Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Harvard-Smithsonian sells out

One barely knows what to think about the following story.  The very idea that someone employed by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is a climate change denier who rejects the easily demonstrable idea that CO2 traps enough energy to actually alter the climate is shocking enough.  But that such a well-known and endowed institution makes their scientists scramble for the meagre funds from anyone willing to throw a few bucks their way explains why there are always a few cranks up for sale to say anything about almost anything.  Guy's got to make a living and Soon wasn't exactly making a pile—$1.2 million over a decade is only $120,000 a year.

This scandal also points out the fact that after the banksters, the energy companies seem to have most of the rest of the world's loose change.  Over the years, we have pointed out the goofy nonsense folks are willing to write to please the moneychangers, so why should it be any surprise that the same sort of integrity-free intellectuals are willing to whore themselves out to the energy companies.

What is especially sad about all this is that we are going to have to come to grips with the end of the Age of Petroleum whether we like it or not.  Wouldn't it be a whole lot better if the society was so organized that the large piles of money were dedicated to those fields attempting to find our way out of this trap.  Of course it would.  One of the advantages of pushing the "$100 trillion solution" is that folks could become immediately aware of where the big piles were.  Not only would it create an environment where parents would send their children off to become civil engineers so they could design the new infrastructure, it might even give someone like poor Dr. Soon honest employment.

I am also not convinced that the best way to deal with climate denial is some sort of public shaming as suggested below.  There are a lot of levels of climate denial, and it is probably a waste of time to start splitting hairs over what constitutes politically-incorrect denial.  The topic simply must become "What the hell are going to do about climate change? And how do we organize and fund such a project?"  The "whose denial is worse" question should be relegated to after hours.

Super-Duper Big: Harvard-Smithsonian Harboring Koch-Funded Climate Denier Wei-Hock Soon

by ClimateBrad  FEB 22, 2015

The fossil-fuel industry's campaign to promote climate denial, led by the Koch brothers, has corrupted Harvard University and the Smithsonian, two of the most trusted scientific institutions in the world.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a joint program of the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University, is harboring a polluter-funded climate denier. Documents uncovered by Greenpeace reveal that Dr. Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon has taken money from the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, coal giant Southern Company, and others to produce "deliverables" that push the long-debunked claim that solar activity, not fossil fuel pollution, drives global warming.

The New York Times reports:
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.
Coal giant Southern Company was one of Soon's biggest funders:
The newly disclosed documents, plus additional documents compiled by Greenpeace over the last four years, show that at least $409,000 of Dr. Soon’s funding in the past decade came from Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, based in Atlanta. Southern is one of the largest utility holding companies in the country, with huge investments in coal-burning power plants.
From Inside Climate News, Soon pushed his "big super-duper" climate denialism to Southern Company:
"I have a big super-duper paper soon to be accepted on how the sun affects the climate system," Soon wrote in a 2009 email to Robert Gehri, a research specialist with Southern Company Services, a mega utility company in the southeastern U.S. that generates power largely from coal.
Smithsonian-Harvard's contract with Southern Company forbade disclosure of Willie Soon's funding, a clear violation of scientific integrity and ethics.

The communications show that Soon called his peer-reviewed research papers "deliverables" in return for funding from fossil fuel companies. In addition, the documents reveal that Soon and Harvard-Smithsonian gave the coal utility company the right to review his scientific papers and make suggestions before they were published. Soon and Harvard-Smithsonian also pledged not to disclose Southern’s role as a funder without permission.
The Guardian reports on the spigot of Koch and other oil cash Soon received:
ExxonMobil gave $335,000 but stopped funding Soon in 2010, according to the documents. The astrophysicist reportedly received $274,000 from the main oil lobby, the American Petroleum Institute, and $230,000 from the Charles G Koch Foundation. He received an additional $324,000 in anonymous donations through a trust used by the Kochs and other conservative donors, the documents showed.

It's a pretty safe bet the API climate-denial cash is coming from ExxonMobil.

Check out the Charles G Koch letter granting Harvard-Smithsonian $55K in tax-deductible climate denial cash:

As the Kochs have come under greater scrutiny, they've begun using Donors Trust to hide their efforts to pollute climate science.

Fun fact: The Donors Trust staffer overseeing the Willie Soon grant is Lauren Vander Heyer Skiver, whose previous job was overseeing grants for the Charles G. Koch foundation.

The documents also reveal that some of the Exxon Mobil money was used to directly fund Harvard-Smithsonian general expenses.

The Boston Globe reports Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is taking action:
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. . . .

“For years, fossil fuel interests and front groups have attacked climate scientists and legislation to cut carbon pollution using junk science and debunked arguments,” Markey said in a statement. “The American public deserve an honest debate that isn’t polluted by the best junk science fossil fuel interests can buy. That’s why I will be launching this investigation to see how widespread this denial-for-hire scheme stretches within the anti-climate action cabal.”It's excellent that Sen. Markey is going after the fossil fuel industry, but we also need to challenge Harvard & Smithsonian.
Harvard-Smithsonian has no funding-disclosure requirements, nor does it have a conflict-of-interest policy that prevents funding from fossil-fuel companies of climate science research.

Is Harvard-Smithsonian a scientific institution or a fossil-fuel climate-denial public-relations firm?

To restore public trust in the institution, Harvard-Smithsonian director Charles Alcock must:

1) sever his institution's ties with Dr. Wei-Hock Soon
2) end all financial relationships with the fossil-fuel industry
3) establish strong financial public disclosure rules for all institute scientists that prevent anonymous or secret funding of research

Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution are two of the most prominent and trusted scientific institutions in the world. They are taking money from Koch and Exxon to promote climate denial. This must end today. more

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