Monday, March 26, 2018

Tom Harris' Deceits Could Be Deadly

Tom Harris is well-known for being a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry. He is also well know for making incredibly stupid statements. He is even well known for supporting policies that kill thousands of people. But, never have I seen him openly trying to kill people. At least, not before his recent article.

The headline on Harris’ article is “Carbon Dioxide is mostly oxygen,” and he then goes on to make statements about how benign and beneficial it is to the environment. Carbon monoxide is 50% oxygen, but no one wants it around. Water is one-third oxygen by the number of atoms and over 88% oxygen by mass. Please don’t try breathing either one. It will kill you. Compounds act very differently than elements. CO2 acts very differently than pure oxygen. (By the way, breathing pure oxygen will also kill you.) If you follow Harris' line of reasoning, you would conclude breathing carbon dioxide is harmless. While breathing it at low levels is not only harmless, but essential, breathing it at high concentrations is dangerous.

Carbon compounds cannot be compared to elemental carbon. They are not the same thing. Naturally occurring carbon dioxide is part of the environment. Carbon dioxide produced by power plants, industry, and automobiles is not part of the natural environment and is pollution. As such, it is causing the natural environment to change. Because of this, it needs to be regulated, just like any other man made pollutant.

Harris made an incorrect science statement right from the start when he stated carbon “forms thousands of compounds, much more than any other element.” Hydrogen forms the most number of compounds, many more than carbon. Carbon and oxygen are about the same. Harris statement is false and it was made to mislead the reader.

Amazingly, Harris goes on about the hazards of CO2 levels, even discussing the levels in submarines. No one is saying CO2 levels are becoming hazardous, so why is Harris discussing this? This has nothing to do with the science and is what is known as a ‘straw man’ argument. Harris, and other science-haters like him, cannot provide any science to support their claims concerning climate change, so they’re trying to change the subject. To be clear, to best of my knowledge, no climate scientist is claiming CO2 levels in the atmosphere are dangerous to breath or will become so. So, why is Harris discussing this, if not to deceive?

But, Harris’ record shows deception is his forte. For starters, take a look at Harris’ background. He has a long association with the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. He continuously denies this to the point of claiming there is a second Tom Harris. If so, he’s also a twin-brother because the resumes come withpictures.

He is closely associated with the Heartland Institute, a far-right anti-science organization heavily funded by tobacco and fossil fuel industries. Heartland is famous for claiming second-hand smoke is harmless and recently nominated to the EPA a man who was arrested for raping his own children. Heartland also paid for the development of the NIPCC (Not-Science International Panel on Climate Change). This is a pseudoscienceorganization whose claims have been completely, and repeatedly, debunked. NIPCC will make a simple statement (such as, there were ice ages in the past), then find scientific papers that support that simple statement and cite them as a reference in order to inflate their number of citations. The reality is, NIPCC presents no science to support their claims. In fact, the only people who cite their report are climate change deniers like Harris.

He frequently co-authors editorials with Tim Ball, a geographer falsely claiming to be a climate scientist. Ball filed a libel lawsuit, which he later dropped. The court documents from that lawsuit stated "The Plaintiff's credentials and credibility as an expert on the issue of global warming have been repeatedly disparaged in the media,” and "The Plaintiff is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist." A court in British Columbiarecently found in his favor when he was sued for libel by a (real) climate scientist. The court reasoned that Ball had such poor credibility that his statements couldn’t be construed as libel because no “reasonably thoughtful or informed person” would believe his statements. And, this is Harris’ go-to source for information on climate science.

He has stated that science is merely an opinion. According to Harris, gravity is only an opinion, it’s only an opinion that a plane can fly, and it’s only an opinion that your car will slow down when you step on the brakes. Harris has stated that we are at risk of famine unless we INCREASE the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

He has cited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as a role model. This is the same person who compares himself to Hitler, regrets he didn’t participate in the rape and murder of a lay minister, claims to have thrown a man out of a helicopter, and has orchestrated a mass murder in his country. Likewise, Harris’ viewpoints have been endorsed by the governments of North Korea and Uzbekistan, two of most repressive regimes on the planet.

Harris claims CO2 is good for us because it’s a naturally occurring plant food (even for weeds). So is raw sewage, which has been used in some cultures for millennia to fertilize crops. Even Harris isn’t advocating dumping of raw sewage in the environment. At least, not yet. Why not? After all, by his line of logic, it’s nothing more than naturally occurring plant food. 

The reality is that fertilizer runoff is a serious problem. And, like the fertilizer we put on our farms and yards, CO2 coming from factories, power plants, and automobiles is not natural. It is manmade, it’s pollution, and it needs to be regulated.