On Campus

Professor criticized for course denying climate change

Tom Harris dismisses 142 "corrections"

Photo by stuartpilbrow on Flickr

A group of scientists has released a report condemning a Carleton University professor who taught a course centred on the idea that climate change is not caused by human emissions.

Tom Harris taught Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective to mostly second-year non-science students between 2009 and 2011.

The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism says in its report entitled Climate Change Denial in the Classroom that Harris hosted speakers who argued that climate change is not caused by humans but hosted “no scientist speaking to the generally accepted consensus.”

The authors note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has fingered green-house gas emissions as the “unequivocal” cause of global warming observed since the 1950s.

The new report, prepared in part by fellow Carleton biologist Christopher Hassall, offers 142 “corrections” to claims Harris made in his lectures and course materials over 12 lectures.

Harris told CBC News that he sees nothing in the 98-page report that warrants correction.

Some statements that Harris made include that “we would be arrogant to think that we understand and we control the climate of the earth,” and “the only constant about climate is change.”

The authors argue that “while the principle of academic freedom remains paramount, it is nonetheless imperative that university students be presented with accurate scientific information.”

The authors also point out that Harris is the executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, which opposes replacement of traditional energy sources with renewables like wind and solar.

Carleton said the following regarding the course: “We review our courses to balance content with academic freedom and the rights of our instructors as outlined in their collective agreements.”

Meanwhile, a report out this week shows that the number of Americans who believe in human-caused climate change rose to 62 per cent in Dec. 2011—up from 58 per cent in Dec. 2010.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.