I also exposed the ever mounting number of evident links between the Conservative government, including Natural Resources Minister  Joe Oliver, and the pro-oilsands PR group (a.k.a the Ethical Oil Institute).

From: Quesnel Cariboo-Sentinel

Now Oliver has upped the ante on both contentions spectacularly. Answering questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie in the Canadian Parliament today, Oliver repeated a previously debunked claim that oil sands emissions (not intensity, but actual emissions) have fallen. And he implied that emission intensity (i.e. GHGs per barrel) continues to fall. Those same mistaken assertions were also made by former Ethical Oil executive director Alykhan Velshi in the ironically titled “Myths and Lies” section of, albeit with incomplete hasty corrections later on. And Oliver never did come clean on his understanding of climate science, doing little to reverse the impression that anti-science contrarians have gained a significant foothold in Ottawa, and that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have no intention of meeting their climate commitments.

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Mark Jaccard calls out Stephen Harper on oil sands

Mark Jaccard is arguably Canada’s foremost climate policy researcher. He was a key architect of British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell’s landmark climate change program, featuring North America’s first comprehensive escalating carbon tax. And he led  a comprehensive 2007 modeling study, Climate Leadership, Economic Prosperity that  detailed the path for Canada to meet, or even exceed, its GHG emissions target for 2020.

So when Jaccard has something to say, politicians and interested citizens on all sides of the climate policy debate generally listen. And Jaccard is speaking out  against the Northern Gateway pipeline, stating in no uncertain times that ongoing expansion of the Alberta oil sands, including its proposed network of pipelines, can not be reconciled with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promises and commitments to mitigate climate change.

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Open Thread, January 2012

A couple of timely topics suggest themselves:

1) The Keystone XL application has been turned down by the Obama administration, but the applicant Trans Canada has been invited to reapply and will do so. In other words, a final decision has been delayed until 2013, which was the situation before the Republicans tried to force the issue.

2) Hansen et al have released their  2011 review, “Global Temperature in 2011, Trends, and Prospects”.