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The “Global Warming Conspiracy” for Fun and Profit: Dr. Willie Soon

2015-02-28

Wie-Hock (Willie) Soon, who is a PhD in aerospace engineering and a part-time employee of the Smithsonian who works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Center, has been publishing papers that try to cast doubt on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) for over a decade.  A week ago, the New York Times published a piece based on disclosures made by Greenpeace and the Center for Climate Investigations.  These groups made Freedom of Information Act requests for disclosure of Dr. Soon’s correspondence related to his employment by the Smithsonian, a government body.  The letters reveal that he has had over $1.2 million in funding over the last decade from groups with vested interest in industries that produce carbon dioxide.  These groups include a company that holds numerous coal-fired power plants and the notorious Koch brothers (who made most of their money from oil-related investments.)  In addition, he has recently begun to receive money from a group that was organized specifically to anonymize money donations from wealthy individuals and groups who are mostly conservative in outlook.

Dr. Soon’s “scientific” papers attempt to show that the sun is responsible for most of the global warming that has been observed over the last 200 years.  In fact, objective scientists estimate that the sun may be blamed for perhaps 10 percent of observed warming, while human activities are causing at least 50 to 80 percent of the changes we have seen.  The sun has in fact gone through a period of reduced heating related to very low sunspot activity over the last fifteen to twenty years.

The problem with Dr. Soon’s funding is that he has published at least 11 papers since 2008 that attempt to cast doubt on AGW, papers that omit any information about his funding sources.  At least eight of those papers directly violate the disclosure policies of the journals in which they were published.  This sort of behavior could have the following consequences: the papers could be retracted, and Dr. Soon could face sanctions from his employer.   The Smithsonian Institution being a government entity, there is considerable red tape involved in his employment there.  There will of course be investigations by his employer, and these processes could take a lot of time.  The investigations could even reveal more dirt about Dr. Soon and his funding.

The reason this is particularly entertaining is that Senator James Inhofe, a loud critic of AGW, has repeatedly cited Dr. Soon as a reliable skeptic who is brave enough to beat back against the “global AGW conspiracy” that the Senator has been trying to “expose.”

The Senator is a thorn in the side of environmentalists and other proponents of action against AGW, and his speeches in the Senate and elsewhere are loaded with references to those scientists who publicly cast doubt on AGW.  Most, if not all, of those scientists are beholden to industry sources for their livelihoods.  There is little to respect in the Senator’s claims, and little to respect in these scientists.

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