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.
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.”