Environment/Nature

Tom Harris – hypocritical peddler of deceitful climate change editorials (corrected)

Eight related commentaries written by Tom Harris of the International Climate Science Coalition since mid-December are packed them with distortions, errors, hypocrisy, and more.

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

For the other posts in this series, click here.

[Update 2/21/2014: A word in one of Tom’s commentaries was confused by the author – “censure” was confused for “censor.” Since the entire section was based on this error, it has been struck from the post]

Starting in the middle of December, 2014 and continuing through February, 2015, Tom Harris, Executive Director of the industrial climate disruptionA denying International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), wrote at least eight nearly identical commentaries. They were published mostly in small local newspapers and websites around the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The stated purpose of the commentaries was to call for scholars and philosophers to engage in the public argument over climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change), and Harris wrote that “philosophers and other intellectuals have an ethical obligation to speak out loudly when they see fundamental errors in thinking6.” As S&R hosts an occasional feature called “Climate Illogic,” we accepted Harris’ invitation and looked through his own commentaries for illogical arguments as well as other issues of concern.

As a result of our review, S&R identified five major areas of concern and a troubling observation. First, Harris engages in what is known as “tone trolling,” attempting to distract from an argument by complaining that the language or tactics used by the debaters is offensive. Second, Harris misidentifies many logical errors he alleges are made by others and he commits several logical fallacies of his own. Third, he misunderstands how science can legitimately draw conclusions that are “unequivocal” and discover “truth.” Fourth, he demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of the scientific method in general, the state of climate science in particular, and the differing levels of expertise between climate disruption deniersB and climate realistsC. Fifth, Harris’ commentaries are found to be less about fixing the tone of a supposedly broken debate and more about undermining climate scientists, poisoning the well against any logic experts who actually engage in the discussion, and derailing the discussion as much as possible. Finally, S&R reviews the fundamental asymmetries between climate realists and climate disruption deniers and how those asymmetries enable Harris and his peers to regularly produce distortion-filled commentaries like these.

False equivalence, hypocrisy, and tone trolling in Harris’ gripes about the so-called “climate debate”

Harris opens his wide ranging broadside against the perceived evils of the public discussion regarding climate disruption with an allegation that the tone and tactics used by climate realists have supposedly driven participants out of the public square. Harris writes that “Today, many of the world’s leaders in science, engineering and other relevant disciplines will not comment publicly about climate change,” presumably due to “fear of retribution1.” However, he provides only three specific examples throughout the commentaries reviewed by S&R – supposed death threats made against climate disruption deniers, deniers being labeled “anti-science shills” or “religious fundamentalists,6” and censorship. In combination, his allegations combine to represent a prime example of tone trolling, which is itself a type of red herring logical fallacy.

The false equivalence of death threats

There is no doubt that, as Harris wrote, “Death threats and other abuses have been experienced by those on both sides of the controversy.5” There are many examples of climate scientists who have had threats of violence directed at them or their families. S&R searched online for evidence that climate disruption deniers had had their lives or property threatened and found that there were only a few examples of violent threats aimed at specific individuals. The Daily Telegraph reported in 2006 that Tim Ball (an associated of Harris’ at the ICSC) had received a total of five threats. There were a few examples of death threats against journalists, commentators, and politicians who deny the reality of climate disruption as well, but such threats are an unsurprising, if deplorable, part of life for public figures and journalists who report on topics of great public interest. By far the largest number of “threats” identified were calls by climate activists to criminalize, prosecute, and punish the denial of climate disruption. For example, a May 2014 story in the conservative website Newsbusters found that Canadian climate scientist and activist David Suzuki had called for the arrest and jailing of climate disruption deniers and that James Hanson had called such denial “high crimes against humanity.” Only a few activists went so far as to call for death sentences or made Nazi comparisons, and in those cases the activists later apologized for their inflammatory language.

Michael Mann (The Penn Stater)

Michael Mann (The Penn Stater)

In contrast, Popular Science reported in 2012 how Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University received a white powder in an envelope that the FBI later determined was not anthrax, but rather corn starch. Marc Morano has a habit of abetting threats against climate scientists by posting their emails at his website Climate Depot, and this has resulted in death threats being emailed to at least two scientists – Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech and Kerry Emanuel of MIT, and S&R has seen copies of threats received by other scientists involved in climate-related research over the years. Officials at the Australian National University were sufficiently concerned about emailed threats and conference attendees holding up nooses to visiting scholars in 2011 that they moved the targeted scientists to a building that required ID cards to access.

There are three significant differences between the nature of the threats levied against climate disruption deniers and those levied against climate realists. First, the target of the threats is quite different between the two different groups. When climate disruption deniers are threatened, the threats are levied almost exclusively against people who, unfortunately, should probably expect to get threats from time to time – commentators or politicians advocating for specific policies via large media outlets or journalists reporting on topics of great public interest. When climate realists are threatened, however, the threats are nearly always made against private citizens, usually scientists, who would not normally be in a position where threats should be considered an unfortunate side effect of their job.

Second, when climate disruption deniers are threatened, the threats are usually calls for the criminalization of their denial. Criminalization necessarily requires public engagement, legislation, legal action, grand juries, and trials. In other words, the threats against climate disruption deniers nearly always involve due process under the law. Threats against climate scientists, on the other hand, tend to be extra-judicial threats of violence against the scientists and/or their families. There is no due process mentioned or implied, and thus the threats are both more immediate and more intimidating.

Finally, climate disruption denial tends to be more common among political conservatives and libertarians, while climate realism tends to be most common among political moderates, independents, and liberals. Historically, when liberals commit political violence, it is usually directed against organizations and property rather than people. Political violence committed by conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, tends to be directed against individuals. Given these differences, death threats made against climate realists are more likely to be legitimate threats than those made against climate disruption deniers.

Harris’ concerns about death threats against all parties are commendable, but they also represent a false equivalence. He’s trying to say “everyone’s at fault” when in fact climate disruption deniers are more culpable than climate realists.

David Suzuki’s “personal attacks” on climate disruption deniers

Harris has also complained that the subject of climate disruption is filled with “defamation1” and that experts are afraid of being “labeled scaremongers or deniers, or being funded by special-interest groups or not caring about the poor7.” There’s no question that these and similar terms have been applied against both climate disruption deniers and climate realists, yet Harris provided only one specific example in one of his commentaries. Specifically, Harris wrote that David Suzuki labeled attendees at the Heartland Institute-organized 9th International Climate Change Conference (ICCC) in July 2014 as “fossil fuel industry supporters and anti-science shills” and “religious fundamentalists whose ‘worldview predetermines their approach to the science’6” of climate disruption. The problem with Harris’ claims is that the “personal attacks” Suzuki made in August 2014 are factual, and by definition the truth can not be defamatory.

Dr. David Suzuki (David Suzuki Foundation)

Dr. David Suzuki (David Suzuki Foundation)

In his August 7 blog Suzuki wrote that the ICCC speakers represented a “who’s who of fossil fuel industry supporters and anti-science shills,” just as Harris claimed. While Suzuki did not provide proof that the labels were justified, Media Matters for America generated short bios for each of the speakers which show that a significant number of the speakers did qualify as “fossil fuel industry supporters.” For example, James L. Johnston, Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute, is a retired economist for Amoco. Marlo Lewis is a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank that has been funded heavily by fossil fuel interests for years. Tom Harris himself used to energy industry lobbyingbe the Director of operations-Ottawa for the High Park Group (ED: Corrected). Craig Idso has connections to the largest private coal company in the world, Peabody Energy. Patrick Michaels estimated in 2010 that about 40% of his work is paid for by oil companies. At least 23 of the 61 ICCC speakers (nearly 40%) did or had worked for energy companies and/or energy industry funded think-tanks and public relations firms, so it’s a fairly accurate to claim that the speakers actually did represent a “who’s who of fossil fuel industry supporters.”

The Media Matters bios also demonstrate that the label of “anti-science” applies to many of the ICCC speakers. Joe Bastardi has claimed that climate change violates thermodynamics (it doesn’t). Craig Idso thinks that more carbon dioxide (CO2) is good for plants but ignores the fact that plants also need water and nitrogen, two things that are likely to limit plants’ ability to use the extra CO2. Nils-Axel Mörner claims to be able to dowse water. Anthony Watts has written extensively that the US temperature record is “unreliable” and has yet to retract those statements even though his claims have been thoroughly and repeatedly disproved. Bob Armstrong has written that Venus’ surface temperature is not due to a runaway greenhouse effect but rather due to atmospheric pressure (interactions with Bob here at S&R led to the five-part Venus series that thoroughly debunked many of his pseudoscientific claims). And S. Fred Singer has been attacking ideologically inconvenient science for decades including CFCs vis-a-vis ozone depletion, second-hand tobacco smoke, and most recently industrial climate disruption.

Peter Ferrara (YouTube)

Peter Ferrara (YouTube)

As for the “shill” label, it’s usually difficult to prove that someone wrote a blog or commentary specifically because they were paid to, but at least one of the ICCC speakers has admitted to being a shill. During the Jack Abramoff scandal, BusinessWeek outed Peter Ferrara (who is associated with Heartland and blogs at Forbes) as having been paid to write columns, telling the magazine “I do that all the time … I’ve done that in the past, and I’ll do it in the future.” And Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation and Ferrara’s employer at the time, told BusinessWeek that he had “a sense that there are a lot of people at think tanks who have similar arrangements.” Giovanetti and Ferrara felt that being paid to write op-eds and commentaries was ethical so long as you actually believed what you were writing. The dictionary definition of “shill” has nothing about whether or not the author believes what their paid to write – only that they’re paid to write it. Regardless of Harris’ opinion of the matter, there is documented proof that one ICCC speaker was, indeed, a shill.

Harris also took exception to Suzuki’s supposed characterization of several scientists as “religious fundamentalists whose ‘worldview predetermines their approach to the science.’6” Suzuki never characterized ICCC speakers as “religious fundamentalists” – those are Harris’ words. Here’s the entire quote from Suzuki’s blog:

Many attacks came from fellow Christians unable to accept that humans can affect “God’s creation”. That’s a belief held even by a few well-known scientists and others held up as climate experts, including Roy Spencer, David Legates and Canadian economist Ross McKitrick. They’ve signed the Cornwall Alliance’s Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” This worldview predetermines their approach to the science.

To better understand why Suzuki thinks that signers of the Declaration have a worldview that predetermines their approach to science it’s necessary to consider the basis of the Declaration itself, a document called “A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor” (aka Renewed Call).

(Cornwall Alliance)

(Cornwall Alliance)

Renewed Call is a three chapter document that purports to address the theology, science, and economics of climate disruption. The theology chapter talks at length about how climate disruption cannot be caused by human activity, and perhaps doesn’t even exist, all because the Bible says so. For example, one section of the theology chapter titled “The Robustness of Creation” starts with the following:

A crucial element of the environmentalist worldview is that Earth and its habitats and inhabitants are extremely fragile and likely to suffer severe, even irreversible damage from human action. That view contradicts Genesis 1:31. It is difficult to imagine how God could have called “very good” the habitat of humanity’s vocation in a millennia-long drama if the whole thing were prone to collapse like a house of cards with the least disturbance—like a change in carbon dioxide from 0.027 to 0.039 percent of the atmosphere. (Emphasis original)

The theological argument in a nutshell goes like this: God created the universe and said in Genesis that creation was “very good.” “Very good” means that the Earth is robust and not subject to being significantly altered by greenhouse gases. If the science underlying industrial climate disruption were true, that would contradict God’s declaration that the Earth is “very good.” Since God can’t be wrong, the science must be wrong.

Another example comes from the section called “Divine Promises and Global Warming,” also in the Theology chapter. This section claim that God promised “that flood waters will never again cover the Earth (Genesis 9:11–12, 15–16; Psalm 104:9; Jeremiah 5:22)” and that God’s promises are “difficult to reconcile with fears of catastrophic sea level rise.” This section goes on to say that “While there is evidence that sea level was once much higher than it now is, that evidence is best interpreted in light of the flood of Noah’s day—a never-to-be-repeated, cataclysmic judgment of God that would have been followed by a sudden ice age….” The theological argument goes like this: God promised not to destroy the world with another great flood, but rapid sea level rise like that projected by climate scientists would be very destructive to humanity. Since the projected sea level rise would contradict God’s promises, the projections (and/or the science underlying the projections) must be wrong.

Roy Spencer and David Legates, both of whom acknowledge being evangelical Christians and who wrote/co-wrote Chapter Two of Renewed Call, were specifically identified by Suzuki as scientists whose worldviews predetermine their approach to climate science. If they agree with the theology chapter, then it’s hard to imagine how their evangelical Christianity doesn’t affect their scientific views on climate disruption. In fact, it’s difficult to see how anyone who agrees with the theological arguments described above could have worldview compatible with climate realism. We don’t even need to consider the obvious and gross scientific and logical errors in the two theological arguments presented above. We only need to consider that, in an argument between God and, well, anything – God always wins. The problem is that the phrases “God did it” or “God wouldn’t allow it” are fundamentally anti-scientific and no better than the ancient Greeks claiming that lightning was Zeus’ anger made manifest.

So much for censorship

Finally, Harris alleges in several of his commentaries that climate realists “fan the flames of intolerance, encouraging suppression” of climate disruption deniers. He also alleges that debates about industrial climate disruption are “riddled with censorship.1” While Harris offers no proof of these allegations, his commentaries do represent a prime example of hypocrisy.

In the same commentaries where Harris writes that climate disruption is “riddled with censorship,” he also writes that “[opinion leaders] should invite input from specialists on all sides of the issue and censure anyone who tries to suppress alternative opinions.1” It’s hypocritical of Harris to decry censorship in one paragraph only to call for censorship in the next.

Harris’ commentaries are ostensibly a call for both climate realists and climate disruption deniers to play nice and fight fair. But his distorted narrative falsely equates the personal threats of violence that climate scientists receive with the impersonal threats of criminal prosecution that climate disruption deniers receive. He also falsely berates climate realists for their supposedly attacking and defaming climate disruption deniers while the public record shows that Harris’ only specific examples of alleged attacks were actually factual. And he demonstrates his own hypocrisy by accusing climate realists of censorship while explicitly calling for censorship himself. In combination, Harris’ distorted and wrong complaints about the tone of the climate “debate” suggest that he’s not actually interested in an open and honest debate. Rather, his complaints combine to turn his commentaries into an example of “tone trolling” (a type of red herring logical fallacy). Given Harris is ostensibly calling for a more elevated and logical discussion about climate disruption, relying on a red herring to start his commentaries is not a good way to start.

Unfortunately, S&R will show in Part Two that Harris makes many more illogical arguments throughout his commentaries.

Sources

  1. TOM HARRIS: Taming the climate debate, posted December 6, 2014.
  2. Climate Debate Needs Philosophers’ Unbiased Insights, posted December 9, 2014.
  3. Guest Opinion: Intellectuals should heal, not fuel, toxic climate debate, posted December 10, 2014. NOTE: this guest opinion is identical to source #1 above.
  4. Taming the climate debate – Tom Harris, posted December 11, 2014. NOTE: this letter to the editor is identical to source #1 except for a number of criticisms of David Suzuki.
  5. We need wise men to defang climate debate
  6. My View: Scholars needed for climate debate, posted on January 7, 2015.
  7. Commentary: Philosophers must tame global warming debate, posted on January 13, 2015.
  8. When Will Intellectuals Heal Toxic Climate Change Debate?, posted on February 7, 2015.

Notes

  1. Industrial climate disruption: the position that climate is changing, that the emission of greenhouse gases by human industry is the dominant driver of those changes, and that the changes will almost certainly be disruptive to human society and global ecology
  2. Climate disruption denier: someone who denies that industrial climate disruption is supported by multiple independent lines of evidence and is derived from well established physical laws
  3. Climate realist: someone who accepts the overwhelming data demonstrating that industrial climate disruption is real

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42 replies »

  1. As an aside, I would note the theological arguments themselves are flawed. E.g. God may have created the world “good”, but in the Fall things went bad–disease, pain, sickness enter the world so the world was no longer “good”. Natural disasters now happen, droughts threaten crops, and famine ensues. It makes me wonder if the people who make those theological arguments have actually read that book they keep waving around.

    • Leaving aside the position that anyone believing in the literal truth of the various Abrahamic religions is demonstrably lacking in powers of reason, that (have they read the book) leads to at least these two possibilities:
      1. They have and are engaged in knowingly lying to the public in order to secure money/power/status
      2. They haven’t and are duped into in lying to the public in order to secure money/power/status by, and for, those in #1

    • Awesome observation Andrew.

      BEFORE THE FALL
      ‘Now God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good! The twilight and the dawn were the sixth day.’ Genesis 1:31

      AFTER THE FALL

      Genesis 2:17
      To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

      “Cursed is the ground because of you;
      through painful toil you will eat food from it
      all the days of your life.
      18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
      and you will eat the plants of the field.
      19 By the sweat of your brow
      you will eat your food
      until you return to the ground,
      since from it you were taken;
      for dust you are
      and to dust you will return.”

  2. Before I consider commenting (aside from noting how your headline well illustrates my point about how the language used by many in the climate debate poisons the discussion), I suggest readers of this page read my article FIRST and so get a feeling for what Brian Angliss is getting all worked up about. My piece is actually very measured, even left wing editors agree.

    Here is a version of my article in a very prominent (by Canadian standards) newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator: http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/5257712-errors-in-thinking-are-sabotaging-climate-change-discussion/ .

    BTW, just like David Suzuki, I try to get my pieces published in as many places as possible. I lack his syndication so I need to submit them all one by one, a chore indeed. Why does this bother you (aside from my approach to climate not matching your own, that is)? Or do you not like syndication either?

    Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.)
    Executive Director,
    International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
    P.O. Box 23013
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K2A 4E2
    Canada

    http://www.climatescienceinternational.org

    • Your piece appears very measured, Tom, and I’m not at all surprised that there are a lot of people who have been taken in by it. It’s a masterpiece of false equivalence, illogical arguments, misidentified logical fallacies, poisoning the well against anyone who disagrees with you, distortions of the maturity of scientific foundations of global warming theory, and more. The fact that your commentaries seem so reasonable when they aren’t reasonable at all is precisely why I put so much time into identifying and documenting the problems with it.

      • … or it could be that you realize that my pieces ARE reasonable and that this frightens you so much you had to try to prove them unreasonable for fear that people might actually think about what I am saying and call for open debate about the causes of climate change themselves.

        • So, rather than explain why you aren’t being hypocritical with your censorship comments, you instead create a straw man caricature of me and attack it (and my motive for writing this series) instead of my arguments. For someone who’s supposedly complaining about the illogic of the arguments about climate disruption to date, you sure are committing a lot of fallacies yourself.

        • Yes, Brian, you are right. While my use of “it could be that you realize that my pieces ARE reasonable…” is a far softer straw man argument that is you accusing me of being “a hypocritical peddler of deceitful climate change editorials,” both are logical fallacies, of course. It is easy to slip into responding with fallacies when attacked by people using them. Sorry.

        • Actually, since I intend to prove that you’re hypocritical (in fact, I think I already have) and that your editorials are full of deceptions, referring to you as a “hypocritical peddler of deceitful climate change editorials” is not a straw man at all. Think of it as foreshadowing for the rest of the series.

          Now, if you wanted to accuse me of engaging in an in an ad hominem, well, you’d still be wrong. I certainly understand that you probably feel insulted by the headline, but since I didn’t try to distract from the argument by insulting you, it’s not an ad hominem. I’ll go into that in more detail in Part Two tomorrow.

  3. Please remove the sentence “Tom Harris himself used to do energy industry lobbying for the High Park Group” immediately. It is false. As you could have quickly determined is you bothered to look at Website of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada at http://www.ocl-cal.gc.ca/eic/site/012.nsf/eng/home I am not now, nor have I ever been, a lobbyist for anyone.

    Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.)
    Executive Director,
    International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

    http://www.climatescienceinternational.org

        • I can see where this is headed, so let me make something clear to our new visitors. Our comment policy isn’t like other sites. You have no right to post and nothing is posted automatically. It’s more like a newspaper’s letters to the editor policy. The burden of proof is on the commenter, and the burden is to further an intelligent conversation that leaves readers smarter and better informed. Bad faith, dishonesty, trolling, basic bad behavior, these are among the sins that will not be tolerated.

          Any comment that doesn’t hit this standard will likely be deleted.

      • Brian, you have no need to apologize; you were not incorrect. You’ve merely been hoodwinked by another Tom Harris dodge.

        Notice how careful Tom was to couch his objection by reference to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.

        He tried that trick on me, too, last year.

        It turns out Mr. Harris did indeed work for High Park Group, as Manager at its Ottawa lobbying office. I had to drag this admission from him with a week of close questioning and showing him the evidence available online, showing his address and title at the Ottawa office. While Mr. Harris claims he was not a lobbyist on a technical point, between Tom Harris’ version of the facts, and the version of the facts on the record, I’ll take the facts on the record.

        For shame, Tom. I thought we agreed you wouldn’t do this again?

        • Bart is making up a little story here. As I explained repeatedly in the past when my employment with High Park Group came up:

          I worked for High Park Group out of my basement for 5 months in 2006 as the only employee in the city. I never engaged in lobby work at all and did little more than start to get the business going here before I left the job for NRSP. Perhaps if I had stayed with HPG, I might have eventually done some lobbying work, but that never happened. Bart R is just making up the idea that our Ottawa office was a “lobbying office.”

    • “Bart is making up a little story here.”

      And there we see the hypocrisy and deceit proven. How disingenuous. Not a lobbyist. How insulting of our intelligence. Just set up the Ottawa ‘not a lobbying’ office of a lobbying company within a three minute walk of the nation’s Parliament, one staffed by multiple registered lobbyists.

      I don’t think Tom respects people he is dishonest to. Which would pretty much be a prerequisite for a forthright and productive discussion with him. I suspect Tom isn’t being honest with himself, either.

  4. This para is hilarious – everyone, please read it over again:

    “In the same commentaries where Harris writes that climate disruption is “riddled with censorship,” he also writes that “[opinion leaders] should invite input from specialists on all sides of the issue and censure anyone who tries to suppress alternative opinions.1” It’s hypocritical of Harris to decry censorship in one paragraph only to call for censorship in the next.”

    Yes, I am calling for those who wish to suppress the expression of alternative viewpoints concerning the scientific causes of climate change to be censured by opinion leaders. Except for an ivory tower theoretician of pure logic, out of touch with the how the real world operates (or at least should operate), this makes perfect sense.

    Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.)
    Executive Director,
    International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

    http://www.climatescienceinternational.org

    • I’ve asked my fellow editors to weigh in on whether or not Tom’s donation link crosses the line on our comment policy or not. Since I’m involved in the discussion, it’s not appropriate for me to be part of that decision.

      As for your point about Tom’s MO with respect to his donation links, I don’t believe I am familiar with it in fact.

      • Any argument with Tom is an opportunity for him to peddle his objections to climate science, and promote his website. The actual arguments are irrelevant, because it’s trolling for recognition with no real effort to engage with the facts. There are two parts to this: denial of something (“being a lobbyist” – the Lobbying Commissioner didn’t exist before 2008, so his protestations that he’s not on the list are irrelevant), followed by various claims about different fallacies that Tom believes affect other people’s arguments but never his own. I think his MO could be summarized by “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

        • To say I was a lobbyist requires, if one is honest that is, some evidence of this. None exists since I was never a lobbyist. I don’t even know how to lobby and consider it a waste of time until the public better understand the science, which s why we focus on public education.

        • There’s no real point to focusing on Tom Harris’ role in lobbying; the fact is, it’s clear if he could promote effective lobbying then he would, regardless of the clear science showing the trespass of fossil waste dumping.

          We don’t need to focus on the Atmospheric Physics that clearly demonstrates the Green House Effect of Green House Gases, the positive feedbacks of water vapour and albedo change, the weakening of the jet stream containment of Arctic flows as polar amplification decreases latitude differentials, or the Chaos Theory demonstrations that more extreme climate states will be visited due fossil waste forcing. We don’t need to further know of the effects of ethylene-gibberrellin plant hormone antagonism by fossil wastes depleting plant nutrient concentration by some 15% so far. We don’t need to know that carbonic acid — what CO2 becomes on contact with water — has altered the -OH concentration of the world’s living waters by some 30%, interrupting mineral uptake to the food web. We don’t need to pay close attention to the soil microbe disruption that globally progressively robs roots of nitrates by diverting them to NOx pollutants as CO2 changes soil fauna behaviour.

          While we do know all these things, the simple fact of fossil waste dumping is that it is a trespass, unconsented and without compensation to the trespassed against. It is peeing in the town well, for no good reason, when there is ample alternative that is cheaper and better available. Even BP recognizes this.

          People like Tom Harris are wed so fiercely to their views they will never change; they will do anything to promote them — lie, campaign, fund-raise, lobby, troll, invert science and logic and law to their wrong ends motivated by the inexplicable urges of their beliefs.

          They aren’t the issue.

          The trespass of fossil waste dumping, and how to bring about its end, is.

        • For those wondering, I am moderating this thread tightly. Brian is making a series of points and we’re not interested in threadjacking. The discussion will be about the issues he sets forth. Yes, there are credibility questions regarding the subject, but we’re not going to descend into a morass of what constitutes “lobbyist.” We seem to be in agreement over some basic facts – he worked for a lobbying company. Whether he was a “lobbyist” or was in “communications” seems irrelevant. Communicating what? To whom?

          Let’s focus on the issues.

  5. The false equivalence about threats is laughable. Veiled or direct threats against so called “warmists” is common. And noting that those who have effectively stood in the way of our society acting on a deadly threat for their own personal reasons are doing something very wrong is nothing like a threat. It is simply an observation.

    It seems like every time I publicly disagree with Anthony Watts, the Galileo of the Science Denialist World, he raises the idea that he will sue me. Tall Bloke, another denialist (who is apparently tall) actually had a fake lawyer send me a fake notification of a fake law suit. I get nasty notes ranging across the board in threat level, tweets, etc. Nobody is doing that to them. Harris is simply making up this argument from very little evidence.

    • No, the threat situation IS indeed equivalent.

      There are numerous instances of climate skeptics getting death threats. For example, besides those experienced by Dr. Tim Ball, another of our scientists had then against him and his family (!) and the police have been involved so naturally he does not broadcast the fact that this happened as he does not want the bully boys to know how much it upset his family.

      • If I understand you, you’re saying that the situation with regard to death threats is equivalent because individuals on all sides receive threats. But if you re-read the OP, you’ll find that a) I agree that both climate realists and climate disruption deniers get death threats, but that b) this fact isn’t material to the reasons your assertion is an example of false equivalence. It’s false equivalence because the nature of the threats are fundamentally quite different. Now, you can certainly dispute my arguments if you like, but simply repeating your original statement doesn’t address my three arguments in the OP.

  6. I hope everyone is aware of the pernicious scope of the Koch-funded “Cornwall Alliance”.

    Understanding Harper’s Evangelical Mission
    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/03/26/Harper-Evangelical-Mission/

    Secret Climate Denial Finance: Koch and Others Hide tens of Millions through Donors Trust & Donors Capital Fund
    http://www.polluterwatch.com/category/freetagging/cornwall-alliance

    An excellently crafted rebuke Brian Angliss. Well done.

    Frankly I’m more than a little embarrassed to reside in the same city as Harris, but being Canadian and being embarrassed about it is par for the course these days, unfortunately.

    John

  7. >Political violence committed by conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, tends to be directed against individuals.

    Upon what evidence is this claim made?

    • I concluded it based on several different sources, but I don’t have anything formal for you. I thought I’d seen something that said this formally, but I can’t find it at the moment. The first source is this FBI briefing, specifically the discussions of left-wing terrorism in the US being largely animal and environmental: http://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/the-terrorist-threat-confronting-the-united-states. The second is this white paper on right-wing terrorism, specifically the figure on page 102 and the table on page 142: https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ChallengersFromtheSidelines.pdf

      I looked through START at the UMD and they’ve got a lot of data, but nothing explicitly comparing left vs. right-wing terrorism as yet, at least not that I was able to find today.

      • So conclusions based on the activities of domestic terrorists and the likes of the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and Skinheads are relevant to conservative and libertarian climate disruption deniers who have no history of doing violence? Seems like an unnecessary reach to make your point.

        • Sort of. The conclusion is also based on sovereign citizen and anti-abortion special interest terrorists, two groups who have, to date, targeted individuals or intended to kill people in the process of attacking a facility (like the Oklahoma City bombing). And I think we can extrapolate from the types of extremists that we do have data on to extremists that we do not yet have data on.

          Thankfully we don’t have any data on this yet. But I’m afraid that it’s only a matter of time before some left-wing environmental group blows up a coal plant or attacks an oil refinery and/or some right-wing sovereign citizen attacks an EPA office with a car bomb or a personal aircraft.

  8. Brian, the threats made at ANU were made physically, on site, and were not death threats. There is some confusion in this matter because the original report also reported on emailed threats made to Australian scientists at other universities. These included mostly abusive emails rather than threats per se, but in at least one case definitely included a death threat. The Australian Broadcast Corporation’s Media Watch contains the accurate story.

  9. Nitpick to an otherwise excellent post …

    “In the same commentaries where Harris writes that climate disruption is “riddled with censorship,” he also writes that “[opinion leaders] should invite input from specialists on all sides of the issue and censure anyone who tries to suppress alternative opinions.1” It’s hypocritical of Harris to decry censorship in one paragraph only to call for censorship in the next.”

    Censure means to “express severe disapproval of (someone or something), typically in a formal statement.” or “express formal disapproval” – not the same as censorship.

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