J Burke’s decision contains a chronology of prior interactions between Weaver and National Post, much of which, when closely examined, is highly misleading. In today’s post, I’m going to discuss one small but interesting issue: Weaver’s claim that he “did not lobby for climate funding”. J Burke referred to this when she said that Weaver “sought to correct a number of factual errors” in an earlier article by Corcoran. J Burke did not mention that National Post had published a rebuttal contesting Weaver’s claim. In today’s post, I’ll review the sides of the dispute. I plan to get to more central issues in the case, but wish to first clear up some smaller issues (in part to avoid accusations of ignoring them.)
The National Post Article, Aug 23, 2006
Corcoran’s opinion column of August 23, 2006 was largely responding to a Globe and Mail article by Charles Montgomery on August 12, 2006, which prominently featured critical comments about Tim Ball by Andrew Weaver.
“What Ball is doing is not about science,” Prof. Weaver says. “It is about politics.”
Corcoran’s column began with an examination of Montgomery’s link to David Suzuki and his associates, later quoting Weaver’s above comment about Ball:
Andrew Weaver, the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, and a lead author of a chapter in the upcoming IPCC report, gives a frustrated sigh at the mention of Tim Ball’s cross-country tour. […comments about Ball] “What Ball is doing is not about science,” Prof. Weaver says. “It is about politics.”
Corcoran then made the following comments about Weaver. He also included a comment about the hockey stick, which I will discuss separately) and more comments about Ball, but these are the ones that prompted Weaver to write a letter of complaint:
When it comes to politics and climate science, few beat Andrew Weaver as a player. His agency, a division of Environment Canada, builds climate models and has more riding on the business of climate change than perhaps any other science group in Canada. Among Mr. Weaver’s notorious political statements is the following: “God help Canada if the Conservatives get in,” he said in 2004 during one of his lobbying pleas for more funding. If that’s not politics, what is? These days, apparently, federal civil servants — which is what Mr. Weaver is — apparently have absolute freedom to wage partisan politics.
Weaver and the Canadian Center for Climate Modelling and Analysis
Before discussing the dispute further, let me comment briefly on the complicated institutional structure of climate modeling at the University of Victoria.
Unusually, a federal agency for climate modeling (the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis – CCCma) is located on the campus of the University of Victoria. The center is a division of the Climate Research Branch of Environment Canada, a department of the Canadian government. Its employees are federal civil servants, though some/many of itseaver employees have cross-appointments to the University of Victoria.
Although Weaver works intimately with the center and is a coauthor of papers describing the CCCma climate model e.g.here, Weaver is/was a professor of climate modeling at the University of Victoria (as clearly stated in Corcoran’s article which described Weaver as the “Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria”.) I do not know how the CCCma ended up at the University of Victoria: it seems possible that Weaver might have had something to do with getting this institution at the university (since the 1990s, I think), but I don’t know that.
Corcoran’s opinion column was somewhat wrongfooted on the complicated relationship between Weaver and the Canadian modeling center as the University of Victoria. While Weaver’s professional career has been closely/intimately connected with the CCCma at the University of Victoria, including the privilege of being a coauthor of articles about the CCCma model, Weaver is not a federal employee. Nonetheless, substantively, he has an obvious interest in the CCCma continuing to flourish with federal funding. It would have been easy to cooper up the language in the above paragraph to correctly state that Weaver was a university employee with intimate working relationships with federal employees, colocated on the University of Victoria campus.
Corcoran’s substantive point about the unique dependence of the climate modeling group at the University of Victoria on continued federal funding of climate modeling is surely unarguable. The University of Victoria group – including both Weaver’s group and CCCma – are Canada’s designated entry in the climate modeling world. If it were decided that their model was surplus and no longer worth maintaining, they would be the ones most directly impacted.
As was his custom when mentioned by National Post, Weaver promptly wrote a letter of complaint (published at National Post on August 31 here, together with National Post’s rebuttal here). Weaver stated (I have elided, for now, his comments about McIntyre-McKitrick dispute as I plan to review that separately):
I thought I would correct a number of factual errors in Mr. Corcoran’s piece.
1) I am neither a Government of Canada employee nor have I ever been. I am not a civil servant and do not work for a division of Environment Canada. I am a professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.
2) I do not lobby for more climate funding. If you ask anyone who has actually interviewed me, they will say that what I say is: “We don’t need more research money to deal with the issue as to what needs to be done.”
3) I have never been a member of any political party and I have criticized Liberal policy as much as I have criticized Conservative policy. In fact, I have not passed any public judgment on the current administration’s climate policy, as I have publicly stated that I take a wait-and-see position on what this “made in Canada” solution is. I also pointed out how unimpressed I was with Liberal “accounting games” in trying to meet Kyoto targets (buying credits, trying to get credit for forests, etc).
4) [comments about hockey stick]
Note that the third paragraph here cannot reasonably be described as a “factual correction”. In this paragraph, Weaver did not contradict or rebut anything that Corcoran had actually said.(“Among Mr. Weaver’s notorious political statements is the following: “God help Canada if the Conservatives get in,” he said in 2004 during one of his lobbying pleas for more funding. If that’s not politics, what is?”) Weaver has the right to try to spin this comment and was given space by National Post to do so, but hat doesn’t make this assertion a “correction” of a “factual error”.
Corcoran’s Response, August 31, 2006
Concurrent with Weaver’s letter, National Post published Corcoran’s detailed response – a fact omitted by J Burke.
Regarding Andrew Weaver’s letter, surely no one would take literally my comment on his being a “civil servant” at a division of Environment Canada. It was a reference to the tight funding and research links between governments, especially Ottawa, and Mr. Weaver’s university position and research. As a 2001 Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Science in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, Mr. Weaver’s office receives $200,000 a year from Ottawa over seven years, for a total of $1.4-million. Other government funding includes hundreds of thousands for numerous climate research projects.
Mr. Weaver’s biggest project, with colleagues, is the development of the Earth System Climate Model with federal help. Also located on the University of Victoria campus is the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, a division of Environment Canada and a collaborator with Mr. Weaver, his group and others who developed one of the world’s most sophisticated climate models. It’s impossible to know exactly how much government money supports the elaborate climate structure around Mr. Weaver and the University of Victoria, but it is certainly in the millions.
“I do not lobby for more government funding of climate research,” Mr. Weaver says. This seems at odds with his role as a signator of a 2004 advocacy paper from a group of government and academic scientists calling for more government funding of, among other things, climate research. “Individual university researchers … lack the resources to produce the elaborate, leading-edge computer models that are at the core of climate change research,” the paper says. It calls for the government to increase funding to university research and for building more government-based research.
The 2004 “advocacy paper” cited by Corcoran was an Open Letter to Canadians and their Elected Representatives”, entitled “Beyond the Breaking Point: why Canada must have a strong government infrastructure to address environmental threats such as climate change, air pollution and severe weather” (pdf), to which Weaver was one of the signatories. Its call for more funding commences as follows:
Atmospheric research is hardly a common topic of conversation among Canadians, but it is nevertheless a matter of vital importance to all of us. It is important because atmospheric research underlies our capacity to provide reliable weather forecasts and climate information as well as our ability to respond to pressing environmental issues. Without continuing research in atmospheric and climate science, our ability to improve weather forecasts and give earlier warnings of tornadoes, blizzards, and other dangerous events is diminished. So too is our capacity to develop policies and programs to minimize the impacts of climate change, acid rain, ozone depletion, smog, and other environmental problems.
On its face, Corcoran’s production of Weaver’s signature on the above Open Letter seems inarguable support for his passim reference to “more funding”.
Corcoran was also correct in his surmise that Weaver’s federal funding was “in the millions”. The following year, one of the primary citations, in an award to Weaver by the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia, was that Weaver had “attracted” “over $7 million in research funding” to the University of Victoria:
he is one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change. A fact attested to by his armload of academic awards, and the over $7 million in research funding he has attracted to the University of Victoria
J Burke touched on this incident as follows (again, leaving statements about Weaver’s characterization of Mc-Mc for later) as follows, but failed to refer to Corcoran’s rebuttal to Weaver’s claims.
 On August 23, 2006, Mr. Corcoran published an article in the National Post entitled “Hockey sticks and hatchets: Inside the Globe’s 4,200-word hatchet job on climate skeptics”. The article made a number of factual assertions about Dr. Weaver…
 Dr. Weaver sought to correct a number of factual errors made by Mr. Corcoran in that article. By email, Dr. Weaver noted he is not a Government of Canada employee, does not lobby for more government funding, had never been a member of any political party,…
As noted above, Weaver’s assertion that he had “never been a member of any political party” is not a correction of a “factual error” made by Corcoran, but simply Weaver spinning an anti-Conservative statement that he did not deny. Second, Weaver’s claim that he “does not lobby for more government funding” was disputed by National Post with documentary evidence to the contrary; again it is not evident that it is a “factual error”. Third, Corcoran had incorrectly called Weaver a federal employee, but this was not relevant to their substantive point that the federal climate modeling agency, located with Weaver at the University of Victoria, was completely dependent on continued federal funding for climate modeling, as Corcoran had said.
Ironically, subsequent to the 2006 article, Weaver not only joined the Green Party, but ran for provincial parliament, later becoming deputy leader and has announced plans to run for leader of the B.C. Green Party.