An unfortunate trip to the Opinion Page

Yesterday I ran across an article titled Leo vs. science: vanishing evidence for climate change and curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on it.  Besides acting in some pretty good movies, Leonardo DiCaprio has long been a strong advocate of the movement to educate the people on the realities of climate change, by creating and narrating climate change films and in general being consciously outspoken on the topic.  His latest effort is a series of short films being coordinated with Green World Rising with the first episode titled Carbon which is under 9 minutes long and worth a view.

The overall tone of the ‘vanishing evidence of climate change’ article attacks DiCaprio for not being a scientist and asserts that he is spreading misinformation like a virus.  The article goes on to make several bold statements about how there is no evidence that carbon dioxide from human activities is responsible, how global warming ceased in the late 1990’s, and among other things how the ice caps are not melting.

All of these statements are 100% false and can be easily countered by a quick query of any reputable science organization, which made me wonder how this article came to be.  I was then mildly relieved to see that this article was on the Opinion page of the NY Post, though I think it would be a better fit at The Onion.  A quick search found other, nearly identical, articles authored by the same two people on other sites in recent weeks and made me wonder; who are the two presumed scientists who authored this article and what peer reviewed climate science research studies have they published?

Tom Harris signs the article stating he is the executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).  Further research shows that he was a mechanical engineer for 30 years and in 2006 became the operations director for a lobbying firm who actively opposed the notion of man-made global warming and moved on from there to ICSC.  The ICSC is funded in part by the Heartland Institute.  You might recall Heartland worked feverishly in the 1990’s to question the science behind cigarettes and cancer and now devotes the majority of their time and funding they receive from the fossil fuel industry pushing climate change skepticism.

Co-author Bob Carter signs the article as a former professor and head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Australia.  Further research reveals Bob is a paleontologist and is also funded by the Heartland Institute.  In fact, documents that went public in 2012 revealed that Carter was paid a monthly fee of $1,667 USD “as part of a program to pay ‘high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message’.”

The notion of being funded by Heartland; an institute whose primary donations come from Exxon, The Koch Brothers, the American Petroleum Institute and more, should be enough to logically conclude that any impartiality of opinion is negated.  Most humans, regardless of their occupation, have biased views towards the company that provides their paycheck.  Tom and Bob are currently making their living by being professional deniers, not as being true scientists who do scientific research and create publications that are subject to peer review.  Sadly, when newspapers and websites pick up these Opinion entries and publish them, they do damage and create doubt and confusion for those that are not educated on the issue.

Finally, most have heard the argument how ~97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is being caused by humans.  The analogy often follows how if you had a loved one that had heart issues and went and asked 100 doctors what they thought and 97 of them were cardiac surgeons and said ‘yes, this is a real issue and you should change your diet, exercise more, take this medicine, and have regular checkups’ that is what you would make sure your loved one did.  As opposed to taking the advice of the podiatrist, neurosurgeon, and orthopedic dentist who just weren’t quite sure.  However, that analogy does not quite represent what is actually happening today.  In today’s world, the 3 “doctors” who oppose your loved one taking better care of their health, are getting funded on the side by an organization whose primary revenue stream is providing cadavers for research.

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