UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Sowing doubt and muddying the waters

Climate change deniers continue their political games

By Dennis Gruending

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers have appointed several task forces to propose ways in which Canada can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their concern is based on the work of scientists who comprise the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). More recently, the IPCC issued a series of ever more urgent reports about looming ecological catastrophe. That's if we don't mitigate human-induced climate change.

But wait. If you’re to believe a "guest column" published in the Sun newspaper chain recently, climate scientists, not to mention Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama, all belong to an elite group of "eco-activists" and "big-government" conspirators who are trying to sell a big lie. The column's author Tom Harris is described as executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC). In his article, Harris charges that Trudeau is "employing a strategy right out of 1984," referring to George Orwell's novel in which a totalitarian state exercises mind control on its people through its pervasive use of propaganda. He also challenges the climate science that Trudeau and almost all of the world's leaders now accept. "The surveys used to back up the [climate change] consensus are unconvincing," he writes. Harris, however, is not a scientist, much less a climate scientist. His column contains no science of its own, nor does it make reference to any specific scientific study. In fact, he’s described on his group's website as a mechanical engineer, who — for much of his career — has been involved in public relations and lobbying related to climate change.

According to the environmental organization DeSmog, ICSC has received money from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank that has been prominent in denying the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change. In the 1990s, Heartland also worked with the tobacco industry, questioning the science that deemed cigarettes to be hazardous and lobbying against governments’ public-health reforms.

DeSmog says that the Heartland Institute has received money from both ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, which is a big player in the Alberta tar sands. And there’s a ripe irony here: the state of New York is investigating Exxon Mobil for allegedly funding groups that deny climate change even while the company's in-house scientists warn executives about the negative consequences of those changes.

There’s a template that’s deliberately used by the tobacco — and now carbon — industries who want to avoid environmental regulation and taxation. Create upstart organizations and give them names that sound credible. Use them to attack scientists with whom you disagree, and label as incompetent or corrupt. And peddle conspiracy theories about political leaders who challenge your interests. The object isn’t to build a competing scientific theory; rather to sow doubt and muddy the waters. These professional deniers use public relations in an attempt to debunk sound, credible science. Indeed, it's a dark and dubious game.

Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image