Two Greenpeace-related stories in two days for you. Yesterday the blog was about how Greenpeace was attacking VW for its poor performance on fuel efficiency and for blocking climate progress in Europe.

Let’s turn back to the US for a moment and hats off to Greenpeace US’ research director Kert Davies, who has been tracking climate sceptics for a decade or so.

He has long tracked Exxon’s funding of supposedly independent scientists and he was also behind the revelations about how Koch Industries were behind a new network of climate denial.

Now Davies and Greenpeace have updated their research on Koch and also investigated the antics of one prominent sceptic, Dr. Willie Soon.

Dr Soon is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, who is a prominent sceptic known for his view that climate change is caused by solar variation rather than human-caused CO2 emissions. He also has controversial positions on climate change and polar bears and the health effects of mercury.

As Greenpeace outlines: “Of all the climate deniers, one scientist has been particularly closely involved in the campaign against the climate science consensus for the majority of his career: Dr. Willie Soon.”

Greenpeace’s investigation has found that “Dr. Soon has received substantial funding from the fossil fuel industry for most of his scientific career and heavy corporate funding in the last decade.”

The funding from Big Oil and Coal over the last decade is over $1 million.

As Davies outlines in a blog post about the new revelations: “When climate denier and astrophysicist Dr Willie Soon wrote a controversial paper in 2003 that attempted to challenge the historical temperature records, we all raised eyebrows at revelations that the American Petroleum Institute funded it. When he co-wrote a (non-peer reviewed) paper in 2007  arguing that Arctic warming wasn’t happening and polar bears were not threatened by the effects of it, we found that ExxonMobil and the billionaire Koch brothers had paid for it.”

When Davies and Greenpeace went digging they found that this funding was just the tip of the ice-berg. They found that Soon has been relying on the fossil fuel industry for most of his academic career. The documents Greenpeace obtained from his employer, the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory, show that he has received no new funding from conventional, university sources since 2002.

So where has his funding been coming from? Its mainly been from Southern Company (one of the US largest coal companies), a Koch brothers’ foundation, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute – totalling over $1 million since 2001.

As Davies points out it is worth remembering that back in 1998, the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil and the Southern Company funded a Global Climate Science  Communications Plan  to undermine the climate science and support for the Kyoto Protocol that had just been agreed.   “Victory will be achieved when… average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science”… read the plan.

One way the oil industry has attempted to increase uncertainty over the science is by attacking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

One document obtained by Greenpeace was a letter from Soon to fellow sceptics and possibly colleagues from Exxon outlining a plan to undermine the science in the report:  “I hope we can start discussing among ourselves to see what we can do to weaken the fourth assessment report…”  he wrote.

Soon is still trying to undermine conventional climate science. Tomorrow sees the opening of the right-wing think tank the Heartland Institute’s annual get together of climate sceptics and deniers. Dr Soon is one of the speakers.

As Davies explains: “The “sponsors” of that meeting and organizations the speakers work for have received millions in funding from ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, the Scaife Foundation and other corporate, ‘free-market’ and anti-government, anti-regulation funders.

Davies argues that “Scientists like Dr. Soon who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists are pawns.”

Soon categorically denies this. “I have never been motivated by financial reward in any of my scientific research,” he told Reuters. “I would have accepted money from Greenpeace if they had offered it to do my research.”


  • A report in the Washington Examiner, entitled “Working for Big Green can be a very enriching experience” by Mark Tapscott, showed that the leaders of 15 top Big Green environmental groups are paid more than $300,000 in annual compensation, with a half million dollar plus figure for the top “earner”.

    He mentions that Environmental Defense Fund President Frederic Krupp, receives total compensation of $496,174, including $446,072 in salary and $50,102 in other compensation.

    Close behind Krupp among Big Green environmental movement executives is World Wildlife Fund- US President Carter Roberts, who was paid $486,394, including a salary of $439,327 and other compensation of $47,067.

    Soon is a lightweight. He should be paid more!

  • Wow. The first two comments to this article really show how determined the other side is to not only deny but actively hide the truth. “klem” names heads of the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund, which are non-profit, advocacy organizations. This is comparing apples and oranges — Soon is not the director of a non-profit, but (claiming to be) an objective scientist. “Mia Redrick” is a little less specific, simply saying that “$79 billion is poured into one theory.” Such an assertion is so vaguely worded as to be meaningless — how many more billions have been “poured into one” fossil fuel industry over the last century? The difference, of course, is that the oil industry is out to maximize its profit, and the “theory” is endorsed by more than 90% of climate scientists through painstaking, ongoing research that is subject to peer review. If we want to pick and choose when to take peer-reviewed scientific research seriously, like only when it doesn’t inconveniently clash with our religious traditions and economic system, then why bother having science at all? Why bother training and educating scientists and insisting on peer review? Why not just do whatever our oil industry says and leave the science to other countries? This kind of pitiful, anti-scientific, willful ignorance is not going to help our national economy stay competitive in the long run. Mamamia makes a funny (I guess) point about short-term effects of this struggle between science and corporate power, but the comment doesn’t mean mean much in the long run. All three posters, only one of whom might be using her real name (I’m giving “Mia Redrick” the benefit of the doubt here) have their heads in the sand. It’s unfortunate.

  • “All three posters, only one of whom might be using her real name (I’m giving “Mia Redrick” the benefit of the doubt here) have their heads in the sand. It’s unfortunate”

    Perhaps it is unfortunate, but the deniers have won. Climate change is dead. Wahoo!


  • I have to assume the first couple of comments to which you refer were deleted. Nothing unusual there from the environmental left. If you don’t like what the other side says, delete it.

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