A series of documents publicly disclosed by Greenpeace show that Wei-Hock Soon, a well-known climate skeptic, has accepted oil industry funding for his research but failed to disclose the conflict of interest in the majority of his papers.
The finding will fuel the debate between climate change skeptics, who suggest that climate change is a natural phenomenon, and man-made climate change supporters, who believe that climate change is anything but natural.
Climate change skeptics usually quote, among others, Mr. Soon’s works to back their statements. According to Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, climate change is the result of a variation in the sun’s radiation cycle which may vary over years to millennia.
Mr. Soon has even testified before Congress and state lawmakers that his theory was backed by science. He had also spread his ideas on conservative TV shows, while also interfering in debates about the risks of climate change.
However, the new documents, which Greenpeace had obtained by means of the Freedom of Information Act, shed new light on Mr. Soon’s scientific integrity. According to those documents, he had received nearly $1.2 million from the oil industry over the past ten years. Additionally, more than 10 of his scientific papers issued since 2008 failed to disclose the real source of their funding, while eight of those papers broke the ethical guidelines of the scientific magazines that had published them.
Among the newly found documents, there is also the correspondence of Mr. Soon with fossil-fuel industry funders. In the documents, the scientist describes some of his works and the Congress testimony as “deliverables,” i.e. papers designed to support its funders’ interests in exchange for their money.
Mr. Soon declined to comment on the documents, but he had previously expressed his opinion several times by saying that corporate funding didn’t have any influence on his climate change-related works.
Such practices are not new, however. Since the 1960s, the tobacco industry started paying “independent” scientists to deliver scientific paper that could be later used to block legislation that would have harmed their business.
Oil industry was also believed to resort to such practices to deny that climate change is the result of human activity. But little evidence was found on corrupt scientists and their money-stained ties with the corporate world. Until now.
“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate. Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater,”
believes Naomi Oreskes, co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such practices.
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