Tom Harris: Silly Petitions; Lies of Omission

Public relations man and energy industry lobbyist Tom Harris has launched a new paper arguing that the great scientific academies in the world have misrepresented the consensus that human activity is causing climate change - and yet Harris begins and ends by misrepresenting himself.

The bio in Harris’s paper, released by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, presents him as “Executive Director of the science-based, nonpartisan group, the International Climate Science Coalition.” It says he’s “an engineer and project manager” and it comes close to the truth in adding that he is a “communications professional and media and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic.”

What it doesn’t mention is that Harris is a PR guy and a lobbyist, most commonly for energy industry firms. We know, for example, that he was a senior associate for the PR firm APCO Worldwide, in which role he was instrumental in launching the climate change denial (and oil industry front group) Friends of Science. We know that he moved on to a senior position at a lobby firm called the High Park Group, from which perch he created the Natural Resource Stewardship Project. We know that when NRSP was outed as an astroturf group that Harris popped up next at the International Climate Science Coalition, a group devoted not to science but to “coordinated local activism.”Harris tries to undermine the credibility of scientific consensus statements on the basis that not every member of every academy or group voted on every occasion. It’s one of the ludicrous arguments that Harris has long promoted. He rejects the idea of science as something appropriately merit-based and prefers the notion that it should be “democratic” - allowing the unschooled (or uninterested) an equally influential say in resolving important scientific questions.

One useful element of the report, however, is the compilation of every overcooked climate petition of the last 20 years. Take some time picking through these and you will find a core group of the same paid deniers (Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, et al) who have been in this game for decades, taking money not for science but, again for activism - for denying climate change. These, like Harris, are not scientists - they are polemicists.

Given my own line of work, I think that’s completely acceptable - if only they’d admit the truth of it. In the circumstances - when they base their very identity on a phoney foundation, well, you might use that fact to judge the credibility (or lack thereof) of everything else they say.