Calgary Herald: where oily opinion trumps fact

In continuing to run the “opinions” of the tainted University of Calgary Professor Barry Cooper, the Calgary Herald, newspaper of record in the Alberta oil capital, demonstrates a lack of concern for accountability, integrity and accuracy.

Prof. Cooper won national fame by setting up a University of Calgary slush fund through which oil companies could give money to climate change deniers without having to account for the donations or admit their association. When the scheme was discovered, the University shut it down, but that hasn't stopped the Herald from continuing to employ Cooper as a columnist - and from presenting his work as if it is accurate and unsullied by bias.

In a recent example - a column that ultimately presents some interesting new research on CO2-munching microbes - Cooper makes the case for “clean” coal, saying, “Burning coal also produces a biologically necessary and highly beneficial gas, carbon dioxide, CO2.”

In the current circumstances, this is plain goofy. Dismissing the risks of CO2 so cavalierly is analogous to promoting the indiscriminate release of cyanide because it is “highly beneficial” in leaching gold from raw ore.

That said, I would defend the Herald's right and responsibility to present Cooper's views, if the paper made any effort to inform readers of the nature of the professor's oil industry connections and of the efforts he has made to fool the public about those connections in the past.

On the contrary, however, this is a publication that will admit to a set of facts in court - saying, for example that Professor Cooper's associate, Dr. Tim Ball “is viewed as a paid promoter of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist” - but leave on the printed record information that vastly overstates Dr. Ball's credentials.

You are left with the impression that you can rely on the Herald to tell the truth “under oath,” but not necessarily to care about setting the record straight in its news or editorial pages.

If that's the case, no worries. But readers deserve a disclaimer. 


Often while reading editorials, I always wonder at the very common situation where a somewhat reasonably argued point is then sullied by the totally extraneous mentioning of the author’s favourite batty opinions, often from outside their area of expertise. By establishing themselves as cranks, all this does is cause most people to dismiss everything they say out of hand.

It happened this week in the Vancouver Sun, where John Williamson writes in discussing the merits of a national carbon tax:

And Canada doesn’t even have a carbon tax. Yet, environmentalists are calling for one all the same, saying it will be economically painless. This is nonsense. The world is not melting but our standard of living soon will be if global-warming alarmists have their way. …
” {Friday, march 21, 2008, Vancouver Sun}

Although what he writes in the article is otherwise reasonably argued, and aside from the invisible and unquoted and, therefore, unlikely-to-exist environmentalists he argues against, it takes a steeled mind to overlook the point that since he believes that anyone who publicly considers global warming to be a serious enough problem to affect tax policy is just being “alarmist”, so wouldn’t he believe that even lifting one’s toenail to do something about it would be wasted effort? Why should people trust that the science of climate change, as the experts best understand it, have been appropriately considered in his organisation’s analysis of tax policy?

Can you point us to any scientific argument which states that increasing taxes will decrease the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere? Do you have any historical examples of taxation being used as an effective weather control technique?

… sorry to see that you're still having so much trouble connecting the dots on this issue.

I recognize that the link from tax policy to public action is complicated, but I fear that you're not up to speed on some of the fundamentals. Perhaps if you go here and play some of the engaging and informative games, it might expand your comprehension of climate science and the effects of CO2.

Or maybe not. But at least it will divert you from playing games here all the time. 

Rob, you can’t read, quite obviously.

I was not arguing at all whether or not taxation would be useful at controlling emissions. I was arguing that prefacing any argument for or against it with a bunch of utter bullshit that people who consider global warming to be of suitable importance to affect tax policy are just being alarmist.

If you immediately dismiss at “alarmist” the idea that GW is a problem of such magnitude, then everything else you write about taxation and Global Warming ought to be taken with a grain of salt, even there are good points and ideas buried in it. It is simply not responsible to take such an extreme position, which is at odds with the current state of understanding among climate scientists.