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.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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