Letter writer: CO2’s effect on climate change is highly debatable

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Mike Wright is quite mistaken to think that the impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) on climate is well-understood [Climate-change Denier Displays Lack of Scientific Understanding,” July 22, Xpress].

University of Western Ontario applied mathematician Dr. Chris Essex, an expert in the mathematical models that are the basis of the climate scare, explains, “Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change lists thousands of peer-reviewed science papers that show that much of what we thought we knew about CO2 and climate is wrong or highly debatable.

The lack of global warming for the past 18 years while CO2 rose 10 percent (likely due mainly to soaring hydrocarbon fuel use in China and other developing nations) suggests that there is something seriously wrong with the CO2-caused warming theory. As I showed the 1,500 students I taught at Carleton University here in Ottawa, Canada, the science is becoming more unsettled as the field advances. Not only can we not control global climate, we don’t even know if warming or cooling lies ahead.

Yet, on this flimsy basis, President Barack Obama wants to end America’s use of coal, your country’s least expensive and more plentiful power source, to supposedly “stop climate change.” It is worrisome for us here in Canada, and indeed across the free world, when our primary defender is bent on crippling itself in this way. U.S. Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) summed up the situation well, “You don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe.”

— Tom Harris
Executive Director
International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
Ottawa, Canada

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73 thoughts on “Letter writer: CO2’s effect on climate change is highly debatable

    • Question AGW

      The DailyKos – is that a politically neutral organization, or one with a demonstrative leaning? If it is the latter, would it be above putting out biased assertions, or is it possible that political ideology would slant its views to the point that it might distort facts or even leave some out in order not to undermine any position it favors?

      • Peter Robbins

        According to its website, the Daily Kos is an “online political community” that attempts to be “at once a news organization, community, and activist hub.” I think it is fair to say that it is left-leaning, and the assertions of its contributors should be evaluated skeptically in that light. The article I cited contains much interesting factual information that letter-writer Harris (now that he has joined the thread) is free to dispute, explain or qualify himself. I think it is important to know who is speaking behind the curtain, don’t you?

          • Peter Robbins

            Thanks for the response. If I had been the editor at the Daily Kos, I would have allowed you to post a reply, and I am happy you had the opportunity to do so here. I don’t think your rebuttal does more than quibble about minor points and word choices, however. Significantly, you confirm that you are a mechanical engineer, not a scientist; you decline to say where your organization gets its funding; you do not address which, if any, organizations your staff came from; and your background certainly includes what I would call energy-industry public relations, whether you accept the term or not. So, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stick with the overwhelming scientific consensus for now and leave you fellows waving your fists on the sidelines. But do keep us posted if you publish a paper relevant to global warming in a peer-reviewed journal. No science is ever so settled that it cannot be tested anew, and I have no problem with free inquiry.

        • Question AGW

          As seen in the evidence presented by Tom Harris of the efforts that the DailyKos went to in order to prevent its readers from seeing his rebuttal response to the article written against him, is that not perhaps an indication that their “interesting factual information” is actually something that can be severely undermined, so much so that such work rebuttal must never be seen at the DailyKos? When we are seeing the reaction here against Harris, is that also perhaps an indication that what he says undermines the notion of man-caused global warming as a settled science above reproach?

          You are probably not aware of it, I conducted my own experiment at the DailyKos as a registered user, attempting to post a piece which simply questioned the idea of people being reluctant to accept global warming due to fear of having to change their lifestyle, a fear I deemed baseless by offering my own example. My post was banned, as I detailed here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/05/18/climate-change-free-speech-prohibited-at-dailykos/

          Aren’t the widespread calls to ban criticism of the notion of man-caused global warming a sign of just how little confidence global warming promoters actually have about the core IPCC science conclusions?

          • Tom Harris

            Precisely. Were global warming promoters confident of their position, or were they acting in a scientific, instead of mostly political fashion, they would welcome open debate so they could show everyone how right they are. But, even global warming promoters can see their forecasts are not coming true so they attempt to suppress those of us who point out what nature is really doing.

        • Tom Harris

          You write ” I think it is fair to say that it is left-leaning, and the assertions of its contributors should be evaluated skeptically in that light.” Why then did you post the link to the page as it were authoritative?

          • Peter Robbins

            I think readers here are generally familiar with the political leanings of the Daily Kos, and anyone who wasn’t would quickly learn by visiting the website. I didn’t think I needed to say more about that. And I deliberately used the word “see” to connote critical examination, not blind acceptance. But to the extent that it was incumbent on me, as a commenter, to solicit your robust and unedited response to the Daily Kos profile, I did so in the second of my three comments. I’m not sure what more I can do to extend you a friendly and respectful welcome to our gentle mountain community. Enjoy the rest of your visit.

  1. Thanks Peter. After reading the letter I KNEW it had to be one of the paid flacks. A shame Xpress didn’t bother to do a bit of background research. Publishing this kind of thing without the background info is a real disservice to the community.

    • Question AGW

      If Tom Harris’ credibility is destroyed from guilt-by-association, then by default the Xpress should not publish any climate assessments stemming from the IPCC, since IPCC Vice Chair Jean Pascal van Ypersele is seen in open association with Greenpeace via the disclosure here http://www.greenpeace.org/belgium/PageFiles/19049/SumIB_uk.pdf , an organization standing to benefit massively from donations by people gravely concerned about global warming. Correct?

      And as Dr S Fred Singer is often slammed for energy industry ties from decades in the past, it then is equally acceptable to apply the same condemnation to the IPCC’s Dr Michael Oppenheimer, who had direct ties to the Environmental Defense Fund years back. The same situation applying to Dr Ove Hoegh-Guldberg , with his history of writing reports for Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.

      Correct?

        • mynameis

          And you try to pass yourself off as unbiased! Equating the nonprofits Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund with massive for-profit energy producers. Wow.

          • Tom Harris

            “Guilt-by-association” is a logical fallacy no matter who or what is being associated with an argument. That is grade 12 philosophy, but very few people in the climate debate bother to review what they learned about basic fallacies as a teenager.

          • mynameis

            I said nothing about guilt by association, but stated only that you equate Greenpeace and the EDF to the massive for-profit energy producers, yet you still strive to appear unbiased. Trying to dodge that simple fact mirrored back at you, by saying that “guilt by association” is a canard, is an empty response.

          • Tom Harris

            Neither Russell nor I equated Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund with energy producers. You just made that up. The fact remains, however, that both types of groups have strong vested interests.

          • mynameis

            I’ll defer to the written record above, and your comment just now(!), and allow others to draw their own conclusions.

  2. Rod

    There can be no doubt that CO2 absorbs solar radiation, Eunice Foote proved this in 1856. She also proved that it is not a Greenhouse Effect, so although Mr. Harris is living in denial about the effects of CO2, he is absolutely right about the reliability computer models. I have done lots of computer programing, so I know that you can program a computer to give you any result you want. Computer models are a tribute to the programmers who create them but have little to do with the real world and it is naive in the extreme and extremely foolish to base any decisions or policies or anything else, on computer models. And until the alarmists get the science right, since the Greenhouse theory is obviously wrong, all public policy related to climate change should be shelved, because doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing based on erroneous science!

    • Tom Harris

      I am not “living in denial about the effects of CO2,” I am, to quote from my letter, explaining that the “impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) on climate is [not] well-understood.” It may very well have practically no effect in comparison with the other drivers such as changes in the output of the Sun. Perhaps, I should have inserted the word “relative” in front of that phrase to be more clear.

      • Rod

        “the “impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) on climate is [not] well-understood.”: It may very well have practically no effect in comparison with the other drivers such as changes in the output of the Sun.”

        The problem here is that these things are “[not] well-understood”, by YOU and/or the climate science community. I on the other hand, I have an excellent grounding in Math, Physics and Chemistry and have been studying climate change and global warming for over 40 years, I DO understand. I understand that CO2 does absorb solar radiation and has absolutely nothing to do with The Greenhouse Effect and that solar radiation has absolutely nothing to do with climate.

          • Rod

            I know that solar radiation has nothing to do with climate because I understand the mechanism of climate change, something neither you nor the scientific has any idea about!

            For the past 30 tears I have been making accurate prediction about the environmental phenomena associated with climate change. I said, “predictions”, not rationalisations after the fact. No one else can come close!

            I know what I’m talking about, the rest of you are just flailing around in the dark.

            Climate and weather are disparate and distinct. Why would you think that they would have the same heat source. Solar radiation is responsible for weather, the change of seasons and nurturing life on this planet. Isn’t that enough? Climate is governed by the internal heat of our planet and CO2 and Methane regulate that background temperature. CO2 is an insulator and helps to keep the heat in. Methane is a heat conductor, so it helps the climate cool down. It is CO2 that has been fending off the next ice-age and the rescent Methane releases are what has been moderating that effect. As I predicted, so it is.

  3. Stewart

    The Koch brothers strike again, this time in the pages of the Mountain Xpress.

  4. NFB

    I understand and appreciate the MX wishes to publish a range of views to foster discussion. But it really dropped the ball on this blatantly orchestrated and totally inorganic corporate propaganda campaign.

    • Question AGW

      @NFB – it would appear you are quite familiar with climate science and political discourse on this topic. Others in this audience might not be. Please indulge us: specify what your exact climate science expertise is first, and then lay out point-by-point what is totally inorganic about the NIPCC reports. If you could also detail how you know this to be a corporate venture, with specifics in which corporations, and what decision-making process prompted this action, when, where, how, etc. Specifics on which bits are pure propaganda would also be helpful, of course, and which is rhetoric open to misinterpretation.

      One other thing: pretend this forum here is a courtroom evidentiary hearing. What actual evidence would you present to back up the accusations you and Steward above put out?

      • Peter Robbins

        Okay. You were asked in discovery to produce funding-related information in your sole possession, you refused, and the appropriate negative inference was drawn.

  5. Tom Harris

    The comments after my letter demonstrate the depths to which the climate science debate has descended, largely replacing rational science and engineering discussions with ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies: “After reading the letter I KNEW it had to be one of the paid flacks.” Or, just maybe, it could be that there are honest, well-informed people out that who question the holy doctrine of Greenpeace and the EPA, people who have nothing to with the Koches or other groups you apparently do not approve of.

    • mynameis

      More on Thom Harris and his “tone trolling”:

      http://scholarsandrogues.com/2015/02/16/tom-harris-hypocritical-peddler-of-deceitful-climate-change-editorials/

      Note at the end of Part I, they show that he has seeded one particular article into more than one local magazine.

      Do a search on the following sentence, and you will see how many more of that article he has gotten placed throughout the country (and the world):

      “The climate controversy is one of the world’s most important discussions.”

      Wicked Local Taunton. Wicked Local Fall River. South Coast Today. Malaysian Digest. Your Houston News. Augusta Free Press. The list goes on…

      • Tom Harris

        So what? Syndicated writers have complete articles published hundreds of times over and over, not just individual sentences.

        • mynameis

          But you’re not a syndicated writer, are you? You’re the executive director of an organization pushing a very specific agenda.

          How much false equivalence can you fall into in a single forum?

      • Peter Robbins

        Wow. The six-part series in Scholars and Rogues is terrific. Everyone should read it. And what a website! Thanks for bringing this link to our attention.

  6. Regarding CO2 and it’s influence on global temperature, many of the top scientists from a number of disciplines part of or related to climate have shown clearly the numerous errors of logic, methodology, statistics and conclusions of those claiming CO2 controls global temperature. I believe that an intelligent, objective person can quite easily discern this with a modest amount of reading and thinking, as I stated to do about 10 years ago. Don’t take Tom Harris’ word as fact, learn for yourself by reading works cited by the NIPCC and the IPCC. Not the summary for policymakers but the actual science work. I promise that if you present live in fear of CO2 and dangerous man made global warming you will soon be put at ease and later become upset at the degree of misrepresentation and even malice behind the proclamations of Obama, Gore, Suzuki et al.

  7. One doesn’t need a great deal of science knowledge to appreciate that radical change in the composition of something essential to life is likely to have unpleasant effects. The atmosphere we evolved into was created by aeons of biologic action which happened to sequester a great deal of the carbon in the earth system. Releasing that carbon back into the atmosphere doesn’t seem like a good experiment on the face of it – whether or not it causes planetary warming. One can quibble about the atmospheric models all one wants, and still not explain away the massive acidification of the oceans that is another result of the changing carbon mix. One can quibble about the models and still not address the air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion. And one can nitpick those models and do nothing about black lung, mine collapses, oil spills and the BP blowout. Moving to renewable energy makes sense on so many levels that the quibblers offer merely the sound and fury of idiots. Signifying nothing.

    • Tom Harris

      We are at one of the lowest levels in CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere in the last half billion years. Much lower and we are in big trouble as plants will start to die. Much higher and plants will thrive as they have in the past when CO2 levels were much higher. I don’t think your fears of a gradually rising CO2 level are warranted.

      • Chris G

        Gosh, plants dying because of lack of CO2 would be bad. 15 thousand years ago CO2 was less than 200 pom, before the industrial revolution CO2 was less than 300 pom, and levels are just over 400 ppm today. Can you tell us at what point in the last 600 million years carbon dioxides levels were too low for plants? Because, I’m pretty sure if plants had died off 15 thousand years ago, we would not be having this conversation.

          • Chris G

            So, what you are saying is that we should be afraid of lowering our CO2 to say, 350 ppm, because that might kill off plants, even though that has never happened before, despite much lower levels. What?

          • Tom Harris

            Chris G writes: “So, what you are saying is that we should be afraid of lowering our CO2 to say, 350 ppm, because that might kill off plants, even though that has never happened before, despite much lower levels. What?”

            No, I never said that. You just made it up.

      • Abhay

        i go supermarket use my own bag, just throw evtnehiyg inside, as long as they can go in… not that i huan bao, but i just hate carrying all the plastic bag, so clumsy……

  8. I would also note that Tom Harris’ letter has appeared in publications across the continent – so it would have been far more legitimately placed as an op-ed than a LTE. Chances that Mr. Harris is a reader of Xpress, or has any local interests, are thin.

    • Tom Harris

      Please show us where my letter “has appeared in publications across the continent.”

        • Thanks for letting me know about that, somewhat different, publishing back on July 27. If you want to help me out by searching for more, that would be great!

          • bsummers

            Why do you have two different avatars? I’m concerned now that we don’t really know who we are talking to. Sock-puppetry is a sure-fire way to lose all credibility.

            But in any case, if you are the original letter-writer: “Thanks for letting me know” about the nearly-identical letter published in a paper in Oregon, as if you weren’t aware that it was there? That’s a very strange response.

        • Here are the comments after that publishing in Oregon:

          Iconoclastic Sage – 22 hours ago Climate Science and the requisite peer approved publishing is a waste of everbody’s time and fortune. Why can’t they get serious with their projections and use a phrenologist with the proven mathematical skills evidenced in the prodigy of the Bodine famlly on The Beverly Hillbillies.

          A simple “Cipher some for them Jethroe,” command by Uncle Jed would shame the piteous results slanted to achieve panic in the eyes and incontinent wads in the pants of loopy liberals.

          MicMocTod – July 29, 2015 7:08 pm I am happy to know that some of our neighbors to the north have still the mind to think and speak on issues politically as sensitive as climate change. Not all of us have donned the wool of sheep for the ‘luxury of acceptance’ by today’s press and politicos.

        • bsummers asks: “Why do you have two different avatars?” Sometimes the pictures editors use are from different years but my identity is always the same. Why the insult about “Sock-puppetry”?

          Editors rarely tell me when they use my letters and articles, so I appreciate it when you find one I missed.

          • bsummers

            I don’t believe that answer holds water. From what I know about how the XPress comment process works, you create your own account (including choosing an avatar) to post comments here, not the editors. And there are clearly two different ‘Tom Harris’ accounts active at the same time. Why do you have two accounts?

            As for finding your nearly-identical letter in the Oregon newspaper, you’re welcome. Why don’t you tell us how many times you’ve submitted the same letter “across the continent”?

            And I made the reference to sock-puppetry because that has historically been a problem on the XPress comment threads – and then look! I followed that link up above, and this is not the first time you’ve been accused of it, or of being disingenuous in other ways.

            http://helpdesk.dailykos.com/discussions/questions/15884-how-do-i-add-comments-to-a-piece-after-i-am-logged-in/page/1

            XPress: please look into the two accounts under the same name, and whether any other activities should get this guy banned like he was banned at DailyKos just a few months ago.

          • bsummer: you write, “there are clearly two different ‘Tom Harris’ accounts active at the same time.” That is news to me. Xpress: feel free to delete the other account if there is another to this one.

          • bsummers

            “there are clearly two different ‘Tom Harris’ accounts active at the same time.” That is news to me.

            Then (at least) one set of comments in this thread under the name ‘Tom Harris’ is the work of a liar. Which is it – ‘blue-background Tom Harris’, or ‘brown-background Tom Harris’?

            Oh wait – this just occurred to me – maybe one (or both) are trolls affiliated with Tom Harris, pretending to be him, not realizing that they’ve let the cat out of the bag by using two different accounts on the same thread.

            Weak.

    • Question AGW

      Is it fair to say that, by your line of reasoning regarding Harris’ location, if a tourist spotted an egregious situation happening in your community that he or she had seen in other communities which your neighbors may consider extremely valuable and informative (say for example, a business leader apparently repeating activity that was highly suspect elsewhere on prior occasions), that this tourist should not have the opportunity to alert you all to this situation simply because he or she is not a reader of this publication or does not live here?

      By your line of reasoning, is a proponent of Al Gore’s efforts to stop global warming not welcome to share his efforts with you in a letter-to-the-editor for the same out-of-town, non-reader reason?

      • Peter Robbins

        A stranger peddling the virtues of coal in this area doesn’t, as the song goes, know the territory.

        • Well, if the US weakens itself by ruining its most important electricity source over a myth, then Canada and he rest of the free world are in danger.

          • Chris G

            No Tom, you presume only fossil fuel can make electricity, and you presume the vast majority of physical scientists to actually study the issue over the last 100 years have been wrong.

        • Question AGW

          So, by default then, a stranger peddling the faults of coal in this area doesn’t, as the song goes, know the territory either. Correct?

          • Peter Robbins

            No. That would be someone who’s heard of coal ash.

          • bsummers

            Oh, look. It’s back to Tom Harris”A”. The fact that you keep switching from one account to another while denying knowledge of it, leads me to be skeptical of anything else you say. What’s your game, whoever you are? This is pure trollish behavior.

            XPress, seriously. Are people allowed to openly comment using multiple log-ins in a single thread? If so, I’ll load up on new personas myself.

          • Tom Harris

            I see now that I do have two log-ins. Oh well, it doesn’t make any difference since it is clear that both Tom Harrises are the same person.

          • bsummers

            I don’t think it’s clear at all. You have to choose to create two separate accounts. New ones don’t just appear magically.

            I have serious doubts that either of you are who you say you are.

          • Peter Robbins

            Of course, it isn’t clear which Tom, if either, is real. None of these ever-changing “explanations” makes any sense. As soon as Tom offers one up, the facts shoot it down. In fact, the issue has become so muddied that we may never know the truth. In these circumstances, the best policy is to concede we can do nothing and just say it doesn’t matter.

            See, Tom, I am getting the hang of this.

          • Question AGW

            I would venture to say that folks who see a conspiracy in a pair of otherwise identical (and as commenter “bsummers” suggests, even entirely bogus) sign-ins are also the types who accept without questioning the nearly two decade-old accusation that skeptic climate scientists are paid industry money to lie, a notion so filled with inconsistencies over that span of time that it rivals the kind of conspiracy theory put out by 911Truthers and ChemTrail believers.

          • Peter Robbins

            Conspiracy? No, more like a gang that can’t shoot straight.

            As I see we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns, I’ll leave you with one last thought: Business executives have a fiduciary duty to put their industries in the best possible light. So common sense suggests that they are going to fund organizations that they believe will advance their shareholders’ interests and stop funding them if they don’t. That’s why knowing who the backers are is a useful piece of information when evaluating what, on its face, purports to be an organization devoted to advancing climate science, but whose positions serve the interests of certain industries, whose scientific views are well outside the mainstream, and whose behavior resembles a propaganda machine, albeit a very thin-skinned one. Receipt of funding from commercial interests – directly or indirectly – does not necessarily imply that anyone was paid to lie. Litigants pay for expert opinion all the time. But funding sources are worth taking into account. Anytime your organization wants to shed what you assure us are nagging and unfounded speculations about its funding, all it has to do is say where it gets its funds and its staff. To my knowledge, your executive director has merely said that the information is confidential. Correct me if that is wrong. He should be allowed a fair airing of the facts, but he needs to come forward with facts – not invective, hyperbole and coy wording.

            Once we’ve heard his accounting, we can decide the extent to which it is credible in light of everything else we’ve experienced in these last few days. See ya.

  9. Chris G

    Tom’s main premise is that we don’t know everything; therefore we know nothing.

    He goes on to base his argument on a fallacy. Mid-troposphere air temperatures have not risen much over the last 18 year; this.is true. Meanwhile, the oceans have gotten much warmer than expected. The last time I looked, this globe had oceans; so to say there has been no global warming for 18 years is misleading, at best.

  10. bsummers

    Hey look at me – I’m Tom Harris too. Cake for everybody!

    No, really – I’m Tom Harris. Who would lie about that? Or the climate?

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