The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Climate Denier’s Funding from Fossil Fuel Industry Exposed at a Staggering $1.25 Million
For nearly two decades avid researcher, Kert Davies, has been hunting climate deniers and exposing their links to the fossil fuel industry.
Last year, Davies decided to move on from Greenpeace and set up the Climate Investigations Center, whose remit is to “monitor the individuals, corporations, trade associations, political organizations and front groups who work to delay the implementation of sound energy and environmental policies that are necessary in the face of ongoing climate crisis.”
For anyone who has followed how climate sceptics have distorted the debate on climate science, there are a few key names on the list. And one of those is Wei-Hock Soon, more commonly known as Willie Soon, who is an astrophysicist from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.
Only last week I wrote about the Philip Morris’s “whitecoat” program and how the tobacco industry strategy of using scientists to promote their message had been copied by the oil industry.
Soon is the perfect whitecoat for the fossil fuel industry and those who want to deny or delay action on climate change because he believes that climate change is caused not by fossil fuels but by the sun.
These views mean that Soon has been a valuable commodity to the fossil fuel industry and Republicans who deny climate change.
He has long established connections to leading denial think tanks from the U.S., such as the Heartland Institute. Indeed at last year’s annual climate sceptic conference run by Heartland, Soon was one of three skeptics to be given an ward for “speaking truth to power, whistleblowing, and the defense of science.”
Nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth. It is the powerful fossil fuel industry which has been trying to undermine—not defend—science.
We have known for years that Soon has taken fossil fuel industry money, but the exact amount has always remained a mystery.
And now documents uncovered by Davies and Greenpeace reveal just how much funding Soon received from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company, American Petroleum Institute (API) and Donors Trust, which is a secretive foundation run by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers.
And the total comes to a staggering $1.25 million over the last 14 years.
The largest donor was Southern Company, one of the America’s biggest electricity providers which relies heavily on dirty coal for its power plants.
The strategy has been simple. To employ Soon to sow doubt about climate change. “What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” argues Davies.
Davies adds: “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.” He asks: “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?”
More worryingly, the documents suggest that Soon also “improperly concealed his funding sources” from scientific journals in contravention to their guidelines.
According to the New York Times, which broke the story, at least 11 papers Soon has published since 2008 omitted disclosing his funding sources, “and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.”
“The [Southern] company was paying him to write peer-reviewed science and that relationship was not acknowledged in the peer-reviewed literature,” argues Davies.
Greenpeace has now written to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and Congress arguing that Soon may have misused grants from the Koch foundation by trying to influence legislation.
Meanwhile, Soon has always denied that his industry funding influences his work.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Bijal Trivedi
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.
By Joe Vukovich
Under the guise of responding to consumer complaints that today's energy- and water-efficient dishwashers take too long, the Department of Energy has proposed creating a new class of dishwashers that wouldn't be subject to any water or energy efficiency standards at all. The move would not only undermine three decades of progress for consumers and the environment, it is based on serious distortions of fact regarding today's dishwashers.
By Emily Moran
If you have oak trees in your neighborhood, perhaps you've noticed that some years the ground is carpeted with their acorns, and some years there are hardly any. Biologists call this pattern, in which all the oak trees for miles around make either lots of acorns or almost none, "masting."
By Catherine Davidson
Tashi Yudon peeks out from behind a net curtain at the rooftops below and lets out a sigh, her breath frosting on the windowpane in front of her.
Some 700 kilometers away in the capital city Delhi, temperatures have yet to dip below 25 degrees Celsius, but in Spiti there is already an atmosphere of impatient expectation as winter settles over the valley.