Southern Company

Was Climate Science Denialist Willie Soon Funded To Do Science Or Was It Just PR Cash From The Fossil Fuel Industry?

Willie Soon fossil fuel funding

So one of the climate science denial industry’s most celebrated scientists has been caught describing his research work as “deliverables” to his fossil fuel funders.

Dr Willie Soon, the aeronautics engineer who dabbles in public health, atmospheric science, solar physics and sea level rise, describes himself as an “independent scientist”.

More often though over the years, he is described by others as an “astrophysicist” at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lending him credibility which most serious climate scientists would argue Soon’s science doesn’t deserve.

As one University of Michigan professor put it to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why is anyone even listening to him? Because he’s got ‘Harvard’ after his name. Once you take that away, who is Willie Soon? He’s nobody.”

In recent days, the Smithsonian has pointed out that even though Soon is employed as a “part time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory” they don’t actually pay him. “Dr. Soon pursues external sources to fund his research activity,” a statement said.

Soon has solicited more than $1.5 million since 2001 from fossil fuel companies and conservative foundations.

Coal electricity generator Southern Company, Exxon, Donors Trust, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the American Petroleum Institute have been among his key funders.

Willie Soon's Climate Science Denial Wasn't Ever Credible: Climate Scientists

Willie Soon climate science denial

“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless.” - NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, to the New York Times

Recent revelations regarding Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon's financing and coordination with fossil fuel companies for studies undermining the science of climate change has received quite a bit of attention. Our friends at the Climate Investigations Center have links to source documents, letters to the IRS and Congress, letters to journals that Soon appears to have mislead, and some of the press covering all of this.

The drama has largely outshone the main point among most scientists: Willie Soon's work is vastly discredited. For those who aren't familiar with Willie Soon's fossil fuel company contracting over the last fifteen years, there is probably a legitimate question of whether or not this guy deserves to be in his current pinch.

Frankly, he had it coming.

Scientists and science reporters have often had to waste their time addressing the interference of Soon and his cohorts, who take advantage of the public's general unfamiliarity with scientific nuance. 

But scientists too are talking about Dr. Soon's work and what it means for the troubled peer-review process that the most stringent journals usually adhere to. Here is a summary of some of the most interesting conversations in science publications about Willie Soon's #Fakexpert scandal.

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative “corporate bill mill” by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls “model bills.” Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a “voice and a vote in shaping policy.” In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become “models” that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

Students Get Lobby Group Material From Chris de Freitas in Climate 101 Lectures

Chris de Freitas

New Zealand-based academic and climate sceptic Dr Chris de Freitas has been caught using material from US lobby groups in lectures to first year university Geography students.

Students who listened to the “Geography 101” lectures on climate from Dr de Freitas, an associate professor at The University of Auckland’s School of Environment, admitted to being “quite convinced” that a scientific debate was still raging over the causes of global warming.

A report in the New Zealand Herald highlighted how Dr de Freitas had ignored key texts, ignored recent extreme weather events and argued that climate change was almost entirely down to natural variations.

In the lecture notes, published by author Gareth Renowden on his Hot Topic blog, one student wrote in the margins that “CO2 has a lot of beneficial effects… don’t believe the propaganda”.

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

Business Groups Lobby EPA to Drop Gas Emission Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only been regulating greenhouse gas emissions for four months, but business groups are already tired of the increased oversight. According to new reports, some of the largest business groups in America are fighting back, urging the President and Congress to strip the EPA of its new authority.

Tucker Carlson’s 'Daily Caller' Website Bankrolled by Climate Change Denier

The primary funder of Tucker Carlson’s new website ‘The Daily Caller’ is climate change denier and GOP bankroller Foster Friess, and Carlson has reportedly lined up sponsorship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association and Southern Company, all major opponents of meaningful action to curb climate change.

Friess donated $3 million to Carlson’s site, which is run out of an office a “stone’s throw from the White House” by a 21-person staff.  ‘The Daily Caller’ is the brainchild (if you can call it that) of Carlson and his college roommate Neil Patel, a former Dick Cheney aide.  The site’s opinion editor is former RNC press secretary Moira Bagley, immediately calling into question Carlson’s insistence that ‘The Daily Caller’ won’t cater to the right-wing crowd.

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Takes Heat From Own Membership On Climate Legislation Stance

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is facing intense criticism from some of its most prominent member companies over its staunch advocacy against current Congressional efforts to solve global warming.  The Chamber has chosen to represent the extreme views of a small minority of its directors from dirty fuels industries, against the wishes of its constituents who have called for federal action on climate change and member companies who have yet to take a position on the issue.

Politico reports that Johnson & Johnson has asked the Chamber to refrain from making comments on climate change unless they “reflect the full range of views, especially those of Chamber members advocating for congressional action.”

The Nation’s Must-Read Article “The Dirt on Clean Coal”

Ari Berman’s must-read article “The Dirt on Clean Coal” upholds The Nation’s proud reputation for investigative reporting which separates it from most mainstream outlets, posing relevant questions and actually attempting to find answers to them.

Berman asks the critical, overlooked question of the day, “Can the same people who told us that global warming didn’t exist–or that it was a good thing–suddenly be trusted to help solve the climate crisis?”

As you might guess, the answer is a resounding “no.”

Berman details how the coal industry - through its $40 million Astroturf campaign by the front group “American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity” - is working feverishly to fight Congressional efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, hoping to ensure that the world’s coal supplies – and the climate – continue to burn for decades to come.

Alaskans Sue Oil, Coal Firms for "Conspiracy" to Hide Truth About Warming

Lawyers for the Alaska Native coastal village of Kivalina, which is being forced to relocate because of flooding caused by the changing Arctic climate, filed suit in federal court arguing that 5 oil companies, 14 electric utilities and the country’s largest coal company were responsible for the village’s woes.

The suit is the latest effort to hold companies like BP America, Chevron, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy and the Southern Company responsible for the impact of global warming…In an unusual move, those five companies and three other defendants — the Exxon Mobil Corporation, American Electric Power and the Conoco Phillips Company — are also accused of conspiracy.

“There has been a long campaign by power, coal and oil companies to mislead the public about the science of global warming,” the suit says

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