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Tom Harris (Canadian engineer/PR specialist)

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Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

Tom Harris, described as "an Ottawa-based engineer and science and technology communications specialist" is the Executive Director of International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), a group of climate change skeptics. Harris started in the position in approximately March 2008.[1] From late 2006 until he started with the ICSC Harris was the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP), another group of climate change skeptics. Prior to the launch of the NRSP Harris was a Director of Operations of the Ottawa office of the High Park Group (HPG), a Canadian PR and lobbying firm.

NRSP Role

The Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP), which launched October 12, 2006. [1] NRSP is a Canadian non-profit group that includes a number of leading climate change sceptics and describes itself as a group that "will promote responsible environmental stewardship". [2]. Two of the three founding directors of the NRSP are registered Canadian energy sector lobbyists.[3]

Harris was, until approximately late October 2006, listed as a Director of Operations of the Ottawa office of the High Park Group (HPG), a Canadian PR and lobbying firm. His biographical note states that he "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." Harris holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from Carleton University (1975) and a Master of Engineering (Mechanical - thermo-fluids) from McMaster University.[4]

In August 2006, Charles Montgomery wrote in The Globe and Mail that Tom Harris was then a senior associate with HPG, which was a "registered lobbyist for the Canadian Electricity Association (web) and the Canadian Gas Association (web)."

Note that, as of November 22, 2006, Tom Harris is not listed as a lobbyist in the Lobbyists Registration System, Government of Canada. (Records accessed November 22, 2006.)

Harris was "once a legislative assistant to former Conservative Environment Critic Bob Mills" (bio). [5]


Prolific Op-Ed Writer ... and "editor"

Harris has been a prolific writer of anti-Kyoto op-ed pieces, typically quoting scientists associated with Friends of Science," Mark Holland wrote in June 2006.

"Tom Harris is everywhere in the blogosphere these days posting comments wherever anyone is saying positive things about the recent CBC climate change documentary, The Denial Machine," Richard Littlemore of DeSmogBlog commented November 21, 2006.

"Harris has popped up here, here and again here, cutting and pasting the same batch of criticisms of CBC's reporting and attempting to salvage something of the NRSP's battered reputation," Littlemore wrote.

Editing the Wikipedia and SourceWatch

"In other Tom Harris news," Tim Lambert of Deltoid (ScienceBlogs.com) wrote November 7, 2006, "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."

Read the comments which follow Lambert's Deltoid posting, which includes the following dated November 8, 2006, by John Quiggin: [6]

"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," Quiggin wrote.

Note that the HPG web bio for Tom Harris has been deleted, possibly at Harris's request, since Quiggin's Deltoid posting.

See a similar discussion with Harris on the SourceWatch Talk page for the NRSP. Harris made numerous attempts to either change or debate SourceWatch articles on himself, Friends of Science, and the NRSP.

Climate Change Writing Privately Funded

On July 13, 2006, Tom Harris responded to a June 6, 2006, posting on WunderBlog about him. In his posting Tom Harris's WunderBlog, he wrote the following:

"My climate change writing is currently funded entirely by an elderly Toronto-based private philanthropist who also funds scientific research and so wants to see the results of this research publicized."

Story Pulled

Bruce Perens at Technocrat.net pulled Tom Harris's June 12, 2006, Canada Free Press article "Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe" from his webite "after reviewing the author attribution (he's from a paid political PR agency), and the venue's other coverage on this issue."

Harris's NRSP Executive Directorship

It appears that Tom Harris, while still employed by HPG -- a company which lobbied for Canadian energy companies -- simultaneously served as NSRP executive director.

In a November 8, 2006, Deltoid posting at ScienceBlogs.com, Harris stated in the comments section that he left "the HPG Ottawa Director position on September 8 [2006] and have [sic] been NRSP ED since then."

Harris's claim of having become NRSP Executive Director in September 2006 is contrary to his self-identification in this Canada Free Press article published June 4, 2006, and this article published June 12, 2006, under his byline as "Tom Harris is a mechanical engineer and Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (www.nrsp.com), a new Canadian environment and natural resources non-profit group."

During the same period, Harris's byline for a June 5, 2006, The Windsor Star article, a June 8, 2006, Vancouver Sun article, a June 14, 2006, Hawaii Reporter article, and a June 15, 2006, Canada Free Press article all read "Tom Harris is a mechanical engineer and Ottawa director of High Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company."

Harris's work for APCO Worldwide

A biographical profile of Harris which used to be on the APCO Worldwide website, but is still cached at Zoominfo.com, states that:

"Tom Harris, senior associate in APCO Worldwide's Ottawa office, specializes in strategic communication and media relations and has 25 years experience in science and technology, specifically in the energy and environment, aerospace and high-tech sectors. Mr. Harris has worked with private companies and trade associations to successfully position these entities and their interests with media and before various government committees and regulatory bodies. Specifically, he has worked with oil and gas, coal, nuclear, environmental and aerospace clients for whom he has conducted effective media and public relations campaigns."[7]

Before APCO

"Prior to joining APCO, he served as media relations and science and technology advisor to [Bob Mills] the Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada's House of Commons." [8]

Campaign Against Kyoto

In November 2002, Tom Harris was listed as one of the organizers of an event in Ottawa at which prominent climate change skeptics were slated "to reveal the science and technology flaws of the Kyoto Accord." [9] At the time, Harris was listed as an "Associate APCO Worldwide (Canada)." The cost of the event, The Globe and Mail reported, was being borne by "Imperial, Talisman and a group of Canadian lime producers." [10] Many of those attending had previously been involved in TASSC. (View interactive map of participant's networks)

APCO in Canada was involved in advising and supporting the climate change sceptics group, Friends of Science.

Imperial Oil Limited (web) is an ExxonMobil Canadian subsidiary.

Friends of Science Still #1

In response to a Yale Project on Climate Change blog question posted April 6, 2006—"What do you think of climate change action through shareholder pressure on corporations?"—, Tom Harris responded in the comments section on October 4, 2006. Harris referred readers to the Friends of Science online video ""Climate Catastrophe Cancelled: What You're Not Being Told About the Science of Climate Change" to conduct research, stating that "I think most investors would sensibly conclude that until the science is more mature, pressuring companies to do something, or not to do something, about GHG emissions is a costly gamble and that they should wait until the verdict is in before deciding what to do (if anything)."

2000 Bio

The following biographical statement for Tom Harris comes from his Iosphere.net website, accessed November 21, 2006, and which was last updated December 29, 2000:

"Tom Harris has Bachelor and Master's degrees in Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering and worked for 15 years as an aerospace propulsion and aerodynamics engineer for various Canadian organizations. Following this, he spent four years working as a full-time professional speaker and freelance writer in space exploration, presenting to audiences of all ages and backgrounds ranging from aerospace professionals and science teacher associations to groups of young children. In 1994, Tom moved back into engineering and now works as an automation systems specialist. He continues to speak and write about space exploration on a part-time basis."

Advocacy for the environment (i.e. climate change skepticism)

Tom Harris's byline for the March 8-14, 2001, European Voice article "Is the UN guilty of exaggerating fears over climate change?" co-authored with geologist Dr. Tim Patterson, identified Harris as "an environmental specialist who has worked in the aerospace and computer sector." [11] Patterson was Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa.

In November 2000, in one article co-authored with Patterson on global warming, Harris was identified only as a "freelance writer". [12] In another by Harris and Patterson, from October 2000, Harris's byline states that he "is a freelance writer and professional speaker in space exploration and environment" who "now works as a systems analyst in Ottawa's high-tech sector." [13]

Advocacy for space exploration

During the 1990s, Tom Harris was an enthusiastic advocate for an expansion in space exploration, publishing articles such as "Saving The Home Planet By Exploring Other Worlds". According to a list of articles on his website, he has not published on the subject of space since 2001.[14]

According to his byline for an August 12, 1989, Winnipeg Free Press article, Harris had "lectured on astronomy and space exploration at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa" and had "worked as an aeronautical engineer for several corporations." [15]

Harris's byline in 1993 through 1996 stated that he was an "Ottawa-based professional speaker and freelance writer in space exploration, environment and human survival." [16][17][18] By 1999, Harris's byline stated only that he was "an Ottawa-based professional speaker on space exploration". [19]

In 2001, Harris no longer referred to space exploration and his byline identified him as an "Ottawa-based freelance writer and speaker". [20] In 2002, his byline read that he was an "Ottawa-based freelance science and technology writer." [21]

Speech at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change

At the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, ICSC Executive Director Tom Harris gave a speech in which he discussed what he called "information sharing" and "coordinated local activism":[2][3]

[...] We need regular high-impact media coverage of the findings of leading scientists — not just one or two publications, but we need to have hundreds all over the world. We need to have a high degree of information sharing and cooperation between groups, so that when Vincent Gray for example has an article published in New Zealand, we can take the same piece and we can (say) submit it to newspapers all over North America and Europe.
Then we have a nicely well-coordinated response, where letters to the editor and phone calls are made. "Congratulations on publishing that article!" You know, it's interesting because I've had many of my articles opposed so strongly, by environmentalists through phone calls and letters to the editor, that they just simply dry up, they just won't publish us again. So this does have feedback, I mean, these are people that run these newspapers, and they're scared, and impressed, and encouraged, depending on the feedback they get.
We have to have grassroots organizations doing exactly that kind of thing: coordinated local activism.

Contact details

Email: tharris AT iosphere.net
Web: http://www.iosphere.net/~tharris/

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

Miscellaneous

Biographical Notes & Profiles

Articles by Tom Harris

  • See Toby Kincaid's June 20, 2006, Hawaii Reporter response "Climate Changes Caused By Many Factors".

Articles & Commentary about Tom Harris

2002

2006

2007

2011

References

  1. Natural Resources Stewardship Project, "Notice", Media Release, undated but approx March 2008.
  2. "Climate Change Realism Goes International", Tom Harris, March 2008.
  3. "The Way of the Astroturf", Frank Bi, August 2008.