More Fakegate fallout. On February 28, 2012, the report Climate Change Denial in the Classroom was issued by the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism of the Centre for Inquiry (Canada) (CFI). The related news release, Climate Change Denial in Carleton University Course Exposed by National Science Team, was issued on the same day.
I found the media response to this report, as well as the report itself, rather stunning for all the excitement surrounding it. It seemed to be nothing more than some sort of piling on “gotcha journalism” like the sorts we’ve seen in The Guardian and other left leaning newspapers since Fakegate first broke. One the biggest failures in journalism come from the Guardian, where both Leo Hickman and Suzanne Goldenberg ran with stories naming me, without so much as asking me a question first or determining if the documents were real or not. Initially I thought Goldenberg might have a modicum of journalistic sense, having the presence of mind to send me an email asking for a response, but then I discovered she’d run the story without waiting for my response, and then via an update, only including a small portion of my detailed response, as I show in entirety here.
I asked Mr. Tom Harris, who is specifically named in the report, if this course was a requirement for Earth Science undergraduates at Carleton, or if it was an elective.
He responded immediately that it was an elective, and that nobody was required to take it to get their Earth Sciences degree at Carleton. So it seems to me that all of the media angst and smear surrounding this report is simply that they don’t want students to even be able to choose to take it. The fake moral outrage displayed is quite impressive.
I asked Tom Harris to provide background for me, and he has contributed significantly to what follows, and I have edited and added as needed for this story to convey the background from his side of the story (as well as mine).
The CFI report billed itself as “an audit” of the 2011 version of the 2nd year elective course for non-Earth Science majors at Carleton—“Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective” (course designator ERTH2402). ERTH2402 is a “survey” course that presents an overview of many of the most important areas of climate science at the level of an educated layperson. It has attracted a viewing audience in the general public via CUTV, Carleton’s cable TV station seen across Canada and, via the Web, internationally.
The ERTH2402 course was created by Carleton University Earth Sciences Professor Tim Patterson, PhD, and he taught the course for over a decade. Due to his public climate education work with Professor Patterson since 1998, his teaching experience, and his science and technology background, Mr. Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition, was selected to teach the 2009 version of the course while Dr. Patterson was on sabbatical. 95% of the course material presented to students by Mr. Harris in 2009 was the same as that presented by Dr. Patterson in 2008.
The 2009 version of ERTH2402 was taught successfully with approximately 500 students completing the course. Consequently, Mr. Harris was invited to teach ERTH2402 three more times—twice in 2010 and again in 2011, achieving consistently high student ratings. A total of about 1,500 students completed the course in the four sessions taught by Mr. Harris (who describes the course here). ERTH2402 was not offered in 2012 but Professor Patterson will teach the course again in 2013.
In September 2010, Carleton University postdoctoral fellow Dr. Christopher Hassell, a contract biology instructor (Conservation Biology) at the university, requested, and was granted access to the lectures for the January – April 2011 term. In his September 13, 2010 e-mail to the university “Video on Demand” staff, Dr. Hassell wrote, “I am not interested in taking the course, but simply desire some background information on the lectures” (see p. 89 in the subject audit report).
Dr. Hassell then worked with three other authors (two other biology PhDs and a communications professional) to complete the 98 page report “Climate Change Denial in the Classroom”. At no point before media release of the “audit” did the authors contact Mr. Harris or inform him of their work. Mr. Harris states he has had no previous contact with any of the authors.
The first main stream media to cover the report was The Guardian (London, UK). Their piece was: “Heartland associate taught ‘biased’ climate course at Ottawa university—Expert audit finds man connected with climate sceptic think tank taught climate course to students at Carleton University.”
Here below we see the same M.O. from Goldenberg as what happened with the initial release of the Fakegate and Ms. Goldenberg’s contact with me. Tom Harris writes:
Approximately one hour before publication on The Guardian Webpage on Feb 28, the author of the piece, The Guardian’s US environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg, left a message on Professor Patterson’s voice mail requesting an interview. Professor Patterson did not receive the message until after Goldenberg’s piece was uploaded to the Guardian’s Website. In her article, Goldenberg wrote, “The head of the earth sciences department, Tim Patterson, did not respond to requests for comment.”
How could he? Sheesh. Ms. Goldenberg’s method here almost ensures that no comment could be made before publication. And judging from how she reported on the 2009 Heartland ICCC, where she immediate jumps in the headline from skeptics to “deniers” it seems clear she has a built in bias, perhaps even an irrational hatred, like we see from other environmental reporters on a regular basis.
Goldenberg did however speak with Mr. Harris earlier in the afternoon. Harris had the presence of mind to ask Ms. Goldenberg if he could record the interview (she gave the OK) and the 26 minute interview may be heard here (MP3 audio) and the verbatim transcript of the discussion you can read here: Tom_Harris_Interview_with_the_Guardian-28-02-12 (1) (PDF)
Mr. Harris also corresponded with Goldenberg by e-mail four hours before the piece went live to ensure she was aware of the details of Mr. Harris’ connection with the Heartland Institute. According to him, when he last taught at Carleton he was not a “Heartland associate” (and still is not) and did not become an unpaid “Policy Advisor” with Heartland until approximately six months after he had completed teaching the Carleton course.
On 28 February 2012 19:36, Tom Harris tom.harris@xxxxxxx wrote:
Dear Suzanne,I forgot to mention that Heartland asked me to be a Policy Advisor a few months back and I accepted (you can see their many advisors at http://heartland.org/experts). There is no remuneration for this position and I have no assigned responsibilities, aside from commenting when interesting items related to my field arise when I want to.
Mr. Harris explained to Goldenberg that Heartland encourages fair and open dialog on climate change and even hosted a friendly public debate between a “skeptic” and an “alarmist” at their last climate conference in Washington DC seven months ago. In 2010, I also talked about this at WUWT and praised Scott Denning for his choice to embrace skeptics and about the warm welcome he received. Even Joe Romm was invited to the last conference. He declined of course, because even though there would be no cost to him he can’t risk being treated warmly by climate skeptics; it might make his head explode.
This call for open and equal debate on the part of Heartland is also evidenced in their invitation to Dr. Peter Gleick to have him debate James Taylor at the Heartland Annual Dinner, which Dr. Gleick declined shortly before launching his criminal phishing attack on Heartland.
Contrary to Goldenberg’s statement that the review of the Earth Sciences course was “an expert audit”, Mr. Harris in his telephone interview (from the transcript linked above) explained to her that it was conducted by two biologists and a writer, none of whom apparently have significant expertise in Earth Sciences or Climate Science.
According to Mr. Harris, contrary to assertions in the Guardian piece, the 2011 version of the ERTH2402 course was well supported by peer reviewed science literature and was in no way extreme. It merely concluded that we are a long way from understanding the science well enough to be able to make reliable forecasts about future climate. Harris says the course was completely nonpartisan politically and avoided any sort of commercial endorsement.
Goldenberg wrote in her Guardian article:
“A team of scientists, who reviewed the videotapes of Mr. Harris’s lectures provided by the university, found 142 false, biased and misleading claims”.
Mr. Harris advises me that he will release an appropriate response to those claims when he has thoroughly reviewed the CASS “audit” report. However, as of this writing, no problems have yet been raised by Carleton in the course material as taught in 2011. It appears that Carelton University itself has no issue with the course material, only the CASS group and the media seem to have issues.
Suzanne Goldenberg’s Guardian piece condemning ERTH2402 is itself riddled with logical fallacies, misrepresentations, omissions, and errors, some of which were described in a letter to the editor sent by Mr. Harris to The Guardian early on February 29. So far, The Guardian has not responded or published the necessary corrections in either their Letters to the Editor or “Corrections and clarifications” sections.
If they don’t, and I’m predicting they won’t, I’ll carry the letter from Mr. Harris here as a separate post.
Here is a TV interview from yesterday with Mr. Harris: