Why Big Energy Took a Tip From Big Tobacco

March 3, 2015

Dana 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, what he tells his funders are “deliverables” – published? Turns out there are several routes.

Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian:

Soon’s funding and failure to disclose conflicts of interest raises red flags, and upon further investigation, the underlying problem is clear. Willie Soon does really bad science, and yet is treated as a climate expert and used by members of Congress to justify opposition to climate policies.

In a paper published last year with our colleagues, John Abraham and I discussed the disproportionate attention that poor-quality climate contrarian papers have received. And as I detailed in my just-published book, climate contrarians like Soon simply aren’t held accountable for their bad science and failed climate predictions. This lack of accountability and disproportionate attention are serious problems.

The reason Soon can be treated as an expert is that he’s been able to publish climate-related research in peer-reviewed journals. To get bad science published in peer-reviewed journals, Soon has followed the same strategies as other climate contrarians with flawed research. He has submitted papers to relatively obscure, non-climate science journals, and he’s exploited “pal review” with friendly journal editors.


For example, Climate Research editor Chris de Freitas published 14 separate papers from a group of climate contrarians that included Willie Soon during 1997–2003. The practice finally ended in 2003 after the journal published a particularly bad paper by Soon and his colleague Sallie Baliunas.

That paper concluded that current global temperatures are not anomalous compared the past 1,000 years. However, it contained numerous major fundamental flaws, such as equating dryness with hotness, and was subsequently refuted by an article in the American Geophysical Union journal Eos written by a number of prominent climate scientists. The publication of this badly flawed paper, and Climate Research’s refusal to revise or retract it, led to the resignation of five of the journal’s editors. Michael Mann documents the episode in detail in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.

After publishing this paper, Soon was invited by Senator James Inhofe to testify before US Congress, and the Soon and Baliunas paper was used by Congressional Republicans to justify opposition to climate legislation. During that testimony, Soon claimed not to have knowingly received funding from organizations that oppose climate legislation. In reality, he had received such funding. Twelve years later, US Congress still has yet to pass climate legislation.

Make no mistake, Soon and other contrarian scientists are simply used as pawns – excuses for members of Congress to oppose climate legislation. However, most Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support taking action to slow global warming. So why do most Republican policymakers oppose such steps, and how have they been able to oppose the will of a majority of Americans on this issue while recently gaining seats in Congress?

The answer lies with the Merchants of Doubt. As documented in the so-named book and new documentary film, the fossil fuel industry has used the same tactics as the tobacco industry, which successfully prevented Congress from regulating its dangerous and harmful product for many decades.

5 Responses to “Why Big Energy Took a Tip From Big Tobacco”

  1. omnologos Says:

    Nutticelli ought keep quiet on people paid by energy companies. Same for the Graun. A modicum of self respect is always needed.

  2. Some of these tactics are used by the “intelligent design” folks to get attention to their stuff.

  3. dana1981 Says:

    Thanks Peter.

    • omnologos Says:

      I’m sure some would find it hypocritical if say Dana and the Guardian were not disclosing to the readers his past and present connections to Big Energy.

      Unfortunately my Google skills must be limited as I can not find any such disclosure.


      Even looking for “site:theGuardian.com nuccitelli tetra” doesn’t show anything official. My bad.

  4. OK, a thumb up for dana1981, a thumb up for John Eric Victor, and two thumbs down for omnologos.

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