Willie Soon

What passes for a Brain Trust at Heartland?

Has beens, also-rans, deniers-for-hire on retainer at “think tank”

Update: 13th scientist disavows Heartland connection (See: Watkins at bottom of this post)

The Heartland Institute maintains a stable of 13 scientists on retainer for the express purpose of attacking the work of the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), according to budget information released last week in the Heartland document dump.

The scientists, ranging from one of the world's least credible deniers-for-hire (Dr. S. Fred Singer) to a sessional lecturer on the evolution and history of the domestic dog (Susan Crockford), include no top climate scientists currently publishing in the peer-reviewed literature.

The best paid “expert” on the Heartland list is Craig Idso, a former Director of Environmental Science at Peabody Energy (the largest coal company in the world). Heartland pays Idso $11,600 a month through his Center for the Study of CO2 & Global Change, which like the Heartland Institute, has charitable status and therefore operates with an effective subsidy from the American taxpayer. (Funny how quick libertarians are to fleece old Uncle Sam when THEY get to kick the money back to their rich friends.)

Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003

anti-science pot calling science kettle black

Imagine for a moment that climate change skeptics actually submitted their anti-science arguments for publication in a credible peer-reviewed journal. Now imagine that, after thorough examination and debunking by their peers, these skeptics finally admitted their many false claims and assumptions, and perhaps some or all moved on to contribute meaningfully to the vast body of science confirming manmade climate change?

Ok, back to reality.

Instead, the skeptics' greatest and most-often cited (by them) “peer-reviewed studies” appeared in the journal Climate Research between 1997-2003. This journal has been considered credible at certain points in its history, and many fine papers have appeared there.

But according to my new analysis [PDF] of the papers published in Climate Research, there is a very clear gap in credibility during the years 1997-2003 when Chris de Freitas served as one of the journal's editors. During this time, de Freitas oversaw the publication of 14 papers from notorious skeptics - half of them authored by fossil fuel industry pal Pat Michaels - many of which would not have survived rigorous and honest peer review at any other credible journal. 

A few months ago, another journal's editor resigned over a paper that should not have been accepted due to a poor peer review process. It reminded many of us of the more drastic case of Climate Research (CR), where several editors resigned in 2003 in the wake of a colossally poor paper by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, accepted for publication by none other than Chris de Freitas.

It was certainly not the first de Freitas-endorsed paper to pass weak editorial processes at Climate Research, but when incoming Editor-in-Chief Hans von Storch suggested the paper should not have been published, he endeavored to fix editorial processes to prevent such problems.  The publisher did not agree, so von Storch and other editors resigned.

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”.

Willie Soon


Willie Wei-Hock Soon


  • Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California (1991).
  • M.Sc. University of Southern California (1987).
  • B.Sc. University of Southern California (1985).

Source: [1]

David Legates Asked To Step Down As Delaware State Climatologist

David Legates, former Delaware State Climatologist

David Legates announced this week that he was asked to step down as Delaware State Climatologist, a position he held for seven years. A long-time denier of the human contribution to climate change, Legates’ tenure as State Climatologist has always been a controversial one.

Back in 2007, because of his stance on climate, then-governor Ruth Ann Minner insisted that Legates stop using the formal title in any public statements on climate change policy. Minner wrote to Legates:
“Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration. In light of my position and due to the confusion surrounding your role with the state, I am directing you to offer any future statements on this or other public policy matters only on behalf of yourself or the University of Delaware, and not as state climatologist.”
Legates maintained the title, however, which is designated by the Dean of the public university’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
But this week, according to Legates himself, the Dean asked him to “step down.”
Legates sent the following note to his email list:

RealClimate Reveals Willie Soon’s “Scientific Sleight of Hand”

Willie Soon has been an individual of significant interest lately in climate circles. Last week, he spoke at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate change, or as we like to call it, Denial-a-Palooza. A recent Greenpeace report found that Soon accepted over $1 million in funding from fossil fuel interests, including Koch Industries

To top it off, RealClimate released a report yesterday revealing new issues with Soon’s 2007 paper on polar bears. The non-peer-reviewed paper has been cited extensively before, notably by Sarah Palin, as proof that polar bears are not endangered by global warming. The paper includes skeptical co-authors M.G. Dyck, R.K. Baydack, David Legates, Sallie BaliunasTim Ball and L.O. Hancocks.

While the paper’s central claims have already been disproven, the remaining issue is what appears to be Soon’s willing disregard for data. RealClimate found that Soon had cherry picked data showing the highest level of Arctic Oscillation (AO), a natural variability that he blamed for any increases in temperature in the Hudson Bay area:

DeSmogBlog's Brendan DeMelle on Ed Schultz Show and Ring of Fire Radio Discussing Denial-a-Palooza

DeSmogBlog executive director Brendan DeMelle appeared on the Ed Schultz radio show earlier this week to discuss the Heartland Institute’s sixth International Conference on Climate Change - a.k.a. Denial-a-Palooza - and other aspects of the climate change denial machine.  DeMelle was interviewed by guest host Mike Papantonio, who is co-host of Ring of Fire radio, which also ran the interview on its Saturday July 2 edition.

Listen to the Ring of Fire version of the interview below:

Denial-a-Palooza: Where Are All the Scientists That Deniers Love To Talk About?

Where are all the scientists?

Wake up and smell the fossil fuel funding. That’s right, it’s that time of year again: the Heartland Institute is hosting its Sixth (annual?*) International Conference on Climate Change over the next two days in Washington D.C.

DeSmogBlog already revealed some of the oily sponsors behind the event. Now it’s time to take a look at the so-called scientists Heartland has rounded up to accomplish this year’s theme of “Restoring the Scientific Method.”   

Denial For Hire: Willie Soon’s Career Fueled by Big Oil, Coal and Koch Money

Willie Soon, the notorious climate denier who has made a career out of attacking the IPCC and climate scientists, has received over $1 million in funding from Big Oil and coal industry sponsors over the past decade, according to a new report from Greenpeace.

The Greenpeace report, “Dr. Willie Soon: a Career Fueled by Big Oil and Coal,” reveals that $1.033 million of Dr. Soon’s funding since 2001 has come from oil and coal interests. Since 2002, every grant Dr. Soon received originated with fossil fuel interests, according to documents received from the Smithsonian Institution in response to Greenpeace FOIA requests.

The documents show that Willie Soon has received at least $175,000 from Koch family foundations (Soon is a key player in the Koch brothers’ climate denial machine, as Greenpeace documented previously), $230,000 from Southern Company, $274,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, and $335,000 from ExxonMobil, among other polluters.

Skeptics for Exxon: Oil Funds Climate of Criticism

The Carbon Brief (TCB) has a nice analysis on the not-very-startling coincidence that at least nine of the top 10 “skeptical” “scientists” who are publishing on climate change have direct links to Exxon.

This is interesting, as well, in that it doesn’t account for the increasing amounts of money being invested invested by funders (such as the Koch brothers) who have been taking a less transparent approach than Exxon in acknowledging their links.

In a second instalment, TCB also took a closer look at both the quality and content of the purported “900+” science papers identified by the Global Warming Policy Foundation as somehow skeptical of the science of climate change. The news, for the skeptics as for the climate, turns out to be all bad.


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