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.
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.
Here is the first of an occasional series that will look back at the origins of various major players among Canada’s climate contrarians. And, quite appropriately, the honour of inauguration belongs to none other than our old, um, acquaintances, Friends of Science.
For the first time, we can confirm both financial and logistical support from an Albertan oil company, Talisman Energy, along with circumstantial evidence of the early involvement of a second, Imperial Oil (ExxonMobil’s Canadian subsidiary). We’ll also look at the key roles played by the de Freitas brothers, geologist Tim and climate skeptic Chris. And the story leads right to the heart of a key controversy reignited by the stolen CRU emails, namely the ongoing perversion of the scientific peer review system by “skeptic” scientists.
In my first post on the ongoing McLean et al (2009) kerfuffle, I discussed the role of the various lobby groups in promoting and exaggerating the findings of this abysmal paper. Chief among these, of course, are the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (New Zealand CSC) and its “big brother”, the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).
Today I’ll focus on various connections between the New Zealand CSC, the ICSC, and ACT New Zealand, a staunchly libertarian and anti-science political party with five seats in the New Zealand legislature.
And it turns out those links lead straight back to none other than Alan Gibbs, one of New Zealand’s wealthiest and most famous businessmen. All of this, of course, raises fundamental questions and concerns about the sources of Coalition funding.
Posted in Climate change "skeptics", Climate science disinformation
Tagged ACT New Zealand, ACT Party, Alan Gibbs, Bob Carter, ICSC, International Climate Science Coalition, New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, New Zealand CSC, Rodney Hind, Tom Harris
A raging controversy, one almost as hot as the record-breaking heat wave on the North American west coast, has broken out over a recent paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Atmospheres), a peer-reviewed periodical published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
Authors John McLean, Chris de Freitas and Bob Carter all have a long history of links to climate disinformation groups and associated PR campaigns (many of which lead back to Canadian spinmeister Tom Harris, director of the International Climate Science Coalition).
Now the trio have claimed that their analysis demonstrates that global warming is primarily a result of natural processes with little role for anthropogenic influences such as greenhouse gases.
A barrage of criticism has forced the authors and their champions to backpedal furiously. Along the way, a PDF of the paper has been removed from the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC) website, presumably to rectify an egregious copyright breach. Even worse, the NZCSC parent affiliate, the above-mentioned International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), was caught substituting its preferred title for the actual one in its link to the paper.
And, of course, a look at the actual data clearly shows that the trio’s touted source of global warming, namely a 1976 “shift” in the El Nino Southern Oscillation (or ENSO), can not possibly account for the recent upward trend in temperatures. All this raises serious questions about JGR’s editorial processes, and leads to the inevitable conclusion that the paper should be withdrawn.
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.
The “climate change skeptic” right-wing think tank Heartland Institute has been quietly updating its list of almost 60 speakers for the second annual International Conference on Climate Change to be held in New York this March – and Canadian skeptics are front and centre. And in at least two cases, the official affiliations listed for speakers appear unlikely to be bona fide.
Last year’s inaugural event was derided by climate scientists as a PR sham masquerading as a scientific conference. Conference speakers, most of whom are not practicing climate scientists, are paid a generous honorarium and all travel expenses. Funding sources are not disclosed, but the Heartland Institute has received $676,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
This year’s meeting will feature first time invitee Stephen McIntyre, founder of the popular ClimateAudit blog, as one of six headliners. McIntyre is described by Heartland as a “devastating critic of the temperature record of the past 1,000 years”, but has published only one peer-reviewed article in a recognized science journal.
Interestingly, McIntyre’s listed affiliation is with the University of Toronto. McIntyre’s connection to the University is unclear, although he does apparently have a University email address.
Among the other five confirmed Canadian speakers, undoubtedly the most controversial is Lawrence Solomon, listed as affiliated with the National Post, a national Canadian daily newspaper. Solomon is the author of The Deniers, a book based on a long series of individual profiles written for the Post. He has recently launched attacks in the Post on Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, as seen here and here. Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a non-profit group that “works for environmental sustainability by promoting property rights.” (Closer scrutiny of this group is clearly warranted, but will have to wait for a future post).