Friends of Science, a Calgary-based non-profit group, is running a national radio advertising campaign mocking the whole idea of climate change that has mainstream environmental groups miffed.
The groups are claiming that funding for the anti-global warming effort is coming from the oil and gas industry.
James Hoggan, chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, lashed out Tuesday at Friends of Science in a speech in Toronto, calling it one of several "industry front groups" in North America that are trying to create uncertainty about the existence of climate change to undermine next month's United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.
The ads, which claim the planet has actually been becoming cooler in the past 10 years, have been running this month in 15 cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, according to the Friends of Science group.
A national campaign of this kind, if it featured 25 to 30 spots per day in each of the cities for its 30-second ads, would cost about $60,000 to $65,000 per week, according to an executive of an advertising agency, who did not want to be identified.
Mr. Hoggan said he tried to find out from the Friends of Science website where the money for the ads was coming from, but the group doesn't divulge its backers.
"They're not required in Canada … to declare who they represent," Mr. Hoggan said after his speech. "If most Canadians knew that they represent the oil and gas industry or were heavily funded by the oil and gas industry" they would have a more objective view about the accuracy of the ads.
Friends of Science could not be reached through phone calls and e-mails seeking comment, but Marty Ball, wife of Tim Ball, an environmental consultant who is on its scientific advisory board, denied Mr. Hoggan's claims about oil industry funding. She accused environmentalists of launching a smear campaign against the group and people associated with it.
"He's not paid by the oil companies. He's never had anything from them and neither [have]the Friends of Science," she said.
On its website, the group said it is run by volunteers, operates "on an extremely limited budget" and that it does "not represent any industry group."
It says the purpose of its ads "is to demonstrate the futility of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They point out that global warming stopped about 10 years ago, and that the sun is the primary cause of climate change." It called those concerned with warming "climate alarmists" and said there is "no evidence that man's emissions of greenhouse gases cause significant climate change."
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based conservation advocacy group, contended that a national advertising campaign would be beyond the reach of any organization relying on small, individual donations.
"We're a shoe-string operation running on small donations and there is no way in hell that we can afford the kind of advertising campaign they're undertaking," he said.
Environmental Defence, which is also a non-profit, reveals the names of those who give donations of more than $500 in its annual report.
Mr. Hoggan was speaking in Toronto at the Empire Club about a new book he has co-authored, Climate Cover-up, The Crusade to Deny Global Warming , about efforts by public relations companies and fossil fuel interests to create skepticism about the science of global warming.