Canadian schools sent brochures from climate change skeptics
by Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service
Published: Sunday, May 04, 2008
OTTAWA — An American think tank has sent out more than 11,000 brochures and DVDs to Canadian schools urging them to teach their students that scientists are exaggerating how human activity is the driving force behind global warming.
The Chicago-based group, the Heartland Institute, said its goal is to ensure that students are provided with a “balanced” education about “an important and controversial issue,” but critics, including a leading climate scientist, described it as a campaign of misinformation.
The mail out, sent in February, included results from international surveys of climate scientists conducted in 1996 and 2003 along with a 10-minute DVD called Unstoppable Solar Cycles, The Real Story of Greenland.
“It took me a while to figure out what they were up to,” said Eric Betteridge, who teaches at Hillcrest High School in Ottawa.
The Heartland Institute says that it purchased a database list of addresses of 11,250 schools from across the country, including about 10,000 private or faith-based schools, for a massive mail campaign aimed at Canadian children in all provinces.
“All the kids in our schools are being taught that climate change is a serious crisis and that we’ve got to reduce our CO2 and they’re being taught (that) quite falsely,” said Jay Lehr, the science director at the Heartland Institute who sent the package. “We would like to educate people and basically give them the other side of the issue, so we send out materials only in hope of a little balance.”
The Sierra Club of Canada said that the Heartland Institute’s information was far from being balanced. [The Heartland Institute didn’t claim the information they were providing was balanced. They said they were providing the information in order to balance out the one-sided chicken-little environmentalist scare propaganda that’s being disseminated through the schools and the mainstream media. It’s not the same thing. The Heartland Institute has no more of an obligation to be “balanced” in its treatment of global warming than the Sierra Club does.-IA]
“It’s alarming that an American think tank is distributing misinformation on the most important issue of our time in Canadian schools, to actually create an illusion that there is a scientific debate,” said Emilie Moorhouse, a spokeswoman for the environmental group. [This has become the retort of choice for cowards and charlatans who are unwilling or unable to defend or substantiate their assertions. If you can’t beat your opponent in a debate, then just shut him out of it, or better yet, shut down debate altogether.-IA]
The Heartland Institute describes itself as a national nonprofit research and education organization whose mission is “to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets to a better job than government bureaucracies.”
The brochure and DVD said that scientists were “deeply divided” about “the notion that climate change is mostly the result of human activities.” It also suggested that the sun was the main factor behind recent warming recorded on the planet.
The package does not make reference to the conclusions reached by governments and scientists from around the world in their 2007 assessment of the latest peer-reviewed research on climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in its summary of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning report that global warming is unequivocal and that there is a 90-per-cent chance it is being caused by humans.
After reviewing the Heartland Institute package, Mr. Betteridge said he was left feeling both amused and distressed that someone would try to promote this material to children in the classroom.
“I think I would be concerned because it was well written, and if somebody hadn’t been aware of what the general consensus is among climatologists about global warming, you would begin to think, ‘Wow, somebody’s giving me the wrong story here.”
John Stone, the senior Canadian researcher on the IPCC bureau, said that the 2007 assessment was cautious in its projections about impacts such as melting ice sheets among others.
“If anything, the IPCC assessments are conservative and this one (in 2007) was particularly conservative in hindsight,” said Mr. Stone. “Scientists don’t like to go out on a limb — they don’t like to be alarmist because they feel that they might be proven wrong.” [You can’t get much more alarmist than predicting the end of the world, which several of the IPCC scientist-priests have been doing publicly and with a great flair for drama.-IA]
The IPCC concluded that the contribution of solar variability to recent global warming was about a tenth of the impact of increased greenhouse gases, Mr. Stone said.
The Heartland Institute, which has received $791,000 in funding from Exxon-Mobil since 1998 according to a recent analysis by Greenpeace USA [And where do Greenpeace and the Sierra Club get their funding from, I wonder?-IA], also mailed out its package to 200 influential Canadian decision-makers, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
Moorhouse from the Sierra Club suggested that this might explain why the government has adopted climate change policies that were criticized for being soft on the oil and gas industry.
“It looks like they’re listening to the Heartland Institute and other oil-industry-sponsored think tanks and they’re following their curriculum rather than listening to the vast majority of what the scientific community is saying around the world,” she said. [It’s funny how some seem to believe that arriving at the truth is a democratic process. Don’t judge a theory on its merits, just judge it on how many adherents it has. If enough experts agree that the earth is flat, then the earth must indeed be flat.-IA]
A spokesperson for the Heartland Institute said that no company has ever contributed more than five per cent of the think tank’s total revenues and no industry sector contributed more than 10 per cent of its revenues.
“Nobody buys research,” said Dan Miller, the institute’s executive vice-president and publisher. “That isn’t the way it works. The funding follows the intellectual capacity, the intellectual integrity. It’s not the other way around.”
Although Flaherty’s office sent a letter of acknowledgment to the Heartland Institute confirming that the comments would be brought to the minister’s attention, spokesperson Chisholm Pothier said that the government is not taking advice from people who question climate change.
[Note: I will be putting together a list of articles, books, and videos which debunk the hypothesis of man-made global warming. Stay tuned.]