Signing up to nonsense: denialists plot letter to UN secretary general

People send me stuff. Imagine my surprise when this morning’s mail included the text of a round robin email from Tom Harris — the Canadian PR man who heads the Heartland-funded denialist lobby group the International Climate Science Coalition [full text here]. It gives an interesting insight to how these groups work behind the scenes. Here’s Harris appealing for signatures to a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon:

Time is short if we are to mount a significant counterpoint to the scientifically invalid assertions already being broadcast by the 1,500 journalists and 7,000 environmentalists attending the UN climate conference now underway in Qatar.

Please find below our “Open Letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations” to which we are inviting your endorsement. We have 61 qualified endorsers as of 9 pm EST, about 19 hours after we started to ask people.

Because we have an agreement with a major media outlet to publish the open letter on Thursday, I will need to know of your support within the next day if possible, please.

The denialist spin machine in action. The usual suspects queuing to sign up to a letter that’s going to be published — where? My guess would be the Wall Street Journal. Even more interesting is the nonsense these luminaries are so keen to endorse…

It’s worth noting that Harris is not giving anyone the chance to change his proposed letter. The usual suspects are expected to sign up without quibbling about wording. And they’re signing up to a thoroughly modern catechism of climate crank disinformation. Here are the key claims in the letter:

UK Met Office data shows “there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years”.

This is nonsense, based on a beat-up published by the Daily Mail a few months ago. Warming continues, as the World Meteorological Organisation points out.

Global warming that has not occurred cannot have caused the extreme weather of the past few years. Whether, when and how warming will resume is unknown. The science is unclear. Some scientists point out that near-term natural cooling, linked to variations in solar output, is also a distinct possibility.

“Some scientists”? I suspect only the signatories to Harris’s letter expect a “near-term natural cooling” caused by the sun1.

The “even larger climate shocks” you have mentioned would be worse if the world cooled than if it warmed.

A remarkable (and unsupportable) assertion. I will allow that an ice age might be an inconvenience, but as our emissions have effectively postponed the next one for the foreseeable future, that’s the least of our worries.

The incidence and severity of extreme weather has not increased. There is little evidence that dangerous weather-related events will occur more often in future.

The letter goes on to quote from last year’s IPCC special report on climate extremes (SREX), but ignores the key findings of that report: that increased extremes of hot weather and rainfall are being recorded, and are “virtually certain” to continue as the climate warms.

We also ask that you acknowledge that policy actions by the UN, or by the signatory nations to the UNFCCC, that aim to reduce CO2 emissions are unlikely to exercise any significant influence on future climate.

Harris and his tame signatories can ask, but to expect the UN secretary general to reject the advice of his own organisation and the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists on the basis of an error-ridden screed put together as a stunt by PR flacks for fossil fuel interests is a bit of stretch, I’d have thought. Harris’s letter will be just as effective as all the other letters he’s sent to UN secretary generals at climate conferences, and that is not at all.

  1. The phrasing recalls similar pronouncements by NZ’s very own Bryan Leyland, a veteran of several climate science coalitions. I wonder if by any chance he had a hand in the letter? []

46 thoughts on “Signing up to nonsense: denialists plot letter to UN secretary general”

  1. What an absolutely arrogant letter from someone who calls himself “qualified in climate related matters” **cough** **Splutter**
    I’m sure it will get the treatment it deserves.

  2. What is it about Canada one wonders? Something wired in the water over there? Its always been a mystery to me how this country has become a refugium of the “finest” characters from “Canada Free Press” to Harris and their current government…

    1. Canada? Lot’s of moolah bound up in them oil sands I expect. We can’t talk, we’ve got the National government and the ironically named NZ Climate Science Coagulation Coalition

    2. Gee, affluent first-world former imperial colony brutally imposed – where necessary – on its indigenous population with a resource-focused export economy whose nominally ‘conservative’ political faction is dominated by mining/fossil-fuel extractive industries deploys a faux-populist strategy of pandering to the less intelligent sector of the population’s baser instincts in order to persistently get them to vote against their own objective economic and long-term best interests.

      Why does that sound familiar? 😉

    3. In trying to answer my own question: Perhaps Canada (and Harris for that matter) are simply greedy: A warming planet will shift the USA’s grain belt north and over the border quite possibly. In any case Canada will likely calculated itself rich from a northward move of civilization in the Americas. Property prices on the lush northern beaches of the Great lakes in 2075 will know only one way… skywards… as Florida is given up to the waves, Arizona is truly representing its name, and Lax out of water, the North East coast in its annual Sandy lockdown with insurance companies refusing to cover anything within gun shot of the sea and air conditioning rationed to those with shares in power producing collectives….
      So the sooner the rest of the world tanks, the sooner the Goon brigade north of the Great Lakes will reap a once in a millennium bonanza…. (of so they think…)

  3. I hassled Tom Harris a while back on his misleadingly named organisation and he claimed that most of his ‘tiny’ funding came from Canadian individuals.
    I suspect this letter will end up in Ban Ki-Moon’s rubbish bin.

    1. If the comments left on the Financial Post to the letter are indicative of the intelligence of those professionals that inhabit the financial sector then it is no small wonder the banking system is still in meltdown.

      1. Only in your dreams, Andy.

        When even the beancounters are starting to panic, you should know that something’s up…

        A new international business report warns fossil fuel use is pushing humanity towards a catastrophic overheating of the planet, with temperature increases of four or even six degrees Celsius. No major developed or developing country is doing anything close to what’s needed to prevent large parts of the planet from becoming uninhabitable, the report found.

        “This isn’t about shock tactics, it’s simple maths,” said Leo Johnson, partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwC), one of the world’s largest accounting firms, which wrote the report.

        So, how’s your maths these days, Andy? Or didn’t they teach you the concept of “risk” when you were at Cambridge?,

        1. Well simple maths also tells us that we have got to find 3.2 degrees Celcius of global mean temp increase to get to 4 degrees over pre-industrial levels. so that graph had better start moving off the flatline soon.

          1. andyS is dreaming again:

            so that graph had better start moving off the flatline soon.

            I guess a maths degree at Cambridge (assuming andyS is being honest for once) does not include any courses in statistics.

            The only thing that is flatlining is andyS’ electroencephalogram.

            1. If you disagree that the world has warmed around 0.8 degrees over the last 150 years or so, then I am all ears to another figure.

              Unless, of course, global mean temperature is irrelevant, in which case the 4 degrees C figure is irrelevant

            2. “I guess a maths degree at Cambridge (assuming andyS is being honest for once) does not include any courses in statistics.”

              My thoughts as well Ian. andy has also been labouring under the impression that p < 0.5 is "likely"! When I directed him to a page that gave the classical mathematical definition of "likely" of which all year 8 students will be aware (ie 13 year olds), he seemed somewhat offended!

            1. Your PwC report was written by this man, it appears

              Jonathan Grant – Carbon Markets and Climate Policy

              Jonathan is an Assistant Director within PwC’s Sustainability & Climate Change with fifteen years experience predominantly focused on climate change policy and the carbon markets having first started work on the climate change issue in 1997 in the lead up to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. Prior to joining PwC he spent ten years in the oil industry. Jonathan was project director for a major initiative to develop the call documentation and evaluation process for the NER300 competition for the European Commission & European Investment Bank. The NER300 initiative is expected to provide €5bn to incentivise investment in low carbon energy projects (CCS and innovative renewables). Jonathan specialises in providing carbon markets valuations, risk and governance advice to a range of corporate clients, including Masdar, investment banks and CantorCO2e. He gave expert input to an internal audit of an oil major’s carbon trading desk and advises PwC’s audit teams for Trading Emissions Plc, Sindicatum and The Carbon Neutral Company

              (My emphasis in bold)


            2. Let me guess, andy – you figure the research revealing the high incidence of skin cancer in this country is just a conspiracy perpetrated by the sunblock and hat companies?

              (See, I can do pointless bolds, too…)

            3. Bill, you guys make me laugh. Everytime you think there is a conspiracy.

              I bolded the bits where it mentioned this guys interests in BIG OIL (maybe caps work better than bold)

              You keep banging on about how EVIL the oil companies are, yet when they have carbon trading interests or interests in CCS, they are suddenly the good guys and you can’t get enough of their love.

              It is really quite sad to see how gullible you and the rest of the creed are.

            4. Forrester, you are claiming that I am dishonest because I didn’t provide a link to the material I provided (plagiarised in your speak) which took you all of 2 seconds for you to Google

              So let’s get this clear. Is this a house rule? A cut and paste of a bio of the author is “plagiarism” without a link, and therefore dishonest, yet a cut and paste with the link is honest,and not plagiarism?

              Can you clarify that for me?

            5. andyS wants me to waste more time on his dishonest tactics:

              Can you clarify that for me?

              No, he should take courses in honesty and ethics. Why should I waste my time teaching him something he should have learned at his mother’s knee or in junior high school?

  4. D’oh, Andy, let me guess – PWC faked their global warming report so they could make a fortune out of dodgy carbon credits?

    If that is how your “mind” works, I pity you, I really do – and your family.

    1. You guess wrong.

      However, a corporate man with financial portfolios that include carbon markets, CCS and renewables with multi-billion dollar values is not “worried” about climate change, he is “leveraging” it.

      1. Andy, this is just pathetic; because your ideology cannot accept the painful reality of AGW, rather than discuss the PWC report itself, you desperately grovel for distraction.

        Who gives a rat’s a _ _ _ what the lead author does? Ghandhi was a lousy father, but that didn’t give the British the right to remain in India.

        1. The PWC author presumably got his science from, let me guess, the Potsdam Institute, since the numbers appear to be around the same as those presented in the recent World Bank report.

          (I don;t imagine that employees of PwC have intimate knowledge of climate science anymore that James Hansen is a Chartered Accountant)

          You may call this “astro-turfing”, we may call this “leveraging the climate change dynamic for the Doha talks that may optimise our strategic corporate position going forward”.

          1. Thanks for your link Thomas

            PIK is a member of the Leibniz Association and is funded to a roughly equal extent by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal State of Brandenburg. In 2011, the institute received around 10.8 million euros in institutional funding and 225,000 euros from the German Federal Government’s economic stimulus packages and the European Regional Development Fund. Additional project funding from external sources amounted to around 10.2 million euros.

            Paid by the EU to lobby itself. We call these “fake charities” in some cases

            1. We have seen your link to Fake Charities before andyS, it was risible. But please don’t let that stop you posting it up again, ‘birdchopper’ style.

            2. You derided and ridiculed the PIK scientist’s expertise in Climate Science by equating these with your vision of Hansen as a certified accountant….
              Do you stand by your ridicule of their expertise?

            3. You derided and ridiculed the PIK scientist’s expertise in Climate Science by equating these with your vision of Hansen as a certified accountant….
              Do you stand by your ridicule of their expertise?

              I did no such thing. My sentence implied that PwC probably got their info from PiK, the converse being that PwC would not seek expertise in accountancy from James Hansen.

              I am not sure what this rhetorical construct is called in English, so please accept my apologies for not putting up a link to Wikipedia explaining the grammatical and linguistic context of my previous comment.

            4. Thanks Andy, apologies accepted. I assumed your comments directed at the PwC was aimed at the PIK (acronymitis….), however unlike some with an opinion on climate matters PwC is actually using reputable sources such as the PIK instead of relying on a few contrarians with fossil fuel funding and an ideological base in far right “libertarian” circles…..
              So I think the PwC’s considered opinion and advice on matters of climate is spot on.

  5. since the numbers appear to be around the same as those presented in the recent World Bank report.

    Andy, in the real world there are things known as “facts” that have an existence independent of those who know them. Please try to grasp this concept – you’ll be amazed how useful it can be.

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