The Stephen Harper War on Climate Science

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The government of Prime Minster Stephen Harper just appointed two “climate skeptics” with connections to the oil industry to important federal scientific bodies. The scientific community is appalled.

Mark Mullins, Executive Director of the right wing Fraser Institute has just been installed on the board of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which funds university research projects including studies on climate change.

The Fraser Institute has a long history of unethical tactics around the so-called climate debate. Desmog blog readers will remember their ham handed attempts to discredit the largest peer-review exercise in scientific history, including a video targeted at youth. They have so-far received $120,000 from ExxonMobil.

Mullins (trained as an economist) makes no bones about his understanding of climate science: “the climate-change issue is somewhat sensational and definitely exaggerated.” You can listen to his entire wacky podcast here.

Besides his complete lack of scientific expertise, his obvious political bias and of course potential conflict with his current employer, Mullins does have one significant qualification important to the Harper government: his was a former policy advisor for Harper’s former party, the Canadian Alliance.

The other jaw-dropping intervention in the Canadian scientific community was the appointment of Harper’s “best friend” and climate denier John Weissenberger to the board of Canada Foundation for Innovation, which funds large research projects.

This is the second time that Harper picked a plum for his old buddy. In 2007, he appalled political observers by quietly appointing Weissenberger to be chief of staff to the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration.

Weissenberger was Harper’s former campaign manager, and a geologist for Husky Oil in Alberta. He has also spilled the beans that he his at odds with the entire scientific community around climate change, opining about his “skepticism about global warming.”

A sampling of quotes about climate change from these two men can be found here.

Scientists were rightly disgusted by these moves. Garry Clarke, a leading international glaciologist at the University of British Columbia called the appointments “dreadful”.

University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, another lead author of past IPCC reports said it is “very disturbing” that people who dispute global warming are making strategic decisions on scientific research.

“What would the public think if we appointed outspoken proponents of the fallacy ‘smoking doesn’t cause cancer’ as members of the boards funding medical and, in particular, cancer research?” Weaver asked.

All this smacks of an obvious effort to stack the boards of important federal scientific bodies with a fringe group of compromised climate deniers.

In 2007, Harper installed Christopher Essex as an NSERC director. This was the same year that Essex co-authored a Fraser Institute attack on the IPCC. For an annotated evisceration of this piece of garbage, have a look at the critique by the actual scientists at Real Climate.

Essex is also on record as stating: “The claim that there is a global warming crisis threatening to bring chaos and destruction upon the world is so feeble you were probably feeling skeptical anyway. You were right.”

The outdated Republican war on science is apparently spilling across the border, thanks to our own George Bush junior, Stephen Harper.

This month we’re giving away FREE copies Anthony Barnosky’s Heatstroke: nature in an age of global warming.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.

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