This week, the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism at the Centre for Inquiry Canada released a damning report of climate change denial that has found a home at Carleton University in Ottawa. The 98-page report details every aspect of the pseudoscientific and incorrect conclusions drawn by Tom Harris in the course “Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective” and was produced by a detailed analysis of videos of the lectures lead by Dr. Chris Hassall and his team in Ottawa.
A summary of their findings, available in detail here, is as follows:
1. Climate change represents a challenge to current and future civilisation. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Schools and universities have a responsibility to ensure students understand the scientific basis for climate change.
2. We describe a case in which noted climate change deniers have gained access to the Canadian higher education system through a course taught at Carleton University – Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective (ERTH2402). These academics are closely associated with a number of organisations that have involvement with the energy industry.
3. Carleton University teaches a range of courses on various aspects of climate change and the vast majority adhere to the highest academic standards. However, the content of this particular course is heavily biased against the scientific consensus concerning the anthropogenic causes of dangerous climate change. Through an extensive audit of the course material, we identify 142 claims made during the lectures by the instructor, Mr Tom Harris, and various guest lecturers, that run counter to established scientific opinion. We review these claims and provide corrections, citing peer-reviewed scientific publications where appropriate.
4. This course is taught with little reference to the primary literature and is largely presented to non-science majors. We note that other courses at Carleton University teach the established science on climate change, with instructors who have been involved with the IPCC and sharing in the Nobel Peace Prize that that organisation was awarded.
5. We acknowledge the need for academic freedom and the promotion of multiple viewpoints on course material – particularly in such an important area as climate change. However, it is important to note that the unbalanced nature of the course, the lack of peer-reviewed literature cited, and the non-science audience mean that the course fails to constitute ‚promotion of debate‛ and instead merely presents a biased and inaccurate portrayal of contemporary climate science.
6. We present our report to highlight how one extreme of the climate change debate is being taught in higher education and where that teaching diverges from the contemporary scientific consensus.
I would encourage everyone who cares about science and rational thought to let the Dean of Faculty of Science Dr. Malcolm Butler at Carleton know that academic freedom should not include the freedom to just make things up and it helps no one, whether policy maker or publican, make a rational decision on what to do about climate change if they are basing their decision on false information. CASS can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and their new website is www.scientificskepticism.ca
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