Climate denying researcher received over $1 million from fossil fuel industry

Wei-Hock Soon claims that variations in the sun's energy could be causing global warming

Published February 23, 2015 3:35PM (EST)

  (<a href=''>akiyoko</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(akiyoko via Shutterstock)

We've all heard the statistic that 97 percent of scientists agree that human activities are leading to the devastating impact of climate change. Who are the three percent of scientists, in the minority, but sticking to their conviction that climate change would happen no matter what we did, despite overwhelming scientific consensus to the contrary?

One of the scientists in the latter category is Wei-Hock Soon (known as Willie), of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Soon claims that variations in the sun's energy are likely to blame for global warming, making him an oft-invoked source among conservatives and other climate denying groups. It turns out that he has been paid over $1.2 million by the fossil fuel industry to have these views. He has also failed to disclose the conflict of interest in the majority of his scientific articles, according to the New York Times.

Correspondence between Soon and his funders include the scientist referring to his papers and even a testimony for Congress as "deliverables," which he would complete in exchange for payment.

The New York Times' Justin Gillis and John Schwartz have the story:

The documents were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace and an allied group, the Climate Investigations Center, shared them with several news organizations last week.

The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.

In 2011, Reuters reported that Soon was paid $120,000 by Southern and $131,000 by Exxon to study the Sun's role in climate change. In response, the scientist said: "I have never been motivated by financial reward in any of my scientific research."

Officials from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. have condemned Soon's actions and said they would explore how to handle the matter internally.

Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center said of the news: "What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change."

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Climate Change Climate Deniers Fossil Fuels Global Warming Wei-hock Soon