Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Heartland Institute Associate Got Inside Carleton University

A prominent associate of the US based Heartland Institute managed to teach a climate change course at Carleton University from 2009 to 2011.   An audit found the course, taught by Tom Harris, contained 140 "false, biased and misleading claims about climate science."

 A team of scientists, who reviewed the videotapes of Harris's lectures provided by the university, found 142 false, biased and misleading claims. The course, which is not intended for science majors, may for many students be the only academic exposure they have to climate change while earning their undergraduate degree.

The report found the course under Harris's direction systematically deviated from the scientific mainstream on climate change, embracing extreme opinion.

"The content of this particular course is heavily biased against the scientific consensus concerning the anthropogenic causes of dangerous climate change," the report from the Canadian Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Scepticism said. "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."

...Some of the false or misleading material singled out by the Cass review are classic talking points among those who dismiss the existence of man-made climate change. They include lines like: "The only constant about climate is change" and "carbon dioxide is plant food".

Other points are just plain wrong, like Harris's assertion that there is only one weather station in the Canadian Arctic – when there are more than 40, that the Amazon jungle is a relatively new formation, in geological terms, or that urban weather stations do not show consistent warming.

Harris in his lectures also ventured into hyperbole, saying of the weather-caster and prominent climate doubter blogger Anthony Watts, that he "deserves a Nobel prize or a prize of some sort".

"It was fairly shocking really," said Chris Hassall, one of the team that wrote the report. "To look through some of the claims and to find that he was spinning those things as either a scientific debate, or muddying the waters on the extent of the consensus in scientific literature, or providing theories that really lacked empirical evidence – it happened time and time again and we document it extensively."

Confronted with the audit, Carleton University weaseled out, citing "academic freedom."


Beijing York said...

How embarrassing for Carlton University after spending decades to improve their reputation. (In the 70s-80s, the were referred to as "Last Chance U".)

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, BY. I had a couple of run-ins with this Tom Harris guy back in '06. He is or was a crony of Tim Ball and the "Friends of Science" bunch. In a previous life Mr. Harris used his engineering expertise not in climate science but on behalf of Philip Morris through the firm APCO. That was, of course, the denialist campaign to sow doubt about the link between cigarettes and lung cancer.

That Carleton didn't check this guy out, realize that he wasn't qualified to teach even a 100-class in climate change and verify his background with APCO does speak volumes for Carleton.

The Mound of Sound said...

The more I dwell on it I'm left wondering whether Carleton would hesitate hiring Creationist Stockwell Day to teach Darwin's theory of natural selection. It would make about as much sense as hiring Harris to teach an intro course on climate change.