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.
First, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And then I checked the date at the top of the screen to make sure I hadn’t stumbled across a leftover April Fool’s joke.
But the date read “July 15, 2010”. And the headline of the National Post’s lead opinion piece still read forthrightly:
Bad science: Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause
The piece itself, by longtime Post columnist Jonathan Kay, is as forthright an excoriation of “climate-change deniers” (his term) as I’ve read anywhere. And, unlike previous (and very occasional) token AGW commentators, Kay is a National Post insider, who happens to be comment pages editor. Indeed, there are intriguing indications that the Post’s treatment of the climate change issue may be undergoing a shift, although it’s too early to say how far it will go.
Terence Corcoran may well have just unleashed the National Post’s biggest whopper yet about climate science – and that’s saying something.
Corcoran’s commentary on the recent Russell “climategate” email review lays one error-laden defamation on top of another, as he attempts to demonstrate that the report “provides plenty of evidence that climate science has been and remains an uncertain shambles”. Oh, and apparently the review “portrays climate science as a field filled with uncertainty, debate, lack of openness, data hoarding and ill-will.”
Along the way, Corcoran even manages to confuse a little known Phil Jones graphic with Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” millenial temperature reconstruction. This leads to the astonishing (and entirely wrong) accusation that the hockey stick creators “eliminated some of the data from 1960 forward … and then spliced on actual temperature data”. Yet neither the “hockey stick” graph (the real one) nor the associated Mann et al study are mentioned in the report at all!
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.
Those who follow various media battles about climate science and policy are undoubtedly familiar with the nonsensical and scurrilous commentary to be found in the Wall Street Journal, and even in major dailies like the Washington Post. But no other North American daily newspaper can come close to the Canadian contrarian newspaper of record for intellectual dishonesty, factual distortion and sheer volume of misinformation.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Toronto-based National Post, which provides a home to such climate “experts” as Lorne Gunter, Peter Foster and Terence Corcoran, as well as a platform for notable Canadian contrarians such as faux-environmentalist Lawrence Solomon (of “The Deniers” fame) and economist and climate gadfly Ross McKitrick.
As the Post spews forth ever-mounting volleys of falsehoods on its FP Comment page in its shrieking campaign against the “Copenhagen Catastrophe”, it is worth reviewing the history of the Post’s climate hysteria, whose roots go right back to the newspaper’s founding in 1998.
Eminent retired physicist Freeman Dyson is perhaps the most prominent scientist to oppose publicly the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. But the widespread controversy that peaked after Nicholas Dawidoff’s New York Times Magazine cover feature on Dyson has thus far glossed over some inconvenient facts and questions about Dyson’s participation in recent anti-AGW petition projects organized by Canada’s leading climate disinformation PR operative, Tom Harris. These include the Bali Open Letter released toward the end of the December, 2007 at the UN Climate Change conference in Bali, and the Manhattan Declaration, released in March, 2008 at the Heartland Institute’s first International Climate Change Conference.