Now Really Secret Payments

Kevin Grandia writes:

Canada's latest and greatest climate change denial group, the Natural Resource Stewardship Project, has come up with a laughable reason for hiding it's funding sources. According to a recent CanWest News Service article, the NRSP's executive director, Tom Harris, states that "a confidentiality agreement doesn't allow him to say whether energy companies are funding his group."

But if energy companies are not funding his group, what sort of confidentiality agreement would stop him from saying so?

In other Tom Harris news, he's been editing the Wikipedia page on the Natural Resource Stewardship Project in an attempt to remove the fact that as well as heading the NRSP he works for the High Park Group a PR company that lobbies for energy companies.

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Well, he could have a confidentiality agreement with any donor that forbids him to disclose any information about who donates. The best way to uphold such a thing is to refuse to confirm or deny any donor.

If he says "I can't disclose if they fund us" when questioned about every industry/company/whatever, you can't derive any knowledge. If he says "no" to a bunch and "I can't can't disclose that" to only one, he's very possibly violated the non-disclosure agreement.

Anthony, if Harris had a benevolent but privacy-seeking funder, he could have gone to the funder and asked to disclose that the funder was not in the energy business. That would greatly advance the interest they're promoting, so there's no reason not to do it. Unless they're hiding something.

Brian S: Maybe he could, maybe he couldn't. The article talks of funding sources (plural), so it's possible that there may be a bunch of sources in a bunch of industries. I don't know one way or the other who is funding them (of course); I hadn't even heard of them before. I'm just pointing out that there is a reason to refuse to say one way or the other.

(Now, if I had to place a bet, I'd place it on being funded at least in part by energy companies. Of course they're going to support people who's views they like.)

I just hope that Revenue Canada aka CCRA is investigating both NRSP and FOS since there may be some question as to whether the payments received from large Oil companies are entitled to tax exempt status.

I am referring to the payments made by the companies through the Calgary Foundation which then past the money on to a "Trust Fund" set up by Barry Cooper at the U of C which then passed the money onto FOS.

Ian Forrester

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 07 Nov 2006 #permalink

Okay, let's ask them if they are funded by NAMBLA. A denial means they only say "we cannot disclose" to groups with whom they have confindentiality agreements. A "no comment" means that it looks like they're hiding their pedophilia funding source.

Wow, this is diabolical. I should be a Republican.

It's downright ridiculous. Everytime I try to update sourcewatch with new info (i.e. Tim Ball claiming he was "one of the first climate PhD's in the world" or that Harris will not divulge NRSP's funding due to a confidentaility agreement), I go in the next day, or hour, and find that Harris has re-written the post to make himself and NRSP look good!

Let's not get overly intellectual about this stuff. If you ask a brand new publicist, who is parading the same old denialist crap if it is true that he is funded by Satan and he responds that he is not allowed to say who he is funded by.....well, nuff said.

I know there is nothing I can say that will have any impact on some of those reading this site but, for those of you who are open to alternative points of view, I submit the following:

Mr. Grandia writes here:

"According to a recent CanWest News Service article, the NRSP's executive director, Tom Harris, states that "a confidentiality agreement doesn't allow him to say whether energy companies are funding his group."

What was actually written in the article Mr. Grandia cites is the following:

""I hope it means they're going to recognize officially that the science is very uncertain," said Harris, who said a confidentiality agreement doesn't allow him to say whether energy companies are funding his group."

So, while Peter O'Neil's statement was in itself incorrect - see my correction sent to the letters editor and Cc'd to many media below - Mr. Grandia takes it one step further, adding quote marks around a statement he attributes to me when in fact it is clearly an interpretation by O'Neil. This is typical of those who have debated with us to this point since, as they admit on Mr. Grandia's Web site, they have no substantive knowledge of the subject (i.e. climate change) - they exist simply to "debunk the debunkers" - whether we might be right, or even partly right is not an option in the universe of those whose job it is to just be a soldier fighting against something.

Anyways, here is what I sent as a letter to the editor of the Vancouver Sun. I didn't expect them to publish of course but it had to be done for the record (and to use in cases like this):

From: Tom Harris []
Sent: October 16, 2006 8:23 PM
To: ''
Cc: many other media
Subject: Regarding October 16 Vancouver Sun piece - "Climate-change "skeptics'' hopeful Harper accepts their view"

To the editor (Vancouver Sun):

Concerning the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, Peter O'Neal wrote that I "said a confidentiality agreement doesn't allow him to say whether energy companies are funding his group."

In fact, I never referenced any category of potential supporters, including "energy companies", in communications with O'Neil. I also made no reference to "a confidentiality agreement" as no such document exists.

It is normal for non-profit entities like NRSP to protect the privacy of supporters by not publicizing contributions. I explained to O'Neal that an exception to this policy is "NRSP Patrons", high profile Canadians who, besides contributing generously, allow their support to be highlighted. I told O'Neal our Patrons' identities, their contribution levels, and included Web links to these Toronto-based philanthropists.

O'Neal e-mailed back, "If I write anything, I will write: "Harris refused to say if oil and gas companies are providing some of the funding for his new group.""

Explaining that this was an unnecessarily leading statement, I suggested a correction. O'Neal did not respond.

When I tried to explain NRSP's science communications objectives, O'Neil cut me off indicating he wasn't interested. Contrary to O'Neal's assertion, reveals our real objective is to "inform Canadians about responsible, science-based environmental stewardship."


Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng.
Executive Director
Natural Resources Stewardship Project
P.O. Box 23013
Ottawa, Ontario K2A 4E2

So that I am entirely accurate in what I say, I would like to change my statement in my preceeding post, which was "as they admit on Mr. Grandia's Web site, they have no substantive knowledge of the subject (i.e. climate change) - they exist simply to "debunk the debunkers"".

Whether Mr. Grandia and others who work with him on his site have any "substantive knowledge of the subject" is, I admit, beside the point and something I should have not brought up (since I don't know their background in sufficient detail to conclusively judge one way or another) and so I retract that remark. Please accept my apologies. It is their goal that one should keep in mind when judging the veracity of their material. Here are some quotes from Mr. Grandia's site:

"DeSmogBlog is here to cry foul - to shine the light on techniques and tactics that reflect badly on the PR industry and are, ultimately, bad for the planet."

"In our continuous quest to debunk the debunkers ..."

His site "does not exist to argue the science of climate science - instead we leave that to people like the experts listed below."

I leave it to readers to come to their own conclusions about Mr. Grandia's goals.

Um, Mr. Harris, do you deny that you receive any money from the 1)petroleum, 2)coal, 3)auto, or 4)other industries that have a direct interest in denying the science of global warming? I ask this seriously, as your answer above is not sufficient in specificity to satisfy me. A confidentiality agreement, although very arguably, should be able to shield the individual donor, but I don't see how entire classes of industry can profit from the same agreement unless you have a specific reason to keep this information secret. If we know the auto industry funds you, for example, we do not know which auto company does so. I think that sort of thing is clear, and unless you have taken money from industry-wide groups, I cannot see how you can deny at least some of these. So, if you would, answer directly. Thank you.

It gets better. Harris is editing Wikipedia denying that he is associated with High Park Group. Meanwhile the HPG website says:

Tom Harris , Director, Ottawa Operations

Tom specializes in strategic communication and media relations and has 28 years experience in science and technology in the energy and environment, aerospace and high-tech sectors. He has worked with private companies and trade associations to successfully position these entities and their interests with media and before government committees and regulatory bodies. Tom holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from Carleton University and a Master of Engineering (Mechanical - thermo-fluids) from McMaster University.

Telephone: (613) 234-3039

So apparently there are two Tom Harrises in Ottawa with identical qualifications and connections to the oil industry.

By John Quiggin (not verified) on 07 Nov 2006 #permalink

Thank you for your polite approach mndean.

Our goals and messages were developed with the climate scientists long before we even tried to get financial support. If later we then tried to modify these messages due to the wishes of funders, the scientists would stop working with us immediately. What this means is the message is not a function of the supporters (who are changing every week anyways - I receive contributions from Canadians from all walks of life and from all parts of the country) but is a function of the scientists with whom we work. Consequently, discussions about funding sources are irrelevant and a distraction from the science messages the scientists have been putting out for many years. Even I have been writing in this area since long before there was any funding associated with it - see my very old and amateurish Web page at .

Consequently, we decided early on, again before we had any funders, that aside from some public patrons, in this case two elderly philanthropists based in Toronto, all supporters would be confidential. This helps keep the science as the primary message as, if you start listing large numbers of individual funders, our opponents will try to distract the public from thinking for themselves about the issue based on the evidence we present and instead look for connections between funders and possible vested interests.

As I said previously, many non-profits keep their supporters confidential. That is how we operate as well. There is really nothing more to say unless you want to talk science because, in the final analysis, nature cares not at all about who says what; it just does what it does and it is our job to put the politics and intrigue aside and try to understand what is really happening. This is not to suggest that science is some sort of peaceful boat puttering along - it is indeed rank with controversy and debate rages on many topics. Climate change science debates are especially intense and we believe people should be exposed to that before making up their minds as to what sort of policy makes the most sense in light of the immense uncertainty involved.

I'll edit your Wikipedia page to reflect this statement. Can you advise when you ceased to occupy this position?

By John Quiggin (not verified) on 07 Nov 2006 #permalink

"Our goals and messages were developed with the climate scientists.."

Mr. Harris, can you at least identify all the climate scientists with whom you work?

Mr. Harris:

Thank you for posting on this site. Information directly from the source always helps to clarify things.

I am hoping that you would be willing to clarify some other things. On the NRSP website you state:
CO2 is very unlikely to be a substantial driver of climate change and is not a pollutant. Global climate change is primarily a natural phenomenon

Can you provide your references for this statement? Your website is, unfortunately, lacking in any scientific details that I could find. Also, can you quantify "very unlikely"?

Thanks for your help.

John Cross

By John Cross (not verified) on 08 Nov 2006 #permalink

some answers to your questions:

1 - I left the HPG Ottawa Director position on September 8 and have been NRSP ED since then.
2 - climate scientists with whom we work are all listed on - you can see some good references when you click on the latter names in this list.
3 - Yes, is very sparse - a major project for us now is to upload much material to substantiate our positions and to give people more background reading. Check back in a couple of weeks and you will see much more to read about the science. Concerning, "Global climate change is primarily a natural phenomenon", there are hundreds of references that show, or imply, this and we will be posting a long list over the next couple of weeks, but a good general backgrounder would be as written by one of our "allied scientists" - thanks for asking.

The science doesn't appear to support you from where I sit, Mr. Harris, and please be advised that I did not ask you to identify any individual donors. You must certainly be well aware of the astroturf operations of the energy industry, where scientists with no expertise in climatology and climatologists who are well outside the mainstream are making statements that are neither supportable nor good science. The peer-reviewed studies show this rather clearly. I guess what I'm saying is, we don't have much to talk about unless you show me some peer-reviewed studies that refute the consensus, and also that I do not trust you. Private though your project may be, I wouldn't trust anyone telling me something if he drew a salary for saying it and wouldn't tell me who paid him. That is your case in a nutshell.

Interesting comparison here, Harris states: "Our goals and messages were developed with the climate scientists long before we even tried to get financial support."

Sounds a lot like what Myron Ebell at the Competitive Enterprise Institute used as a defense for the funding they recieve from ExxonMobil:…

Harris, even the CEI is clear (somewhat) on who funds them. Why can't you be? With the proliferation of industry-backed astroturf groups attacking the scientific consensus on climate change, your funding sources ARE an important part of the equation. Simply state that the "NRSP is does or has never recieved funding from the energy or automobile sector" and we can move on to dissecting the junk science your organization promotes.

Mr. Harris: Again, thanks for your reply. However I found the document that you described somewhat lacking in references, consequently I was not able to check where some of the facts were coming from.

This is a concern to me since there were some clear errors in the document. For example the following statement from it:
A 24 year global coverage of satellite atmosphere temperatures shows only modest warming in the Northern Hemisphere and a slight cooling in the Southern Hemisphere.
is obviously wrong according to every satellite temperature used. Even without the references, I could supply some more examples if you wish.

John Cross

By John Cross (not verified) on 08 Nov 2006 #permalink

I don't think I've ever seen so many words employed to not say who funds me as I've just seen from Mr. Harris here in these comments.

Mr Harris,

If I may, and not to cut off other questioners, but this is the wrong place to purvey FUD.



You say, "Simply state that the "NRSP is does or has never recieved funding from the energy or automobile sector" and we can move on to dissecting the junk science your organization promotes."

That doesn't sound like a very open minded approach - "tell us what we to know and then we tear apart everything alse you say which we all know to be wrong before you even say it." Can't say you inspire me to continue this dialog.

I have answered your questions - the fact that you don't like the answers doesn't change anything.

Sorry Tom, just being honest and open in my intentions and responses. Thanks so much for your clear, straightforward "answers." It's a simple "yes" or "no" really, does the NRSP recieve funding from the energy or autmobile sector?

His answer to the question will be meaningless anyway. How can you believe a word they say when their choir master is such a proven liar?

Also their predecessor organisation, FOS (Full of Sh!t) was backed by a convicted fraudster. The only reason the two Freds didn't spend time in jail for their activities in the tobacco denial business was the US Statute of Limitations. Both organizations make a mockery of what true science is all about.

Ian Forrester

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 08 Nov 2006 #permalink

You have two (2) documents in that /Science directory; the other one falls flat in its first few paragraphs with the same argument.

"...Contrary to the IPCC predictions, global temperature has not risen appreciably in the last 20 years. Most surface temperature data free from the influence of surrounding buildings and roads show no warming. Data from satellites
support this."


"... Confusion about the global warming science is another reason why progress towards ratifying an international agreement has been slow. This is caused by uncertainty surrounding the science of global warming on the one hand, and public perception of the state of this scientific knowledge on the other."

VOL. 50, NO. 2 (JUNE, 2002), P. 297-327
Are observed changes in the concentration of carbon
the atmosphere really dangerous?

[Also worth reading](…)

.... A study to be released in November by an American scientific group will expose ExxonMobil as the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate change denial front groups in 2004 alone. Besides a shared goal, these groups often featured common staffs and board members. The study will estimate that ExxonMobil has spent more than $19 million since the late 1990s on a strategy of "information laundering," or enabling a small number of professional skeptics working through scientific-sounding organizations to funnel their viewpoints through non-peer-reviewed websites such as Tech Central Station. .... While deniers can easily post something calling into question the scientific consensus on climate change, not a single refereed article in more than a decade has sought to refute it."

Their web site reads more like a script from the "Royal Canadian Air Farce" than a scientific document.

If you , Mr Harris , were truely interested in understanding the science of climate change you would be spending your money on actually doing some scientific research. However, to do that you will have to hire some real scientists since your cast of characters are very unsuited to that task.

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 08 Nov 2006 #permalink

"I know there is nothing I can say that will have any impact on some of those reading this site but, for those of you who are open to alternative points of view, I submit the following:"

Mr Harris "poisoning the well" with his first sentence...

As has been pointed out, they could say that they are not funded by energy companies, and then point out that they can't go further, to prevent ID-ing their sources by means of '20 Questions'.

An "allied scientist" is a freedom loving capitalist kind of one, not one a them greenie communist types.

By shortbutthickdave (not verified) on 09 Nov 2006 #permalink

Much as I admire TimL's way with words (Damn, why Tim, used to be all Aussies were called Bruce, now you have Tim Lambert, Tim Blair, Tim Curtin, you can't separate the Tims without a scorecard and not a Bruce in sight), it strikes me that Not Really Secret Payments is rather forced.

It does have the virtue that it enraged Tom Harris, so we set the wordsmiths in Rabett Labs on the case and came up with

Needy Rapacious Scientists and Publicists

The lab bunnies (aka grad students) also noticed something interesting in Tom (it shoulda been Tim) Ball's people page.

The author of this blog removes posts that challenge his thesis and cause him embarrassment.

I had hoped for some circumspect debate to be fortgcoming on this blog, but it seems the author has no appetite for that, so he removes posts that challenge his dogma. "Don't confuse me with the facts ...I've already made up my mind!" must be his doctrine.

In light of this, I shall have to treat this particular forum as irrelevant and won't bother wasting any further time on it.

So they wont show us theirs? And they really want to talk about being scientific? Is this the week that everything we see in mainline media shows Canada as a laughing stock? Maybe it is just that the knuckle draggers of Calgary do not travel well if you take them out of the stockyard and try to get them to put on clothes and manners.

One cannot forecast a long life for the Tim Ball showl, since it has already picked up the unfortunate habits of its lead act who seems to periodically need to moon his (expected) audience.

On what basis are Tim ball's credentials being questioned?

Is he not a climatologist? Was he not a Universtiy professor?

Does he not have decades of experience in the climate field?

Al Gore, on the other hand, is divinity school dropout.
with no climate experience, and he's now nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Ball's biggest sin, is that he has worked with an organization that may have been funded by energy companies.

I for one appreciate the energy companies, because unlike socialist, and liberals, they actually give something back to me when the take my money.

By Phil Bickel (not verified) on 05 Feb 2007 #permalink

Phil, you somehow managed to note that Gore is a "divinity school drop-out" without noting his cum laude degree in government from Harvard.

I also have to assume that Gore doesn;t fir your definition of a socialist or liberal seeing as both Apple and Google obviously think he's worth the money they pay him as a board member and senior consultant. That's not to mention his chairmanship of a cable TV network; his management of a mutual fund or his status as a best-selling author (which incidentally he achieved before his terms as VP).

Tim Ball's career as a tenured professor at a moderately obscure Canadian university obviously left him much more attuned to the real world and the marketplace than Gore's much more cloistered life as, for example, a combat journalist in Vietnam and a reporter for a daily newspaper.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 05 Feb 2007 #permalink

"Gore never intended to become a minister. He attended Vanderbilt on a yearlong Rockefeller Foundation scholarship for people planning secular careers, and later said that he had hoped to make sense of the social injustices that seemed to challenge his religious beliefs."

So winning and successfully completing a one year scholarship = "dropping out".

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 05 Feb 2007 #permalink