Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Guest Submission: More on Tom Harris' Deceitful Practices

To: Chuck Frederick at the Duluth News Tribune,

In today’s 7-6-16 Tribune, you published an opinion letter from Tom Harris which is either identical or very similar to one of his that I remember seeing in the Tribune or the Telegram. The letter below is a copy of a letter I wrote that was not intended for publication in the Tribune, and which was sent to you, Shelley Nelson, and Citizen’s Representatives, Mike Lundstrom and Terese Tomanek. In it I mention Harris’s emphasis on the superiority of Adaptive measures instead of mitigation efforts used to minimize the effects of global warming, and I explain that Climate Scientists do not dispute the value of adaptive measures. However, I also point out that these scientists think adaptation and mitigation efforts are BOTH needed to successfully combat global warming.

About his 7-6-16 letter in today’s Tribune, let me add that once again Harris employed some deceptive tactics which advocate his preference primarily for the use of adaptive measures—a view that most fossil fuel producing companies would undoubtedly be inclined to parrot. But, for example, Harris’s claim that that, “The real issue is if relevant scientists agree our greenhouse gas emissions will cause dangerous climate change.” And that, “Only if it is dangerous should this be a public policy concern. And no one knows the answer to that question because such a poll has never been conducted,” is an exercise in flawed reasoning on so many levels. One being that today’s scientists absolutely DO KNOW that man’s contributions to global warming definitely WILL affect our future environment in many extremely harmful ways.  And for Harris to dispute the clear proof of this fact, with the idea that it has not yet been the subject of a publicly conducted poll, is one of the most creative bits of erroneous reasoning I have ever heard—and of the type that Harris is a master of.

By Harris’s logic we might as well doubt the fact that jumping off the top floor of the Empire State building, will result in a severe case of death, simply because no poll has ever been conducted in which respondents confirm this fact? Or, we might as well doubt that full scale nuclear war will be catastrophic to the planet just because no one has taken a poll devoted to assessing that proposition? And anyway, those polls that might be done without proper controls, are a poor way to affirm the beliefs of a clear majority including only those who respond. 

Where climate science is concerned, we have literally mountains of evidence confirming the extreme probability (of harmful future effects on the environment) due to global warming, which has been gathered with proper scientific diligence. So, just like the guy on the top of the Empire State building, we know that taking a terminal leap, will bring great harm to us, just as the fact that if both adaptive and mitigating measures are not employed,  our inactions result in great harm to us, and to our planet.  The notion that Climate Scientists (even just the “relevant” ones) do not recognize the value of adaptive measures is just not true—in fact a great deal of research and thought has been put into both of those options and climate scientists truly recognize the value of both:

Rather than writing longer, please take the time to re-read this letter below which I wrote about Harris before:


To Chuck Fredericks, Shelley Nelson, and both new Citizen's Representatives for the Duluth News Tribune, Mike Lundstrom and Terese Tomanek,

Prominent global warming denier Tom Harris executed a slick maneuver in the Jan. 31st Tribune when claiming that climate adaptation to avoid global warming would be much cheaper than climate mitigation, (taking steps to prevent the accumulation of greenhouse gases) like reducing Co2 emissions, and investing in solar and wind energy, to prevent run away global warming.

However, his claim that adaptation, including measures like, building seawalls, relocating buildings, finding ways to store and obtain sufficient water for crops, supporting sustainable forestry, instituting the practice of recycling, and using low energy appliances and devices to serve as deterrents to global warming—etc., are less expensive, or get more bang for the buck, is not true.

Some estimates comparing the advantages between using mitigation and adaptation have produced figures that at first seem to support Harris's claims. However, these estimate compared the cost of taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions vs the cost of making adaptations, but did not offset these amounts with the economic benefits of mitigation, vs. the economic benefits of taking adaptive measures. When the economic rewards of mitigation are examined this way they far exceed any economic saving from using adaptation i.e. things like losses of property and lives, droughts that destroy crop production, or flooding and storms that do horrific damage etc., are all the result of global warming, and as Co2 levels are decreased, the costs associated with these disasters will also decrease.

In actuality the IPCC believes that both mitigation and adaptation are both valuable strategies. However, if global warming is not gradually reduced by mitigation, the amounts of Co2, will continue unchecked in the latter part of the century and soar out of control, (regardless of adaptation policies)—so no attempts at adaptation can solve the global warming issue unless mitigation is also used as a primary strategy.

It is true that the problems created by global warming will fall mostly on the poor, and that wealthier countries will need to give them financial aid to adapt. In fact, after the meetings of COP16 Cancun, donor countries offered to provide undeveloped countries $100,000,000,000 by 2020, to help them adapt through the Green Climate Fund. Pledges have not materialized as they should, but at least much of the world now recognizes the need for adaptive strategies—especially if unencumbered by political conflicts.

I should point out one logical mistake in Mr. Harris's letter though—Harris points out that the anticipated effects of climate change, may or may not happen, while failing to mention that, adaptation measures also, may or may not work—especially if extreme climate change happen sooner than expected. Without mitigation, efforts to diminish global warming's impact by way of adaptation, will essentially and eventually, be neutralized. In essence though, you can't have one without the other, since, even if initially successful outcomes are achieved through the use of adaptation, if greenhouse gasses continue to increase without mitigation, they will eventually usher in catastrophic climate change anyway!

Although Harris claims not to be a shill of big oil, he has spoken at several meetings of big conservative think tanks and conservative organizations, (like the Heartland Institute), which he is very complicit in and supportive of, when helping to distribute the distorted messages they deliver. He has also had a position as an Earth Science teacher, and taught a course entitled, “Climate change: An Earth Sciences perspective,” and was found by climate scientists to have included 140 factual errors in his teachings.

Let me just say that Heartland Institute is well known for receiving and distributing huge donation from the fossil fuel industry, as well as for being deeply involved in discrediting esteemed climate scientists, and is also known to have received over $67,000,000 from Exxon Mobil and other conservative donors. I don't know if Harris has been legally proven to have received large amounts of money in exchange for dissing climate scientists, but I think it’s safe to say that his associations with conservative groups like these are enough to cast serious doubts on the purity of his intentions.
At the end of his letter to the tribune, Harris displays false virtue by noting the fact that poor people are suffering disproportionately from global warming? Why does Harris object to people who work for green industries, who are simply earning honest money while helping create and develop clean alternatives—because by financially profiting they may be part of a greedy corporation? —What kind of company has been truly antagonistic to the idea of bringing relief to the suffering masses? —certainly those which are already known for being big parts of this problem already—big oil, and big coal!
What a lame excuse Harris uses, when employing the old, turn the tables on your opponent’s tactic, or, when trying to project his own culpability onto greedy Capitalists—Companies like Exxon Mobil make billions in profits—sometimes in just one economic quarter! They and others like them, are seeking to keep green companies at bay, while using incredibly large sums of money to spread lies and misinformation about man-made global warming! Even if Harris were not benefiting financially, in this case we are perfectly justified to criticize the messenger!

As the valley girls used to say—GAG ME WITH A SPOON!!

In the words of economist Paul Krugman;

"So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be. The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. What could go wrong?"


Peter W. Johnson
Superior, WI.

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