Mark Worthing – http://www.martlet.ca
The university of Arizona is currently conducting investigations of the funding of its professors by the controversial Heartland Institute. UVic has yet to begin investigations of similar funding to one of its own professors.
The Heartland Institute is an industry-lobbyist think tank focused on “free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Amongst other things, the institute claims human actions are unlikely causes of global warming and climate change and suggests rising temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations may be beneficial to humans, plants and wildlife.
Three Canadian university professors were identified as being on the Chicago-based Heartland Institute payroll in documents released through Greenpeace U.S.A.’s PolluterWatch project. Two of the professors have confirmed receiving funding from the Heartland Institute — Madhav Khandekar, a retired Environment Canada Meteorologist, and Mitch Taylor, a Polar Bear researcher at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Tom Harris, previous Carleton University Professor associated with the University of Calgary and past Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project is listed as a non-paid advisor.
The third paid professor is UVic’s Susan Crockford, a sessional adjunct professor in Archaeozoology in the Pacific Rim with research focuses on the domestication and breed development, evolutionary theory and the evolution and history of the domestic dog.
“It is regrettable that anyone affiliated with the University of Victoria participated in the activities of an organization like the Heartland Institute,” says Dr. Thomas F. Pederson, Executive Director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) at UVic. “The University prides itself on being an institution of higher learning that deals with facts and that is nowhere more true than in the field of science. Those who deny that the planet is warming as a direct result of human activity are denying facts.”
Leaked documents stated that Crockford has been the recipient of $750 per month from the Heartland Institute. The Institute has a slew of contributing donors, such as ExxonMobil, Philip Morris, Altria, Reynolds American Inc, GlaxoSmitheKline Pfizer, and the Koch Industries family empire of for-profit and not-for-profit foundations (Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the U.S. with $98 billion in revenue annually, built on oil refinery investments).
“The Heartland Institute is one of a collection of so-called think tanks that have been extensively supported by elements within the American fossil fuel industry,” says Pederson. “Their mission is quite clearly not to think, but instead to sow confusion with respect to the global warming issue.”
Crockford would not respond to emails, and refused to speak with the Martlet. The university stated that she is not in contravention of the conflict of interest rules of the universities academic freedom regulations.
“The answer is no, as [Crockford] is not a member of regular faculty,” explains Patty Pitts from UVic Communications. “She is a member as a non-remunerated appointment as an adjunct, a professional zooarcheologist associate.”
Therefore, she does not need to provide the university with financial disclosure statements that would include funding from organizations like the Heartland Institute.
Views on the environment like those espoused by the Heartland Institute are not unheard of at UVic. Other UVic professors such as economics professor Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten, and English department professor Paul MacRae claim that there is, at best, a correlation, but not causation between CO₂ and global temperature increases.
“CO₂ has no relation to temperature rises,” van Kooten told the Martlet last year.
MacRae makes the case that researchers who have skeptical or climate change denying perspectives are afraid to speak out in their fields for fear of losing funding for their research.
MacRae previously wrote an occasional climate column in the Times Colonist and received an editorial submission from UVic’s Dr. Andrew Weaver — who is a UN International Panel on Climate Change contributing researcher — that stated that anyone who denied that the planet was warming was scientifically illiterate. MacRae took it upon himself to seek out a level of climate change literacy that ultimately led him to write and self publish a book on climate change skepticism called “False Alarm: Global Warming — Facts Versus Fears”, and has been delving in to some of the climate computer modelling data sets for a few years.
“What’s happened here is that we have a paradigm that has been extremely successful for climate scientists, because they’re getting the life blood of science: research grants. And they’re also like the rock-stars of the science world right now. And why would you want to mess with that?” says MacRae.
“In other words, if you follow the money, you’ll discover that 99 per cent of the money on climate research is going to people who support the paradigm. And people who don’t support the paradigm get nothing, or relatively small amounts. So if I were a young climate scientist, I sure as hell wouldn’t be questioning the system,” he adds.
MacRae claims that there are several scientists at UVic who are skeptics but are afraid to come out publicly for fear of their careers being jeopardized. He says he even knows someone at PICS who has skeptical inclinations.
“Today we have managed to develop an economy, at least in the developed world, where the average person lives reasonably well. That’s not going to be the case if we take the measures required to actually affect climate. It’s going to be a blood bath, economically. Don’t believe the stuff they tell you about — these are all sustainable green energies and they’re going to make profits,” he continues. “What’s at stake is that we could have an economic problem of major proportions — which is not a good thing because the stronger your economy, the easier and the more money you have to do environmental work. Environmentalism is really expensive. The reason that the environments in the developed world are improving is because we can afford to fix it. If we make ourselves poorer we will have less resources available to do environmental work.”
MacRae would love to be paid for his research, and feels that his integrity would not be compromised if he were to have an oil company fund his research because he believes in what he’s researching. However, Pederson of PICS contests this.
“Any scientist who developed a credible hypothesis that could explain global warming by recent natural processes would have no difficulty finding funding support for such research from existing granting agencies. Those who complain that no funding is available for contrary viewpoints are misguided because they are unable to produce a credible hypothesis.”
Executive Director of Greenpeace U.S.A. Phil Radford and the PolluterWatch campaign has sent UVic President David Turpin a letter inquiring about what types of financial disclosure are required for UVic researchers. He has not received a reply.