Over the weekend the New York Times did a hit piece on a man named Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist still employed with the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, because his superiors haven’t figured out how to completely get rid of him.
Disclosure: Dr. Soon was employed with the Caesar Rodney Institute from November 2012-April 2013. He wrote two articles on climate science and made one appearance with CRI Advisor Dr. David Legates. Their presentation can be viewed here and here. Their PowerPoint is available here.
From the New York Times:
“For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.
One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.
But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.
He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.
The documents show that Dr. 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.”
Stop for a moment. They argue that because “corporations” fund Dr. Soon’s research, he must be doing this only to please his fossil-fuel company corporate masters who “deny” the climate “science” because of their capitalist greed. Yet the same people doing the attacking happily accept money from groups or people like The Ford Foundation, Climate Action Fund, Tom Steyer, 11th Hour Project (founded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt), the United Nations, government agencies invested in proving man-made climate change in order to increase taxes and regulations, other businesses involved in the green energy movement, etc., yet somehow their contributions or motives for proving man-made climate change theories as fact are not questioned in this article.
We knew at the time Dr. Soon joined CRI he had received money in the past from those in the energy sector (we didn’t know how much though) who have an interest in preventing carbon taxes and the like from ruining their businesses. But do you blame them? The radical environmentalist movement has an agenda to destroy “fossil fuels” and anyone who stands opposed to the unnecessary growth of government control over the private sector. Note that he doesn’t get money for his research because the people giving grants cut him off for his disagreement, and he does have two small kids he has to provide for. If he cannot compete fairly for grant money because his work does not fit in with what his employers want (that humans are destroying the planet and only government regulations and carbon taxes can save us), then where else do people expect him to get money for his income?
“Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.
Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.
Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.”
Naturally we never find out who the “many experts in the field” are because they are not cited. Also we note that those who criticize Dr. Soon’s research do not point out the specifics where he is wrong or where his data is out of date.
“Dr. Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, said that academic institutions and scientific journals had been too lax in recent decades in ferreting out dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda.
“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.”
CRI has this problem too. We are accused by our detractors of being “right-wing nuts,” yet our work, coming directly from public sources, is not challenged on its merits. Assumptions are made because we don’t support the “general consensus” on issues like Sea Level Rise, Prevailing Wage, and carbon taxes.Personal attacks are used in place of debate.
Now environmental policy is only a minor part of CRI’s platform. To the extent we cover environmental policy we do so in the forms of how it will affect energy policy or civil liberties. Policy Director Dave Stevenson prefers to focus on energy-related issues and keep away from the overall climate-change debate because it isn’t our main focus, with the exception of stopping the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and carbon taxes. We are not suggesting alternative energies are bad or that we as humans don’t cause environmental problems we need to resolve. However, given the nature of the attacks and the source it comes from, we feel this should be addressed from our end. If you believe people like Dr. Soon are wrong, then prove it with your own data and not just broad assumptions about who your opponents are.
As for whether Dr. Soon’s papers meet academic guidelines, we have no dog in that fight and no comment.
We stand by the material which is up on our website and until someone provides credible evidence that Dr. Legates’ and Dr. Soon’s data is incorrect, we will leave it up.