Prominent Climate Change Denier Funded by Koch Brothers, Energy Companies: Reports

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A prominent climate change denier and researcher quietly took more than $1.2 million in payouts from the energy industry, including the Koch brothers and other oil lobbyists, for the past 14 years, newly released documents have shown.

Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, accumulated a total of $1.25 million from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Southern Company, and a Koch brothers foundation, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings.

For years, Soon’s work has been a go-to source for politicians angling to block climate change legislation, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who has called climate change a hoax. Soon has also testified before the U.S. Congress and appeared on numerous conservative news shows to claim that greenhouse gases are not harmful and that recent global warming trends are not caused by human activity, but by variations in the sun’s energy.

Soon’s acceptance of oil lobby money was previously known, although he has denied that it influences his work. However, the documents reveal the full extent of his ties to the industry, which was not public knowledge. His single biggest funder was Southern Company, an electricity provider which relies on coal-burning power plants and has lobbied heavily against climate legislation. Southern Company gave Soon a total of $409,000.

He also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

In addition, the documents confirm that Soon neglected to disclose his close ties to the fossil fuel industry in most of his academic papers on climate change. At least 11 papers published since 2008 do not state any connection to the companies who paid him, and at least eight of those papers may have violated the ethical guidelines of the journals in which they appeared.

In correspondence with his funders, Soon called his research papers and Congressional testimony “deliverables,” which he completed in exchange for the money.

The Guardian reports:

“The question here is really: ‘What did API, ExxonMobil, Southern Company and Charles Koch see in Willie Soon? What did they get for $1m-plus,” said Kert Davies, a former Greenpeace researcher who filed the original freedom of information requests. Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center, of which Davies is the founder, shared the documents with news organizations.

“Did they simply hope he was on to research that would disprove the consensus? Or was it too enticing to be able to basically buy the nameplate Harvard-Smithsonian?”

While energy companies have long funded the work of useful allies, the new documents shed light on the role of scientists like Soon who help fuel the debate over climate change and its causes.

The New York Times writes:

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

… Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

Davies told the Guardian, “The company was paying him to write peer-reviewed science and that relationship was not acknowledged in the peer-reviewed literature.

“These proposals and contracts show debatable interventions in science literally on the behalf of Southern Company and the Kochs.”

The Center for Astrophysics does not require its scientists to disclose their funding sources. Both Harvard University and the Smithsonian have acknowledged that climate change is caused by human activity. Harvard remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, despite long-running calls for the university to pull its money from those companies.

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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