And it’s about time. Soon is a dishonest hack, one of the climate change deniers who exploited his prestigiously titled position as a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (Oooh! Sciencey!) to claim authority in attacks on more credible climate scientists, and he’s been very popular on the denialist side of things.
Now his own boss is admitting that he violated disclosure principles by failing to reveal his industry connections. You might be wondering what connections, and how much did he get?
Over the last 14 years Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics , received a total of $1.25m from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and a foundation run by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers, the documents obtained by Greenpeace through freedom of information filings show.
According to the documents, the biggest single funder was Southern Company, one of the country’s biggest electricity providers that relies heavily on coal.
On the one hand, he’s clearly on the take — over a million dollars from fossil-fuel polluting industries is persuasive.
But on the other hand…that’s over 14 years. Selling your Harvard-associated soul is only worth less than $100,000/year? Jebus. I wasn’t going to sell out my University of Minnesota associated soul to the creationists for anything less than a lump sum of $10 million, plus a $1 million yearly annuity for life.
Goddamn you, Willie Soon, you cheap fraud, you destroyed my retirement package!
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
No wonder the anti-AGW crowd kept saying honest scientists following the evidence were in the pay of some non-specific pro AGW organizations. Projecting their bad behavior onto everybody else.
Perhaps it won’t belong before he can be referred to as the (professionally, not biologically) late Soon.
Rich Woods says
Sadly that’s the way a lot of crooked people work. Because they are willing to do something dodgy, they automatically assume that everyone else must be just as willing to do so (and presumably they lessen their own feelings of guilt in the process). Just look at the rationalisations which came out of the mouths of the wealthy tax avoiders when the Swiss HSBC scandal was exposed, not to mention the excuses made by the wannabe-wealthy-enough-to-avoid-tax crowd, who effectively proclaimed themselves perfectly willing to rip off their own country and society given half a chance.
Couldn’t think of a more worthy downing.
I can’t find my link now, but I noticed that he described his publications in scientific journals, and his appearances in Congress, to his financial supporters as “deliverables”.
(WSJ maybe? It’s not in the Boston Globe or Guardian articles. )
Michael Kimmitt says
“But on the other hand…that’s over 14 years.”
Yyyyyup. And does anyone really think that nobody was discussing this over the water cooler over the past 13.5?
Here’s one link:
and here’s another:
The Heartland Institute has a long list of “deliverables” they and others purchased from Soon:
The integrity of science is a central tenet of my “religion,” and schtickdrecks like this Soon character make my blood boil. He is my version of a blasphemer. No, I don’t want to burn him at the stake, but I do want him unemployed.
Last Embryo Standing says
Wow. You would think that his lying about his credentials (aerospace engineer vs astrophysicist) would have come out before now, even without the recent document expose’.
Michael Kimmitt says
So Greenpeace had to file a FOIA request, because Harvard and the Smithsonian couldn’t be bothered to police themselves.
For fourteen years.
Just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Progress!
Frickin’ engineers. What the heck is wrong with
Judas = One time payment of 30 pieces of silver
Willie Soon ca. $100,000 per year for 14 years.
That is what 2,000 years of inflation will do for you.
(Clearly Judas should have asked to be put on the payroll and get a yearly payment.)
Michael Kimmitt says
I really do have to point out once again that this is Greenpeace’s victory and the scientific establishment’s loss, full stop.
I vehemently disagree that this is not a victory for science. This is a victory for truth, a side on which science by definition should always endeavour to stand. It also has the ancillary effect of depriving AGW deniers just one more “official academic mouthpiece.”
Not even close.
The scientific establishment, that 97% of climate scientists, were the ones who have been warning of global warming and sea level rise for at least 30 years.
It happens that Greenpeace, the vast majority of scientists, and the truth all line up on the same side on this issue.
Michael Kimmitt says
It’s absolutely a victory for science.
It’s a sign of the profound corruption and laziness of the scientific establishment.
That’s the point.
Nick Gotts says
Michael Kimmitt @12,15 certainly has a point: you don’t get much more “scientific establishment” than the Smithsonian, and they have had this fossil fuel industry shill on their staff for many years. OTOH, the IPCC, the AAAS, the Royal Society, etc. are also part of the scientific establishment, and they have largely resisted pressure to water down the science on AGW over the past two decades.
On the topic of AGW denialism, Naomi Oreskes coauthored a book title Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Here is a lecture by her that covers some of the history behind AGW research and AGW denialism. The American Denial of Global Warming
yea a victory for truth !!
it will have little to no effect on climate denial-ism nor effect the political climate needed to accomplish any of the even minimalist necessary changes to prevent the inevitable effects of climate change.
“Dam the icebergs full steam ahead!”
It’s important in this regard to distinguish between the ideals of science and the people doing science. As long as we make that distinction, I’ll agree with your #12.
I’ve always been amazed by how cheaply even senators can be bought, so this relatively small sum doesn’t seem out of line.
J Hart says
As a longtime reader of this blog’s posts and comments , and as an MFA in poetry, I have only one thing to say: You damn science folks are awlright. No, really. That is, this is the best (as in most enlightening/interesting) comment thread I’ve read here in probably 2 years, regarding any particular topic. Especially from Kimmitt (12) and drowner (13), and the reactions to those 2 posts. As a very interested outsider (professionally speaking) I’d merely point out that, like Beckett’s Hamm in ‘Endgame”: “I once knew a madman, who thought the end of the world had come. He was painter—and engraver. I had a great fondness for him. I used to go and see him, in the asylum. I’d take by the hand and drag him to the window. Look! There! All that rising corn! And there! Look! The sails of the herring fleet! All that loveliness! He’d snatch away his hand and go back to his corner. Appalled. All he had seen was ashes.”
I bet the anti-AWG politicians cost a lot more than Soon. Also, can’t help but wonder if the Harvard-Smithsonian got any funding from these organizations.
Willie Soon collaborated with the notorious Art Robinson (AGW denialist, urine collector, and 3-time congressional candidate (OR-4). I’ve heard Art speak of his great admiration for Soon; no doubt that admiration is touched with envy and greed.
The report I read detailed many other funding sources. The total seemed commensurate with that of an average soft-money researcher when you take overhead, travel, students/staff into account.
Mere chump change. For some context about the dollar amounts involved, go do some readin’ about Southern Co’s giant monster ‘clean coal’ boondoggle in Kemper County, MS. Approved by the PSC at a cost of $2.8 billion (to be paid for by its customers, via rate increases), cost to date is $6.1 billion and none of the fancy next-gen ‘clean coal’ stuff is even operational yet. It is, technically, producing power now, but only in something akin to a pre-beta testing phase using natural gas. The strip mine for the source of low-grade pseudo-coal (lignite) hasn’t broken ground yet. Who knows how much it will cost if it’s ever what you could call finished.
Lynna, OM says
Here’s the backstory, the events that precipitated the rise of Soon:
Pianoman, Church of the Golden Retriever says
This is not the first time Exxon has been funding bogus science. The Royal Society nailed them for it in 2006, and the oil company agreed to stop doing this. They didn’t learn.
What a Maroon, oblivious says
They also allowed the Koch Brothers to fund an exhibit on human origins at the National Museum of Natural History that argues that because humans survived climate change in the past, we can adapt to the current change (which, natch, is totally natural).
Underground cities, anyone? Don’t worry, you’ll learn to stoop!
well humans may have survived dramatic events in the past but some one should point out that it was not without a considerable lose of life. As a species we will probably survive but there is the possibility of significant death toll as the result to dramatic climate change.
It’s a fucking lottery they are selling, it is human nature to think it won’t be me that dies as the result because I’ll most definitely make it.
Why is that argument not just laughed at as being completely naive?
Michael Kimmitt says
“distinguish between the ideals of science and the people doing science.”
Ah, but then we have to acknowledge that it is not unpossible that entire sectors of science are comprised of people doing “science” that have already been co-opted.
And then head asplode.
14 years. Everyone here, dust off your writing desks and send Greenpeace a profound thank you and the Smithsonian a flaming bag of dog excrement.
Michael Kimmitt says
“Why is that argument not just laughed at as being completely naive?”
Because it’s even worse — they don’t care if they or their kids die, as long as African-American folks go with. People are awesome.
Pretty much the same tactics as are used by the anti-vaccination whackaloons.