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.
The well-timed release of the stolen CRU emails (a.k.a. Climategate) did much to enhance public awareness of self-appointed climate science auditor Steve McIntyre and his long-time co-author and promoter, economist Ross McKitrick. Indeed, the pair has finally recieved widespread coverage in their native Canada with a spate of mainstream profiles full of fawning admiration from the CanWest newspaper chain, McLean’s magazine and the Toronto Star. That’s on top of new interest from the likes of Associated Press and CNN, along with coverage from the usual biased sources like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.
Those stories tell the tale of a humble retired mining executive (McIntyre), whose analysis of the “hockey stick” temperature reconstruction got the attention of economist Ross McKitrick, and eventually shook all of climate science to its core. Of course, the reporters seem blissfully unaware that McIntyre and McKitrick have published exactly one – that’s right, uno – peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal. (Besides the pair’s 2005 GRL article, Ross McKitrick’s misleading list of so-called “peer-reviewed science journal articles” also includes two pieces in the contrarian social science journal Energy and Environment, a comment letter to PNAS and a pair of replies to comments on the GRL article!)
Even worse, the writers appear to have relied on McIntyre himself to supply the context of his improbable rise (always a dodgy proposition where McIntyre is concerned). But McIntyre’s thin publication record suggests that his prominence has less to do with any compelling scientific analysis, and much more to do with astute promotion. And, indeed, the McIntyre-McKitrick saga turns out to have the usual supporting cast of anti-science propaganda: two notorious right-wing think tanks (the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the George Marshall Institute) and a deft fossil-fuel company funded PR veteran operating behind the scenes (none other than Tom Harris of APCO Worldwide).
It’s deja vu all over again.
The contrarian hysteria ratcheting ever upward as a key United Nations climate conference gets underway is depressingly familiar. A case in point is the Canadian National Post’s relentless drum beat of pseudo-scientific half-truths, outright falsehoods and ideological invective, all under the hyperbolic title of Countdown to Catastrophe Copenhagen.
The National Post’s coverage of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chamge) Bali conference two years ago was not quite as elaborate, but did feature one particularly disturbing instance of contrarian boosterism, the infamous Bali open letter.
The full story, told here for the first time, shows how editor and skeptic cheerleader Terence Corcoran crossed the line from opinionated commentary to active participation in a shadowy public relations stunt aimed at scuttling the Bali negotiations. And complaisant editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly went along with the charade, not even bothering to force Corcoran to reveal the key involvement of longtime disinformation specialist Tom Harris and his “astroturf” Natural Resources Stewardship Project.
As many readers may already know, the Friends of Science radio ad campaign, first reported here back in July, has finally hit Canadian airwaves (hat tip to Kevin Grandia at Desmogblog). Unsurprisingly, the ads are full-on, unsophisticated attacks on climate science, complete with hardline contrarian nonsense about current global “cooling” and the pre-eminient role of the sun.
The ads also highlight the acquiescence of one of Canada’s foremost media outlets, Corus Radio, in the spread of palpable misinformation about climate change. Not only that, but the new campaign renews questions about Friends of Science funding and the hidden role of public relations professionals. And those questions lead straight back to the Calgary Foundation’s oil-patch funded Science Education Fund, and longtime climate contrarian PR specialist (and Conservative activist) Morten Paulsen.
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.]
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.
A couple of days ago, I posted about economist Alan Carlin’s “suppressed” report on the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas endangerment finding. Not only was the report a pastiche of warmed over contrarian talking points attacking the scientific consensus on climate change, but at least one entire section had been lifted almost whole from longtime disinformation specialist Pat Michaels’ World Climate Report (WCR).
Now further study reveals an even more shocking connection: the “suppressed” Carlin report appears to have been inspired by, and largely lifted from, an attack on the EPA published last November in climate science disinformation specialist Patrick Michaels’ World Climate Report. And all this came without any attribution of the large swathes of copied material to WCR or the original author (presumably either Michaels or sidekick Chip Knappenberger).