The Slick Willie of Climate Denial – Science as “Deliverables” for the Disinfo Machine

February 22, 2015

One of the most odious and dishonest practitioners of climate disinformation is Dr. Willie Soon.  See above for a good example of what Exxon, the Koch Brothers, and others have been getting for their generous financial support. (good stuff starts at 2:20)

But, as in physics, often in the affairs of men, what goes around comes around.
It would appear that a rather awesome come-uppance is in the works for Dr. Soon.  The New York Times is reporting on Soon’s forgetfulness in disclosing his ties to coal and oil barons when submitting “studies” to science journals.


He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

The issue here is not that Dr. Soon took money from fossil fuel corporations – that happens all the time, and big corporations fund a lot of stuff.
A correspondent emails me –

If Soon did bad research, it can be criticized. It has been. That is part of the process. IT IS NOT WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HERE.

If Soon got money from Big Fossil, fine. Lots of research is funded by industry, even industry with an interest. It happens. But it has to be done right.

If Soon got money from Big Fossil and didn’t disclose, even if the research was fine, and even if the industry did not have an interest, that is an ethical violation, and that is what #WillieSoonGate is about.


And Dr Soon has more trouble – as Harvard appears to have thrown him under the bus.

Raw Story:

“The company was paying him to write peer-reviewed science and that relationship was not acknowledged in the peer-reviewed literature,” Davies said. “These proposals and contracts show debatable interventions in science literally on the behalf of Southern Company and the Kochs.”

In letters to the Internal Revenue Service and Congress, Greenpeace said Soon may have misused the grants from the Koch foundation by trying to influence legislation.

Soon did not respond to requests for comment. But he has in the past strenuously denied his industry funders had any influence over his conclusions.

“No amount of money can influence what I have to say and write, especially on my scientific quest to understand how climate works, all by itself,” he told the Boston Globe in 2013.

As is common among Harvard-Smithsonian scientists, Soon is not on a salary. He receives his compensation from outside grant money, said Christine Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Center for Astrophysics.

Meanwhile, a senior Senator has taken an interest.

Boston Globe:

Senator Edward J. Markey is calling on coal and oil companies to reveal whether they are funding scientific climate change studies after his staff reviewed newly obtained documents illuminating the relationship between a researcher for a Cambridge-based institution and energy interests.

The Massachusetts Democrat will send letters to fossil fuel companies, trade organizations, and others with a stake in carbon fuels, aiming to reveal other climate-change-skeptical scientists whose work has been subsidized by those parties, a Markey spokesman said via e-mail.

Lay in popcorn and stay tuned.

15 Responses to “The Slick Willie of Climate Denial – Science as “Deliverables” for the Disinfo Machine”

  1. Dr. Soon states:

    “No amount of money can influence what I have to say and write, especially on my scientific quest to understand how climate works, all by itself,” he told the Boston Globe in 2013.

    We have 10s of 1000s of researchers who have perpetrated the hoax of climate change to get grant money. But one researcher who gets much more money for himself is automatically “honest”?

    And how does an astro physicist become an “expert” on climate change?

    The right wing gets nuttier by the day.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      actually, soon was trained as an aerospace engineer.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        But he doesn’t appear to have signed the Oregon Petition (?). That’s strange, since 1/2 of the signers are people like him, engineers of one sort or another who have NO business talking about climate change.

        • andrewfez Says:

          Soon’s faulty TSI model was the crown feature of the ‘review’ paper that was dressed up to look like a Proceedings of the National Academy of Science article, which was in the mailer along with the Oregon Petition, that was sent to thousands of ‘scientists’.

          In the junk review paper, we see Soon’s TSI model, displaying the energy from the sun growing and grown the last few decades, along with global temperatures. BUT IT’S NOT CLEARLY LABELED AS A MODEL. It tricks the ‘scientists’ looking at it, by almost implying it’s derived from the satellite TSI (at least the last few decades where satellites were available).

          Soon is at the very heart of the 1) the Oregon Petition; and 2) the crock that says, ‘It’s the sun, it’s not us’, or when Rep Dana Rohrabacher gives professor Alley a hard time about sun spots at one of those climate hearings.

          Here is Bill Allan, an actual expert, ripping apart Soon’s Model. He doesn’t say it in his critique but it’s obvious the proxies used to create the model were picked so that Soon could reverse engineer the thing to make it appear like the Sun was growing hotter and hotter the last several decades:

  2. redskylite Says:

    I first saw the latest paper from Dr. Wei-Hock Soon seriously reported in the 21st January’s “PhysOrg” (Peer-reviewed pocket-calculator climate model exposes serious errors in complex computer models), which is usually an truly excellent source of bona fide science news and papers. I read it a few times, what really activated my “crap detectors” and set my spider senses a tingling was the mention of Christopher Monckton of Brenchley (with a diploma in journalism studies) as a co-author, the other co-authors were a geographer and a statistician. Not a climatologist amongst them.

    I felt a lot better the next day when I saw a convincing and detailed debunk in the Carbon Brief, and I think it important that any questionable papers like this are professionally debunked quickly and efficiently.

    He has been highly unethical and neglectful and deserves all he gets and more ………… and so do the three co-authors by association.

    “Factcheck: Scientists hit back at claims global warming projections are “greatly exaggerated”

  3. […] New York Times report yesterday fingering Climate Denial go-to “scientist” Slick Willie Soon as an Exxon Hack has grown […]

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    For anyone who’s interested, there’s an on-line petition asking the Smithsonian to “fire” Slick Willie. (I’ve signed it 2639 times so far)

  5. […] The Slick Willie of Climate Denial – Science as “Deliverables” for the Disinfo Machine (Climate Crocks) […]

  6. […] week’s media firestorm centering on Dr. Willie Soon, a high profile prop at many a gathering of climate deniers, was kicked off by Justin Gillis’ […]

  7. […] The Slick Willie of Climate Denial – Science as “Deliverables” for the Disinfo Mac… (Climate Crocks) […]

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  9. […] Nuccitelli has published a piece looking more deeply at the Slick Willie Soon affair. An interesting question to ask is, how does a hack for hire get his “science” papers, […]

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