Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tom Harris Exposed

Tom Harris is a noted fossil fuel lobbyist and devout climate change denier. He works as the Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), a group of climate change skeptics that has received funding from the Heartland Institute. Besides working to further fossil fuel interests, he has done the same for the tobacco industry. What a resume.

(UPDATE: Mr. Harris has objected to my above statements concerning his resume and has demanded a retraction. He acknowledges he worked for the Ottawa office of a Canadian PR and lobbying firm called the High Park Advocacy Group (HPG), where he was the Director of Operations. According to the Lobbyists Registration System, Government of Canada, HPG is registered as a lobbying firm for several energy industry clients. He also acknowledges he worked for APCO worldwide, a group known for creating The Advancement of Sound Science Center (formerly Coalition) (TASSC) which worked to advance tobacco industry interests. According to Wikipedia, "an industry-funded lobby group and crisis management vehicle, and was created in 1993 by Phillip Morris and APCO in response to a 1992 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report which identified secondhand smoke as a Group A (i.e. confirmed) human carcinogen. TASSC's stated objectives were to: 1) discredit the EPA report; 2) fight anti-smoking legislation; 3) proactively pass legislation favorable to the tobacco industry. Philip Morris hired APCO Worldwide, a communications consultancy with expertise in crisis management, handling sensitive political issues, lobbying, media relations, coalition building, opinion research, market entry, corporate social responsibility, and online communication. APCO's designed strategies for TASSC aimed at establishing TASSC as "a credible source for reporters when questioning the validity of scientific studies" and to encourage the public to question – from the grassroots up – the validity of scientific studies." All of Wikipedia's statements have references supporting them. Mr. Harris' complaint is that he did not serve as a lobbyist and he was not involved with APCO's efforts in regard to TASSC. You may see our entire conversation below in the comments section. - CK)

Some time ago, through means I am not clear on, Mr. Harris (NOTE: Mr. Harris has been introduced as Dr. Harris by the denier lobbyists, but he is not a Ph.D. He has a Masters of Engineering.) was able to be the lecturer for an earth science class at Carleton University. Basically, it was a science disaster. Hang on to that statement, I'll get back to it.

Before I go on, let me explain that I am not attacking Mr. Harris here. I have no desire to say anything bad about him. I do not know him and cannot speak to his character. As far as I know, he is a good father and husband, gives generously to good causes, likes cats and dogs and is well respected in his community. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Harris is a very nice person. And, I will say this, he has been civil in our discourse, something very lacking from oh, so many deniers.

The purpose of this posting is not to discredit Mr. Harris. What I want to do is expose the industry he works for. I want to discredit his cause - the denier lobbyist industry that is so determined to lie to and deceive the public. It is unfortunate that Mr. Harris has decided to be a member of that group.

As it turns out, I received a guest submission on some statements Mr. Harris made to some local papers. You can read the submission here. Along with the comments, which is what makes this interesting. So, let's discuss them.

Mr. Harris, it seems, took exception to the article and commented,

The above article is either all wrong or irrelevant, riddled as it is with logical fallacies. But then that is standard stock for people who are angry when their supposedly 'settled science' is shown to not be so settled after all.

The following article lays out a sample of the many scientists who do not support the dangerous anthropogenic climate change hypothesis: http://www.worldcommercereview...

Tom, your target
This started a series of comments, especially a couple in particular,


Your introduction hit all the right notes. I would add that a simple Google search for "Tom Harris Carleton University" will reveal a lot about a particularly sordid episode in Harris' life.


Yikes! That's embarrassing.
Do the search and you'll see what I meant by my response. Apparently, this hit a nerve with Mr. Harris, who engaged with me a series of comments.



Here is one of my replies to this adolescent attack from an employee of Carleton (I understand the university was not pleased to have one employee attacking another in the press without taking any internal steps first):
https://youtu.be/Zeb5XWjSKlA



Strangely enough, professors at universities have freedom of speech. If a university employee wants to denounce you in public, they have a right to do so. It's amazing how you want to silence your critics.



The person was a post doc, not a prof. Do you support a university employee smearing another university employee (I was a sessional lecturer) by going to the press before they have even tried to sort things out internally first (I have never even met or spoken to the person; the first I heard of him was when he went public in the press with his attacks). Do you support a university employee misleading university administrators to get video tapes of my lectures and then launching an error riddled attack in the press without examining the notes I provided students? Interestingly, he is no longer employed by Carleton.



Internal procedures are for grievances. Like I said, employees (post-docs are still employees) have the right to freedom of speech. In your case, where you are deliberately misleading students and misinforming them, I fully support his right to speak up on the matter. That is his civil right, maybe even his civil duty. By the way, post docs are temporary employees, typically employed for fewer than three years total. What I find interesting is how you once again distorted the facts to make it sound like he was fired when you have supplied nothing to support that conclusion.



I stopped reading when you wrote, "In your case, where you are deliberately misleading students" as that is just another insulting logical fallacy. Do you claim to read minds now?


I read some of the statements you made and I know they were deliberately misleading. Such as saying "Interestingly, he is no longer employed by Carleton." Deliberate deception.


Has he returned to Carleton?

Has he? Do you know? And, how is that relevant, one way or the other? Post-docs usually move on to another institution. Again, you are deliberately trying to deceive. The specialty of deniers. Why don't you try some science, instead?
Do you see how he is manipulating the facts? He makes it sound as if the problem isn't his teaching in the classroom, the problem is with a post-doc not using the internal grievance system. Then, he implies the post-doc was fired for his actions and not allowed to return. Both of those statements are unsupported (and probably libelous) and certainly intended to deceive.

But, he wasn't done. Take a look at this exchange that took place after I challenged him to a debate. He wanted me to cover his expenses.


Doesn't work that way. I pay my way and you pay yours.
 


Being a prof at a major university you have access to far more funds than I do and are undoubtedly paid far more than I am as well. Will you or your university cover my costs? You issued the challenge to debate, not me.


I am a retired professor and the only funds I have access to are in my personal savings. You, on the other hand, are funded by the fossil fuel industry. Go to your friends at the Heartland Institute.



There we go - the typical misleading motive intent logical fallacy from someone who "knows the truth." Forget about my agreement to debate you. It would be a waste of my time to debate someone who uses such infantile arguments.



Oh, please. The reason you won't debate me is because you know you'll be embarrassed in front of an audience if you have to justify your answers. Tell us you aren't supported by the fossil fuel industry. 



No, looking over your site, I see that it would be easy to defeat you in debate. For example, your poll question, "Is global warming real or a myth?" is ridiculous.
Why does it matter who helps cover ICSC's operating costs?


Because of a pattern of behavior. Why is it every denier I know of is funded by the fossil fuel industry? Why is it they routinely lie and deceive about this fact? Why is it you are defensive about this? Where is your research? Where are your satellites? Where are your research ships? Where are your scientific expeditions? Where are your published papers? Where are your models? The only thing you bring to the table is doubt. And, that is done to protect your masters - the fossil fuel industry.



If you think I am a liar, then why do you ask who my funding sources are? You would not believe anything I answer unless it fit your predetermined idea of who fund us.
Your question is just another logical fallacy - motive intent (and ad hominem,, since you claim me to be dishonest).

I would eat you alive in debate.



I ask because I already know you are funded by the Heartland Institute. I just wanted to see if you would admit it. And, no, you would never stand a chance against me. Go home and try to tell yourself otherwise.



You say you asked because you already know the answer. Oh, I see, you were trying to trick me.

I am off line for a while. I understand that Heartland donated to ICSC in 2007 (I started in 2008 at ICSC). Since then all donations are confidential to protect donors from harassment from people like you.



It is certainly not harassment to ask what your motivation is. After all, we require our politicians to reveal their supporters for just that reason. Deniers just don't want anyone to realize they are being paid to lie by the very people that are causing climate change and stand to lose money if we do anything about it. Very suspicious.



Yes, it is It certainly is harassment, and a logical fallacy to boot, to ask what your motivation is.



If that is true, then why do deniers keep invoking that tactic with regards to climate scientists? Are you telling people to do as you say and not as you do?
Again, we see he threw out a strawman and tried to change the subject. When asked if his funding came from the fossil fuel industry, he refused the answer and tried to change the subject. If his funding did not come from the fossil fuel industry, what not say so? And, if it did, why wouldn't he be willing to admit it? Why the need for secrecy when it comes to his motives? These kinds of questions are very valid. That is why they are allowed in courts and why politicians must reveal the names of their donors. And, as I referenced, if this isn't important, why do the deniers constantly question the motives of climate scientists who receive government funds for their research?

So, why all the fuss? What is this all about, really? Go back to the beginning. In the 2010/11 school year, Mr. Harris taught an earth science class at Carleton University, Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective" (ERTH 2402).

The course caused an uproar, which led to an investigation. The results of that investigation were released on February 28, 2012, Climate Change Denial in the Classroom: A report on the course "Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective" (ERTH2402) at Carleton University. You can read the entire report here, and it is very damning. Some of the highlights of the report are:


We describe a case in which noted climate change deniers have gained access to the
Canadian higher education system through a course taught at Carleton University. These academics are closely associated with a number of organisations that have involvement with the energy industry.
*****

Carleton University teaches a range of courses on various aspects of climate change and the vast majority adhere to the highest academic standards. However, the content of this particular course is heavily biased against the scientific consensus concerning the
anthropogenic causes of dangerous climate change. Through an extensive audit of the
course material, we identify 142 claims made during the lectures by the instructor, Mr Tom Harris, and various guest lecturers, that run counter to established scientific opinion.
*****

However, it is important to note that the unbalanced nature of the course, the lack of peer-reviewed literature cited, and the non-science audience mean that the course fails to constitute‚promotion of debate‛ and instead merely presents a biased and inaccurate portrayal of contemporary climate science.
  *****

First we note the lack of scientific evidence that is actually cited in the course.
Rather than present the peer reviewed literature for his students, Harris frequently claims to have spoken to or emailed scientists to ask them for their opinions on particular issues.
As a result, many of Harris’ arguments do not appear to be based on peer reviewed published research.
*****

Like much of the climate change denial movement, Harris' course is structured around concentric sets of arguments. The first line of defence is to claim that climate change (more specifically, global warming) is not happening. This makes the title of our report accurate: as well as a role for humans in contemporary climate change, Harris disputes even the existence of and our ability to detect warming in global temperatures in the face of substantial scientific evidence and, therefore, qualifies as a climate change denier.
*****

Perhaps the best summary of the questionable arguments used in the course is given by Harris in the final lecture, where he provides take-away slogans for the students:

  • “The only constant about climate is change.” (TH) 
  • “Carbon dioxide is plant food.” (TH) 
  • “There is no scientific consensus about climate change causes.” (TH) 
  • “Prepare for global cooling.” (TH) 
  • “Climate science is changing quickly.” (TH)
There is a lot more, including an appendix detailing the 142 false claims made by Mr. Harris. 142! The class was for three 50-minute periods a week for 15 weeks. That means he was making a false claim (not including repeats) every 16 minutes, on average.

You can see a more substantial review of the report on Climate Progress, here.

In conclusion, we can use Mr. Harris' own tactics. It turns out he is no longer teaching at Carleton:
“Thank you for your concern on this. The course in question has not been offered this year, and Tom Harris is no longer teaching at Carleton University.
Best regards,
Malcolm Butler
Dean of Science”

23 comments:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all postings on this blog are by me, Dr. Christopher Keating.

    Yes, you are a devoted climate change denier. I would refer you to the findings of the investigation that specifically addresses that point.

    If you read the investigation, they noted the high ratings you received from your students. The more the pity. It is a shame to think you were able to mislead so many students and damaged their understanding of science and the climate. On that point, I would refer you back to how you made, at least, 146 separate false statements that were not supported by science.

    The statement 'climate always changes' is one of the worst of the false arguments. I have addressed this repeatedly in this blog. Basically, you are stating because there are natural causes there are, therefore, only natural causes. Your statement, in no way, addresses the idea that we could cause change with our actions. So, in this way, you use a strawman and utterly fail to address the main point - are manmade emissions causing climate change? The absolutely, settled argument is 'Yes.' There is an overwhelming consensus and no credible climate scientists says anything else. (Please, do not even attempt to mention the fossil fuel hacks).

    As for your lobbying activity, you stated, "I am not now, nor have I ever been, a lobbyist for anyone, fossil fuel related or otherwise." Yet, you were Director of Operations of the Ottawa office of a Canadian PR and lobbying firm called the High Park Advocacy Group (HPG). According to the Lobbyists Registration System, Government of Canada, HPG is registered as a lobbying firm for several energy industry clients.

    As for your involvement with tobacco, you also worked with APCO worldwide, a group known for creating The Advancement of Sound Science Center (formerly Coalition) (TASSC) which worked to advance tobacco industry interests. According to Wikipedia, "an industry-funded lobby group and crisis management vehicle,[1] and was created in 1993 by Phillip Morris and APCO in response to a 1992 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report[2] which identified secondhand smoke as a Group A (i.e. confirmed[3]) human carcinogen.[4] TASSC's stated objectives were to: 1) discredit the EPA report; 2) fight anti-smoking legislation; 3) proactively pass legislation favorable to the tobacco industry. Philip Morris hired APCO Worldwide,
    a communications consultancy with expertise in crisis management,
    handling sensitive political issues, lobbying, media relations,
    coalition building, opinion research, market entry, corporate social
    responsibility, and online communication. [notes 1]
    APCO's designed strategies for TASSC aimed at establishing TASSC as "a
    credible source for reporters when questioning the validity of
    scientific studies" and to "Encourage the public to question – from the
    grassroots up – the validity of scientific studies."

    You objections to my posting are not credible. You are correct when you say apologies, corrections and retractions are in order, but you are the one that needs to be making them.

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  2. Anyone can see that what you are saying makes no sense.

    The CFI report is, as I said on TV, giving some examples, nonsense. Professor Patterson said the same on radio, which is why he is still teaching it.

    The fact that HPG is, or was, registered as a lobbying firm for several energy industry clients, does not mean all its employees are lobbyists any more than all employees of Queens University are lobbyists. A few are, but most are not. I was not. Indeed, I was only with the company for five months in 2006. HPG also lobbied for solar and wind clients. Does that taint them too? No, they lobby, as one of their communications activities, activities I was not involved in the five months before I resigned, that is all.

    I don't care what APCO reportedly did years before I was there (2002 - 2006). I was not involved and knew nothing about it until well after I resigned from the company. Your statement "Besides working to further fossil fuel interests, he has done the same for the tobacco industry." is therefore clearly false. Smearing someone based on a Wikipedia post that doesn't even mention the person in question is a dangerous stretch, Professor Keating.
    But then, so much of what you are saying is clearly false that perhaps no one should be surprised. However, you are clearly on thin ice making provably false attacks on someone in public, Professor Keating. I ask you once again, to retract and apologize so this smear can end here, please.

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  3. I saw that so-called TV report you referenced and that was one, horrible hatchet job. There was nothing in that report that even approached being a reliable report.


    Yes, when you are the Director of Operations for a lobbying firm, that makes you a lobbyist.


    Saying you don't care what APCO did before you joined them is like saying you don't care what a given political party did before you joined them. What ever they did, you endorsed it by joining them. It is an absolutely true statement you worked for a group that advanced the cause of the tobacco industry. Saying you were not aware of it sure sounds to me to be a non-credible statement. I have to believe you were fully aware of what they were doing.


    There is nothing here that is false or misleading and you have not indicated anything as being such. What you are objecting to are statements you don't like. That doesn't mean they aren't true.

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  4. You are clearly desperate to avoid simply admitting you made mistakes and therefore having to apologize.

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  5. If there is anyone in this conversation afraid to admit they made a mistake it is you. You did such a horrible job on the science you should be embarrassed. Truthfully, you should be begging people to forgive you for what you did to those students.

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  6. I still get good feedback from students and staff about how well the course went. You are speaking about something about which you know nothing except what you can pick up from wiki. Pathetic.

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  7. I have no doubt the course went well and the students liked you. That does not mean anything you taught them was valid. The evidence shows you misled them and deceived them with false statements that are not supported by science. It is too bad you didn't use your skills to help people.

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  8. Last chance:
    - will you retract your false statement about me being a lobbyist?
    - will you retract your false statement about me working to further the interests of the tobacco industry?

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  9. By your own admission, those statements were accurate.

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  10. No, you just made them up.

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  11. If you can provide documentation to show your record is not correct, I will be glad to make the appropriate changes. However, with your comments, you have verified you worked for the groups identified.

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  12. That is not the issue. You committed serious falsehoods when you publically smeared me as being a lobbyist and working to further the interests of the tobacco industry.

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  13. I did not smear you, I merely presented the facts. Again, if you can show me the facts stated are not correct, I will make the necessary corrections. But, once again, you confirmed the statements were correct. I did not 'smear' you. This is information that is relevant to the issue. It goes to motive and credibility.

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  14. I have updated the posting to make note of your objections to statements concerning your resume.

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  15. Here's a little more documenting Tom Harris' PR work in connection to APCO and the 2004 misappropriation of University of Calgary funds for a "sophisticated international
    marketing and lobbying effort to discredit scientific evidence linking
    human activity to climate change."
    http://friendsofginandtonic.org/files/ca24abaa8dae87ac7fbcff8deb2c93df-399.html
    and a little further background on that:
    http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/archives/story.html?id=15b2e521-9f14-43e6-87ac-0a21a2a79e3d

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  16. "… I want to do is expose the industry he works for ... the denier lobbyist industry that is so determined to lie to and deceive the public...."

    Oh, fer pete's sake, there goes Charles Keating.... Again. Could a statement be made with more massively false premises in such a short span of words?

    As I said at my own blog post Friday (http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=2792) on the more general topic of AGW believers' enslavement to diverting the public from carefully examining core science points from skeptic climate scientists via character assassination, "Tortuous as it might be to read through all of the multi-blog post commentary between us, it becomes obvious [Keating] never supported his claim of ‘industry-corrupted skeptics’, but instead sidestepped every challenge from me to do so." What I was talking about there was my discovery of Keating's blog here last year where he tossed off the spectacularly unsupportable notions that skeptic scientists were 'climate deniers' and tobacco/fossil fuel industry shills, and I simply challenged him to prove the assertions. He immediately launched into a bizarre tangent about me trying to intimidate him, which ultimately prompted him to call me "the Gestapo of the Heartland Institute" at a subsequent blog post here. Never once did he actually show his readers physical proof of instructions from industry to skeptics of any description ordering them to lie and deceive the public. NOT ONCE.

    Having apparently declared himself in some press release a month ago as the victor in a 'science debate' where he was sole judge, jury and executioner of who won or lost, it appears Keating is right back into the same parrot path of political suicide that he was on last year with so many other desperate AGW believers. So, on the topic of challenging skeptics to prove their science case, I invite Keating to attend ICCC10 ( http://climateconference.heartland.org/ ) in Washington D.C. in June, since he couldn't bring himself to present his then-current skeptic challenge in person at the ICCC9 conference in Las Vegas. Don't wager that he will show up to this conference either, though. And on my unmet challenge for Keating to show us proof that skeptics across the board are paid and explicitly instructed to lie…. well, don't wager on him delivering on that, given his past record.

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  17. Oh, yeh. BEYOND desperate, as I found out last year here in my jousts with Keating. Start with my first comment at any of his blogs ( http://dialoguesonglobalwarming.blogspot.com/2014/04/update-on-nipcc.html#comment-1516478904 ) and then reassemble 'em from that point through several different blog entries of his, and watch all the sidestepping fun begin. It is truly embarrassing to watch how a guy avoids every challenge directed at him to support his assertions.

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  18. Constant GardenerMay 11, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    I ran across Harris last week. I criticized his characterization of climate science in his article and he appeared to defend himself. His defense was that what he had written was wholly irrelevant. Seriously.

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  19. Russell Cook is Tom's hatchet man who always steps in to defend Tom when Tom can't defend himself.
    http://www.desmogblog.com/russell-cook

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  20. "It is truly embarrassing to watch how a guy avoids every challenge directed at him to support his assertions."

    Russell, that sounds like you're describing someone very close to home...

    If you understand polar ice caps have never before in Earth's history been able to withstand CO₂ as high as we've pushed it, how likely is it they will today?

    "both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice."



    www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/Grace/news/grace20121129.html

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  21. Russel Cook is a terrible climate change denier, even to the point of claiming no one denies climate change. Truly, he has said that. He is a hatchet man for the Heartland Institute and has engage in some of the most anal comments on this blog, and that is really making a statement. Clearly, his tactic is to say the most ridiculous thing in the hope people will believe him. Unfortunately, there are people that do.

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  22. Russell Cook! I've missed your idiocy and lies. Are you back because everyone else has kicked you off their blogs and this is the only one you can still comment on? I noticed you sure did run and hide over the last year. Are you here for another spanking? I'm looking forward to doing it again. Your claims really are those of someone that rejects science and logic. Pathetic.

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  23. You can keep names straight just as well as you keep facts straight. The name is Christopher Keating, not Charles. That fact is right there for you to see. I would say it is amazing you got such a simple fact wrong except I already know getting facts wrong is your specialty. Nice of you to prove it right from the beginning.

    Claiming I never showed how the fossil fuel industry is behind the denier lobby industry doesn't make it so. That point has been proven by me and by a multitude of others. Just read Namomi Oreskes excellent book on the subject - Merchants of Doubt.

    By the way, I not only showed how the fossil fuel industry is so involved, I did it despite your very undisguised threat of a lawsuit. Yes, it was most certainly at threat in an attempt to intimidate and legal experts I showed it to agreed. When I refused to be intimidated, you ran with your tail between your legs and tried to claim you did no such thing. Too bad for you it was in writing. Of course, you denied it anyway because that is what you do - deny reality.

    One thing you are correct about, I do not intend to be at Denier Conference 10. If I ever thought it would be possible to get any of you to actually look at the science I would, but I already know you have rejected any science that doesn't fit your preconceived beliefs and there is no amount of evidence that will ever change your mind.

    My offer still stands. I will debate you in an open forum on the issues. I made that same challenge to your buddy John Coleman and he refused. No surprise. Neither you, nor him, want to be forced to justify your statements in public.

    You're a joke Russell. So is your cause.

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