Be careful what you believe: leak exposes Australian climate sceptic, secret payments discovered

It’s very hard to know what and who to believe. Recently a friend forwarded me a Youtube link under the subject heading:

Listen up Julia Gillard.
The BEST Rational Discussion EVER on Climate Change Reality.

The clip is a TV interview with a nice bearded professor called Bob Carter, the kind who wears leather patches on his elbows, going to lengths to appear balanced and non-extreme before basically denying that science is concerned about climate change.

The Professor – a geologist and marine researcher (ie NOT a climate scientist)  who spoke at protests against the carbon price last year alongside the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and writes columns for News Ltd newspapers – sounded pretty convincing but sparked my radar when he claimed “nobody knows what scientists think” (at 7:30 in the video). Well it just so happens that a few months ago I looked into a range of highly credible and exhaustive reviews  of the scientific literature on climate change which show that the vast majority of scientists are immensely concerned about the subject.

This ‘scientist’s’ statement seem odd enough to me that I checked out his sponsoring organisation, The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. And surprise surprise, Wikipedia makes it pretty clear that this oh-so-reasonable professor represents an outfit that sits not in the middle of the debate – as he claimed – but pretty way out in climate denial land. Not only that, they are very active in attempting to undermine climate science, influence the media and bully government policy. For example:

  • In July 2006, the Coalition called on the New Zealand government to institute a Royal Commission on climate change because it claimed the public were “being given incomplete, inaccurate and biased information about the effects of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” when “global warming caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases…cannot be substantiated”. The Government refused on the grounds that the majority of climate scientists in the world agree that there is no longer any doubt that climate is changing due to human activity.
  • In March 2008, the New Zealand Listener reported that the Coalition was lobbying journalists to cover their questioning of climate change science in order to create an illusion of greater disagreement over the science than actually exists.
  • In July 2008, the Coalition issued a press release that stated that the premise that “the globe is warming” was “a lie”. The release also described the Royal Society of New Zealand statement on climate change as “an orchestrated litany of lies”.
  • In November 2009 they issued a “news alert” which made the NZ warming trend go away by treating measurements from different sites as if they came from the same site.
  •  In August 2010, the Coalition announced it had commenced legal action against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, asking the High Court to invalidate its official temperature record, to prevent it using the temperature record when advising Government.

I emailed the friend who sent me the link to let him know he was inadvertently distributing lies. And that’s where I left it. Until today….

Boom! There on page 10 of the news section of the Sydney Morning Herald….Professor Bob Carter, our ‘oh-so-reasonable’ interviewee, has been shown to be on the payroll of the Heartland Foundation,  a wealthy Chicago based ‘think tank’ which has a mission of discrediting climate science. Recently, at least. Back in the In the 1990s, the group worked withPhilip Morris to question the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks, and to lobby against government public health reforms.

This bombshell was the result of a leak of Heartlands financial and strategy documents. Amongst other revelations, including a project to undermine science lessons for US schoolchildren, are details of our friend Bob’s status as the happy recipient of a monthly payment of $US1667 as part of a program to pay “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message”.

Whilst the authenticity of the leaked strategy documents is being disputed by Heartland, the budget papers are not being challenged. So how does Bob explain himself? Well suddenly he doesn’t appear quite so avuncular: he did not deny receiving payments but would not confirm if the think tank expected anything in return for its money, spluttering “That suggestion is silly and offensive – a kindergarten level argument. Institutions or organisations simply pay for services rendered – in the same way that an architect is paid for their work, so are scientists. What they may make any payment to me for, I’m not discussing with anybody outside of my family.”

My, my Professor. Given what we know about Heartland, you might like to expand on the nature of your “services rendered”? And when you mentioned in your interview “the organisation that supports me”, why did you NOT include Heartland?

Who actually provides the cash that supports the good professor’s worthy efforts, and several others in similar roles? Heartland’s funding comes from individual donors (like the WalMart family), as well as manufacturing and resources businesses (Exxon Mobil had close ties in the past), and also drug companies (GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilley). One anonymous donor has given a staggering $US8.6 million to the think tank since 2007. Altogether, more than $US20 million had been spent funding and co-ordinating the activities of climate sceptics and bloggers since 2007, the documents suggest.

And what’s next in Heartland’s plans? For this year, a campaign to convince people that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for gas is safe and beneficial. Nice.

I’m glad to say that my radar worked on this occasion!! But there’s a salient lesson here: beware peddlers of our destruction disguised as your concerned friend. Just because they’re on TV, just because they’re a university professor, just because they claim they are middle ground…doesn’t mean they’re not immoral, ethically compromised, greedy shonks.

I leave it to Carter’s employer, James Cook University, to ask this disingenuous and dangerous man some very pointed questions about his extra curricular activities, and to consider his role in a place of higher learning.


The leaks:

Who they pay:

Sources for other information about the NZ Climate Science Coalition and Heartland:

·  ^ Mc Shane, Owen (2006-05-01). “Scientists Group to Refute Global Warming Claims”. Press Release: Centre for Resource Management Studies. Retrieved 2010-06-12. “A group of leading New Zealand climate scientists has announced today the formation of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, aimed at refuting what it believes are unfounded claims about anthropogenic (man-made)global warming.”

·  ^ “Call for Royal Commission on Climate Change” (Press release). New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-17.

·  ^ Parker, David (2006-07-26). “Royal Commission on Climate Change rejected”. New Zealand Government Press Release.

·  ^ Dave Hansford (2008-03-22). “Some like it hot”. New Zealand Listener (Vol 213 No 3541). “Lobbyists from the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition have lately got stories in the business pages of national media, with articles liberally quoting Owen McShane and Bryan Leyland, questioning the reality of climate change.”

·  ^ Gray, Vincent (2008-07-15). “Comments on the recent statement by the climate committee of the Royal Society of New Zealand”. New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. Retrieved 2010-01-10.

·  ^ NZPA (2010-08-15). “Niwa sued over data accuracy”. Stuff (Fairfax New Zealand Ltd). Retrieved 2010-08-15.

·  ^ “Niwa challenged over accuracy of data”. New Zealand Herald (APN Holdings NZ Ltd). 2010-08-15. Retrieved 2010-08-21.

Connor, Steve (March 3, 2008). “Tobacco and oil pay for climate conference”. The Independent. Retrieved September 2, 2010. “The first international conference designed to question the scientific consensus on climate change is being sponsored by a right-wing American think-tank which receives money from the oil industry.”


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