Raúl Grijalva is the US representative from Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a Democrat, and a supporter of environmental initiatives. As the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, he recently sent letters to seven universities requesting documents related to the background of climate change research, as a response to recent revelations in the New York Times of seemingly inappropriate failure to disclose industry funding sources by Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researcher Willie Soon. These letters requested the following:
The university policy on employee financial disclosure.
For specific researchers or projects, drafts of government testimony and communications regarding testimony preparation.
Information on funding sources for the specific researchers, including the source, amount, reasons for the funding, description of funded research, and communications regarding the funding.
Copies of financial disclosure forms listing the university.
Information on the researcher’s compensation for a specified period of time.
All seven letters went to institutions housing researchers who are regarded to some degree or another as having published material that might be seen as favorable to fossil fuel industry supporters, who, in turn, are generally regarded as potentially benefiting from policy inaction regarding human caused greenhouse gas pollution. In other words, Congressman Grijalva was looking for Soon-like instances of industry support for bogus research that would ultimately be used by, among others, climate science denialists in Congress to delay action on climate change.
This makes sense to do, Grijalva has the legal power to do this, and indeed, the responsibility to do this.
Reconsidering Grijalva’s Strategy
However, several people and institutions, including those who tend to protect the interests of Big Fossil but also, those who are interested in advancing good science and good policy based on that science, felt that some of these requests went to far. Rather than trying to represent others’ views, I’ll give you my own view on this.
In this world of electronic communication, the private conversation, or the closed door meeting, has been partly replaced and extensively augmented by electronic communication. This means that ideas we may float or open, honest, unfettered conversations we may have, are often recorded in electronic form, at least in part. The words we speak as part of a private conversation in a hallway or office dissipate into the air; the only physical result is the small additional heat generated as the sound waves we generate vibrate some of the molecules around us. At some point these frank, sincere, and honest (or not in some cases) conversations may turn in to some form of documentation. The conversation around the table at a faculty meeting turns into minutes. The chattering among scientists at the Monday Morning Lab Meeting turns into a memo from the lab director about what the graduate students and post docs have to start (or stop) doing. Ideas tossed around among a set of researchers may turn into a grant proposal. Endless conversations about the data and the analyses of those data turn into a draft paper. And so on.
But many of these conversations, these days, do not simply dissipate as heat, with the best or most important parts written down. Now, much of that chatter, because it takes the form of electronic communications, is unintended documentation of the process.
I worked for many years in the Congo rainforest, and lived there among the Lese people. The Lese have a saying that is absolutely wonderful. This saying is used when someone wants to say something to you that you might find objectionable, but they don’t want to push the issue too far. It goes, “Let me give you these words. If you don’t like them, give them back and we’ll pretend they never existed.”
Life is full of conversations that work that way. If scientist, administers, students, teachers, and everybody else were unable to communicate with each other without the prospect of these private conversations being made public by a freedom of information request or a Congressional demand or a legal subpoena, then those conversations would have to stop happening. That would be unthinkably stifling and destructive to the process of advancing and applying knowledge.
Grijalva Does The Right Thing
Anyway, a number of people had similar thoughts, and expressed them to Representative Grijalva. And he listened. Not long after sending out the letters, he realized that his request included a certain degree of overreach. According to the National Journal,
“The communications back-and-forth is honestly secondary, and I would even on my own say that that was an overreach in that letter,” Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, told National Journal on Monday. “I want the disclosure [of funding sources]. Then people can draw their own conclusions.”
I applaud, as we should all, Grijalva’s efforts to look into the practice of industry-bought research results, and their potential use in delaying action on climate change. That is the central narrative here. It may even be the case that in some instances looking at private correspondence will be necessary as part of one investigation or another. But at this point in time, the only thing Representative Grijalva needs is the subset of requested information that relates to disclosure, and it appears that that is the information he is now focused on. So, I applaud his rational thinking and sensible approach in this regard as well.
Even though Soon is ensconced at Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (which is more of a Smithsonian thing than a Harvard thing, but the links to Harvard are very real I am ashamed to admit) he recently made a public written statement about his situation and chose to convey that statement via the Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute is the infamous Libertarian ‘think’ tank that supported the tobacco industry in their bid to cover up the dangers of smoking, and that has been involved in a range of rather nefarious activities vis-a-vis climate change science denialism. Soon has been an affiliate of Heartland for some time now. Soon’s statement reads:
In recent weeks I have been the target of attacks in the press by various radical environmental and politically motivated groups. This effort should be seen for what it is: a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming.
Um, Imma let you finish reading the statement but first I want to comment on that first paragraph. The “radical” groups include Greenpeace, which I would argue is a radical group, but also, the New York Times, which I would regard as centrist, as well as a number of climate and environmental advocacy groups and individuals including mainstream scientists. What Soon calls an “orthodoxy” is actually a broadly held scientific consensus, like the “Germ Theory,” and “Einsteinian Physics” and such. By “question in the slightest” he must mean, since he is speaking circumspectly of his own work, “radical contrarianism of the important findings of climate science.” So, ladies and gentlemen, we see the magic of rhetoric at work. Soon is the radical, which is why he calls others radicals. OK, you may continue reading now.
I am saddened and appalled by this effort, not only because of the personal hurt it causes me and my family and friends, but also because of the damage it does to the integrity of the scientific process. I am willing to debate the substance of my research and competing views of climate change with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It is a shame that those who disagree with me resolutely decline all public debate and stoop instead to underhanded and unscientific ad hominem tactics.
Soon is famous for deflecting attempts to engage him in Q&A periods after the talks he gives. So forget about the debate. Soon is indeed being subjected to parallel attacks; scientists have been saying for years that his science sucks. That is not ad hominem. It is just that his science sucks. But also, his ethics are now being newly questioned, as he seems to have failed on numerous occasions to properly declare his industry funding. If accusing someone, copious evidence in hand, of ethical violations is ad hominem, then that is what it is. Soon’s reference to ad hominem is misguided. People are saying “Your science sucks. And your ethics are questionable.” The ad hominem fallacy would apply here only if people were saying “Your science sucks because your ethics suck.” No, his science does not stand on its own. OK, sorry for the interruption. Back to the statement.
Let me be clear. I have never been motivated by financial gain to write any scientific paper, nor have I ever hidden grants or any other alleged conflict of interest. I have been a solar and stellar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a quarter of a century, during which time I have published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The fact that my research has been supported in part by donations to the Smithsonian Institution from many sources, including some energy producers, has long been a matter of public record. In submitting my academic writings I have always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally, consistent with the level of disclosure made by many of my Smithsonian colleagues.
Whether or not Soon or any other author of a peer reviews paper is motivated by financial gain is irrelevant to the question of proper disclosure of funding. Who knows, he may be right. After all, it was just a million or so dollars, who would be motivated by that? That is a distraction. Do note his reference to grant money coming to him via the Smithsonian. We’ll return to that later. I find his reference to “many” of his Smithsonian colleagues interesting as well.
If the standards for disclosure are to change, then let them change evenly. If a journal that has peer-reviewed and published my work concludes that additional disclosures are appropriate, I am happy to comply. I would ask only that other authors-on all sides of the debate-are also required to make similar disclosures. And I call on the media outlets that have so quickly repeated my attackers’ accusations to similarly look into the motivations of and disclosures that may or may not have been made by their preferred, IPCC-linked scientists.
Just to be clear, there really is no question that Soon failed to disclose funding sources in violation of journal policies and standard practice. I should note that his failure to disclose has been on the table for some time and at no point did he address that issue, as far as I know. I suspect that Soon’s repeated references to “others” is a deluded hope that everyone should realize that everyone has been acting unethically and this will motivate everyone to back off. (See this interesting pot by Ugo Bardi on disclosure in science.)
I regret deeply that the attacks on me now appear to have spilled over onto other scientists who have dared to question the degree to which human activities might be causing dangerous global warming, a topic that ought rightly be the subject of rigorous open debate, not personal attack. I similarly regret the terrible message this pillorying sends young researchers about the costs of questioning widely accepted “truths.”
Actually, some of those people are not questioning human cause, but they are questioning the danger. But I digress.
There is indeed a message here to the young and upcoming researchers. Keep your ducks in a row when it comes to ethics and similar concerns. Otherwise, this is exactly the fight Soon says he is ready for. If you produce research that asks questions of a widely held consensus, more power to you! You may well be making an important contribution. But if your research is shown to be seriously wanting time and time again, you may want to refer to that old adage of unknown attribution about doing the same thing that does not work over and over again.
Finally, I thank all my many colleagues and friends who have bravely objected to this smear campaign on my behalf and I challenge all parties involved to focus on real scientific issues for the betterment of humanity.
This sentence really pisses me off. Willie Soon and his denialist colleagues in science and Congress have measurably stalled our collective action on climate change. How dare you play the victim, Willie Soon. You are one of the perpetrators of what could be defined, and some day will be defined, as a crime against future generations (though this isn’t technically illegal, of course). The young pre-school age children of today will suffer more than they otherwise might have because of this delay. Shame on you. Don’t tell us about the “betterment of humanity.” Don’t ask us to cry for you, Willie Soon. You are in a hole. You dug that hole, and got paid a million or two bucks along the way. You tossed our children under the bus, and now you are whinging about your own fate?
And now, for the last part of the statement:
Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Why is Willie Soon of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics releasing a statement indicating he is of that institution via the Heartland Institute, rather than from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics? I think it is very weird that he released a statement that he is not an industry shill through an organization that is an industry shill. Beyond that anything in his convoluted statement makes equal sense.
Note that in his statement, Soon throws the Smithsonian under the bus, or perhaps, drags the institution under his own bus, by reminding everyone that the grants actually came (he claims) to him from the Smithsonian, to which Big Fossil had made donations. Note also that Soon implies that failure to disclose is normal for his colleagues at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, or perhaps, the Smithsonian in general. Wow. One can only imagine the conversations going on behind closed doors between Garden Street and Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA.
I strongly suspect that the only question that remains in the Willy Soon Gate affair is who is going down with Willie. We see the usual denialists lining up with him, and they are of no consequence. They have already crashed and burned. But we also see various so-called ‘contrarians’ choosing to jump in Willie’s hole, or not, and I strongly recommend not.
If you have not been living in a cave, and had you been, I’d respect that, you know about Willie Soon Gate. Willie soon is a researcher on soft money at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Soon is well known for producing research of questionable quality that anemically attempts to buck the scientific consensus that human caused greenhouse gas pollution is rapidly raising the Earth’s temperature. Soon’s links to the fossil fuel industry have been known for some time, but recently, he has gotten into even more hot water over having published papers without properly disclosing that the work was funded by Big Fossil. The story is complex and I will not recite it here. What I want to do instead is to place the story in a larger context.
Soon did not arrive on the horizon recently. His involvement with anti-climate change science activism goes back over ten years. The rise of Willie Soon and the early effects of his ‘research’ on policy have been well documented in Michael Mann’s book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.
Let me give you the short version first, followed by elaboration using a handful of quotes from Mann’s book. Really, though, you should just go read the book. (By the way, if you do read it, consider leaving a review at Amazon; there has been a concerted effort by science denialists to leave bogus one star and otherwise horrid, inaccurate reviews on that site!)
The following graphic shows the march of global surface temperatures over the period we call the “Instrumental record,” which is the period of time best measured by thermometers and, later, satellites. The inset is a version of the famous “Hockey Stick Graph produced by Michael Mann and colleagues, showing recent warming in the context of previous natural variation. The inset shows both the “Hockey Stick” (in blue) and an independent reconstruction by the PAGES2k group (in green) which is an independent validation of the original Hockey Stick result.
This shows a the very end of period of mainly “natural variation” followed by a dramatic increase in surface temperatures owing to increased greenhouse gas pollution.
Here is a closeup of the same graph showing just the period of time over which the surface temperature variation, which amounts to an average increase, that is unambiguously anomalous compared to the past. This increase is pretty much entirely due to the effects of humans.
I’ve marked off a section of this graph that shows just the data since about 2003. This is the year that these two things happened: 1) Willie Soon co-authored two papers arguing that global warming wasn’t really happening, or was not human caused; and 2) Senator Jim Inhofe held Congressional hearings on climate change at which Soon, Mann, and others, testified.
There is no doubt whatsoever that action to reduce climate change has been slowed or even simply stopped in some cases by Big Fossil funded anti-science activism, which generally has involved an unholy marriage between crappy science and political maneuvering in Congress and elsewhere, a marriage involving a big dowery from fossil fuel interests. Willie Soon’s papers and Inhofe’s use of bad science is only part of the picture, but a key part, and at least, illustrative of the process. The following are brief quotes from Mann’s book describing part of the story. Again, read the book to get the full context and all of the details.
Soon after Mann and his colleagues published the Hockey Stick research, there was a range of reactions among which were attacks from the denialist community. One of these was a non peer reviewed piece put on a web site.
“The Summer of Our Discontent” (August 1998), had been invited from Sally Baliunas and Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. [Suggesting] that we had extended the MBH98 hockey stick no further back in time than A.D. 1400 for fear of encountering the warmer temperatures of the medieval warm period—a charge that … is nonsensical, since the stopping point was entirely determined by objective statistical criteria. Second, they claimed that our reconstruction suffered from an issue known as the “divergence problem”…
In a section of his book called “The Paper That Launched a Half-Dozen Resignations,” Mann talks about the Soon and Baliunas paper. Both Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon were at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Soon being a protege of Baliunas’. She had previously worked on the role of the sun in the Earth’s climate system.
The two went on to publish a number of articles analyzing the relationships between records of past solar variability and climate. … the Soon and Baliunas article took the form of two nearly identical papers published simultaneously in two different journals in spring 2003. One version of the paper appeared in the journal Climate Research while the other (which, it turns out, was simply a longer, unedited version of the first, but with three more coauthors added) was published in the journal Energy and Environment. Duplicate publication of a paper is highly unusual, and in fact is strictly forbidden by most academic journals. That both the authors and the study had been supported by the American Petroleum Institute—each of the authors had a long history of fossil fuel industry funding—combined with the highly unusual dual publication of the paper raised some eyebrows. Questions had been raised, moreover, about the two journals that jointly published the paper. Climate Research had in the recent past published a spate of contrarian papers of questionable scientific merit. Some members of the editorial board had already expressed concern that one editor at the journal known for his advocacy for the fossil fuel industry.
[One of the journal’s editors,] Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen … quite remarkably confessed in an interview … “I’m following my political agenda—a bit, anyway. But isn’t that the right of the editor?” The Soon and Baliunas study claimed to contradict previous work—including our own—that suggested that the average warmth of the Northern Hemisphere in recent decades was unprecedented over a time frame of at least the past millennium.
Mann goes on to explain in detail why the papers were scientifically flawed, and notes that …
The authors in many cases had mischaracterized or misrepresented the past studies they claimed to be assessing in their meta-analysis … Paleoclimatologist Peter de Menocal of Columbia University/LDEO, for example, who had developed a proxy record of ocean surface temperature from sediments off the coast of Africa, indicated that “Mr. Soon and his colleagues could not justify their conclusions that the African record showed the 20th century as being unexceptional … My record has no business being used to address that question.”
In response to Soon and Baliunas,
A group of twelve leading climate scientists joined me in authoring a rebuttal to Soon and Baliunas in Eos, the official newsletter of the American Geophysical Union. … The American Geophysical Union considered our rejoinder important enough to issue a press release entitled “Leading Climate Scientists Reaffirm View That Late 20th Century Warming Was Unusual and Resulted from Human Activity” in early July 2003, just prior to the article’s publication. Nevertheless, the Soon and Baliunas study was immediately taken up by the U.S. Senate’s leading climate change denier, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
This brings us to the use of Soon’s and other denialist work as a tool to develop a contrarian argument in a Senate Hearing. Senator James Inhofe, famous for claiming that climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public, chaired the hearing which was held in July 2003. Again, you should read Mann’s account for all the amazing details; it is a rousing story! In essence, Soon and his work were being used to argue against the importance of Global Warming, and Mann represented the scientific view. The story also involves Hillary Clinton (in case you were wondering about her position on climate change). Here’s the part of Mann’s recounting I want you to see:
Midway through the hearing, [ranking member] Jeffords dropped a bombshell. He announced that his staff had received a note from Hans Von Storch announcing his resignation as chief editor of the journal Climate Research, in protest over the publication of the Soon and Baliunas paper. Von Storch was no scientific ally of mine. Indeed … he and I had had disputes in the past regarding the relative merits of statistical climate reconstruction methods. But ally or not, Von Storch was outraged that such a transparently flawed paper had been published in his journal. His note, which Jeffords read aloud, was to the point: “My view … is that the review of the Soon et al. paper failed to detect significant methodological flaws … The paper should not have been published in this forum, not because of the eventual conclusion, but because of the insufficient evidence to draw this conclusion.” Von Storch’s resignation had been precipitated by the refusal of the journal’s publisher, Otto Kinne, to allow him to publish an editorial expressing his view that the peer review process had clearly failed with the Soon and Baliunas paper. Several other editors quit as well (ultimately six editors—half the editorial board—would quit in protest over the incident)….
Perhaps the single most troubling issue to arise from the Soon and Baliunas affair was that of apparent editorial malpractice. At the two journals that published versions of the paper, the peer review process appears to have been compromised to produce a study in the scientific literature that could be seized upon by those with a contrarian policy agenda. … It is particularly pernicious when that process is compromised or co-opted for political ends.
Funded, I’ll add, by Big Fossil.
I asked Michael Mann how much damage he reckons Soon and Baliunas, and others like them, have done to the process of developing good policies to combat climate change. He told me, “Well, they are the hired hands of the “Merchants of Doubt”, the ones who do the bidding of fossil fuel interests by muddying the waters and confusing the public into thinking that there is still a scientific debate about whether climate change is happening, whether it is due to human activity, and whether it is a problem. There is none. It is hard to know just how much damage these deniers-for-hire have done to our civilization and our planet by needlessly delaying the action necessary to avert dangerous climate change.
As a follow-up, I wondered if he thought the recent exposure of climate science denials tactics would change the nature of future Senate hearings for the better. “I do—in my dreams,” he said. “Sadly, we are not there yet. While there is a worthy debate to be had about how we confront the challenge of averting the climate change threat, there is no legitimate debate to be had about whether or not the problem exists. Currently we have a congress that is committed to keeping that fake debate alive, as we have seen all too recently in the antics of folks like Senator James “climate change is a hoax” Inhofe, who now controls the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. We have to get past that.”
Finally, I asked Mann if he saw evidence that the peer review process has ultimately been improved as a result of clear abuses by denialist authors, or the reaction of publishers to those abuses. He told me, “Well, I certainly think that the scientific community is now far more aware of some of the bad faith efforts that have been made by industry-funded climate change deniers to pollute the peer-reviewed literature with antiscientific, agenda-driven screeds. Cracks still exist in the system, but slowly they are being repaired as scientists and editors increasingly learn more about the forces of antiscience that are still very much at play today.”
The following statement was issued this afternoon by the Smithsonian:
Smithsonian Statement on Willie Soon, researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory.
The Smithsonian is greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.
The Smithsonian is taking immediate action to address the issue: Acting Secretary Albert Horvath has asked the Smithsonian Inspector General to review the matter. Horvath will also lead a full review of Smithsonian ethics and disclosure policies governing the conduct of sponsored research to ensure they meet the highest standards.
Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon is a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. He was hired to conduct research on long-term stellar and solar variability. The Smithsonian does not fund Dr. Soon; he pursues external grants to fund his research.
The Smithsonian does not support Dr. Soon’s conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian’s official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming.
The Willie Soon Story broke on Saturday night, having cloned off the front page of the Sunday New York Times into a few secondary sources. But we all saw it coming. Since then there has been quite a bit more written and there will be quite a bit more.
The main thing I want to add to the discussion is this. It is clear that Willie Soon was taking piles of Big Fossil money for his climate research. It is clear that his research was widely discredited in the mainstream scientific community. It should have been easy to check to see if he was using the money properly (mainly, with respect to disclosure on publication) and to discover that he was not. So, why did it take an article in the New York Times to alert the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics of a problem going on under their roof for over a decade? Was the administration of HSCA compliant? Ignorant? In short, what did they know and when did they know it? And, will there be any effort by the Smithsonian, or Harvard for that matter, to address this?
Worth thinking about.
The image in the above meme is Senator Jim Inhofe referring to a list of some 58 “climate scientists” who oppose the global warming consensus. One of them is Soon. Many of the others are not climate scientists, or even scientists. Many are well known deniers. This list was provided by the discredited Heartland Institute. Expect new scrutiny into each of those individuals over the next few days, to see if there are any other Willie Soons on the list.
Anyway, here are a few more items of interest that came across my desk this morning.
Davies drew attention to Soon’s funding disclosures last month after Soon and three colleagues published a paper in the Chinese journal Science Bulletin2 that presented results from a simple climate model to argue that burning all recoverable fossil fuel reserves would result in little more than 2.2°C warming. By comparison, models assessed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on average project around 4° of warming with unabated fossil fuel use by 2100 and further warming beyond that time. The paper was appended with the statement: “The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.” Davies wrote to the journal insisting that Soon’s past funding sources do constitute a conflict of interest that should have been reported.
Science Bulletin’s conflict of interest policy states that authors must disclose “all relationships or interests that could influence or bias the work,” including “professional interests or personal beliefs that may influence your research.” The policy also gives a series of example disclosures. The first reads, “Author A has received research grants from Company A.”
…as it turns out, our old pal Ken Cuccinelli, when he was (appallingly) Attorney General of Virginia and waging a witch-hunt against climate science (and specifically against leading climate scientist Michael Mann), was busy citing some of those fossil-fuel-funded climate science deniers. That includes, as you can see below (from Cooch’s “Civil Investigative Demand” against the University of Virginia, none other than…that’s right, Willie Soon, who was falsely smearing the meticulous research of Michael Mann and many other scientists on the famous “hockey stick” graph. Not that Cuccinelli acting like this comes as a big surprise, but still, it’s yet more evidence of how “in bed” with fossil fuel interests Cuccinelli was when he was Attorney General of Virginia. Now, can someone please explain to me why THAT is legal, even as Bob and Maureen McDonnell face possible jail time for their corrupt (but arguably, FAR less severe and damaging than Cooch’s) behavior?
A watchdog group called the Climate Investigations Center alerted nine scientific journals Monday that studies they published most likely breached conflict-of-interest protocols. The studies in question were co-authored by Willlie Soon, a prominent climate-change skeptic whose work was funded by fossil fuel interests.
The letters grew out of the release Saturday of public records showing that Soon failed to disclose industry funding in 11 studies published by those journals.
“…Much of the commentary on the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics hi-jinks has concerned how one of Dr Willie Soon’s sponsors the Southern Company had the right to examine and review any manuscripts that Dr. Willie Soon submitted for publication…” Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Hi-Jinks2
“…Amanda Preston was hip deep in the financials of Willie Soon’s support network. As the Advancement and External Affairs Officer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics she negotiated the terms for his support from Exxon Mobile among other things. Today she has moved on to be Executive Director of the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard University, where, amongst other things she works works with faculty to squeeze out more dimes. …”
A few days ago I suggested that Willie Soon’s career may be taking a nose dive soon. I was right. Tomorrow’s New York Times has a story that has as many leaks as an old canoe, so we can see it now in various outlets. The story is out and linked to below.
Before going into detail I just want to note that Justin Gillis is doing a great job at the New York Times.
Anyway, you can read the following items, the most recent listed here:
It really looks like Willie Soon has been paid by Big Fossil to write papers, which generally suck as science, suggesting that Anthropogenic Global Warming isn’t much of a thing. A lot of us have known this for some time, and have been complaining about it. Climate science deniers have been denying. Now, major media is putting the story together. Suddenly, we are looking at a sea change, and it is pretty wavy, and Willie needs a bigger boat.
First, the most important fact:
Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.
So, our planet, his deliverables. To the tune of over $400,000 pieces of silver. Nice going, Willie, this makes you kind of an asshole.
Then, this from the big boss at Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysics:
Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.
“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”
Soon is employed by the Smithsonian Institution, which jointly sponsors the astrophysics center with Harvard.
“I am aware of the situation with Willie Soon, and I’m very concerned about it,” W. John Kress, interim undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian in Washington, said Friday. “We are checking into this ourselves.”
Charles, I’m not that impressed with you either. You let this go on in your institution for many years, and Soon isn’t the only climate science denialist you are harboring. WTF? Well, thanks for finally getting on with this. I do hope you have the wits to suspend his activities until the end of the HR investigation, because that could take some time. Otherwise he might pinch off a few more papers under your aegis.
I asked climate scientist Michael Mann what he thought of this news. He told me, “Willie Soon (as amply documented in my book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”) was instrumental in the early attacks on the Hockey Stick by James Inhofe and other fossil fuel industry-funded politicians. Now we know for certain that his efforts were a quid pro quo with special interests looking to discredit my work as a means of calling into question the reality and threat of climate change.” (Mann’s book is here.)
UPDATE: Senator Edward Markey will launch an investigation of Big Fossil company funding of bogus climate change studies, according to the Boston Globe:
“For years, fossil fuel interests and front groups have attacked climate scientists and legislation to cut carbon pollution using junk science and debunked arguments,” Markey said in a statement. “The American public deserve an honest debate that isn’t polluted by the best junk science fossil fuel interests can buy. That’s why I will be launching this investigation to see how widespread this denial-for-hire scheme stretches within the anti-climate action cabal.”
Markey will be looking into over a million dollars of funding from such companies as ExonMobil, Southern Company, Texaco, etc.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Willie Soon Controversy. Bottom line: Soon was an author on a paper that failed to disclose his extensive funding by the petroleum industry and its friends (over a million dollars to date, I believe) as required. I don’t have time to craft a detailed expose or commentary, but I wanted to get a bunch of resources in one place. I should mention that this is not all about Willie Soon, but rather, about climate science denialists more generally, a few specific others besides Soon, about how crap gets published now and then much to the giddiness of the denialist community, and about the ethical issues plaguing Soon, which have led to, among other things, tens of thousands of people signing a petition to get him sacked from his position at Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics lab.
(ADDED: Since there have been so many wonderful questions about the controversial research and related issues, let me point you to this post, which is essentially a link farm to myriad resources for you to read and enjoy.)