Researcher helps sow climate-change doubt

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The setting was not unusual for a scholarly conference: a bland ballroom in a Houston hotel. But Willie Soon’s presentation was anything but ordinary. As PowerPoint slides flashed on a screen, his remarks crescendoed into a full-throated denunciation.

“Those people are so out of their minds!’’ exclaimed Soon, a solar researcher at the prestigious Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge. He assailed former vice president Al Gore, among others, for his views on climate change, calling predictions of catastrophic ocean tides “crazy’’ and scornfully concluding: “And they call this science.’’

Never mind that Soon, an astrophysicist, is no specialist on global sea levels, and his most notable writing on the subject was an op-ed article in the conservative Washington Times last year.

He has, nonetheless, established himself as a front-line combatant in the partisan crossfire over rising oceans, melting ice, and other climate issues beyond his primary expertise. Coveted for his Harvard-Smithsonian affiliation, and strident policy views, he has been bankrolled by hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy industry grants.

Working in close coordination with conservative groups in Washington, he passionately seeks to debunk the growing consensus on global warming before audiences of policymakers, at academic seminars and conferences, and in the media.

Polar bears? Not threatened. Sea level? Exaggerated danger. Carbon dioxide? Great for trees. Warming planet? Caused by natural fluctuation in the sun’s energy.

Soon’s views are considered way outside the scientific mainstream, which makes him a prophet or a pariah, depending on which side you ask. Some say his work simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, that his data are cherry-picked to fit his thesis.

Written By: Christopher Rowland
continue to source article at bostonglobe.com

30 COMMENTS

  1. Never mind that Soon, an astrophysicist, is no specialist on global sea levels, and his most notable writing on the subject was an op-ed article in the conservative Washington Times last year.

    This is the part about the whole “debate” that drives me absolutely nuts.

    “He’s a scientist, so he must know what he’s talking about!”

    “But he’s not a climate scientist.”

    “So what? He has a Nobel prize, which makes him smarter than all the other scientists!”

    “What about all the other scientists who also have Nobel prizes in relevant fields?”

    “They are all just liberals, working for the government, walking the party line and afraid to lose funding, etc., etc., etc.”

    sigh

  2. ” Coveted for his Harvard-Smithsonian affiliation, and strident policy views, he has been bankrolled by hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy industry grants.”

    A conflict of interest on his part that allows me to read no further on my part.

  3. Good sense and good science. It’s about time someone spoke out about sun activity. Global warming is real, but not cause by humans. Maybe in a few hundred years we’ll be able to manipulate the sun, much like we can manipulate the weather now. In the meantime, it would be prudent to ensure we don’t pollute and damage our planet, hopefully find alternative energy instead of continuing to use fossil fuels. But kudos to Soon for standing up for scientific truth.

    • In reply to #6 by Zeta:

      ………..Maybe in a few hundred years we’ll be able to manipulate the sun, much like we can manipulate the weather now. ……..

      WTF? I’ve never heard of this before. You mean we can cause tornadoes, droughts, snowstorms whenever we like? Damn, I’m a bit bored here in rural France. How about summoning up a water spout, say. That would enliven the lives of my neighbourhood cows!

      Where do these whackocrazy nutters come from?

    • In reply to #6 by Zeta:

      Good sense and good science.

      You would recognise this how exactly?

      It’s about time someone spoke out about sun activity.

      Could I suggest you read and watch this primer course from NASA to avoid making a fool of yourself again!
      http://www.nasa.gov/mission-pages/sunearth/news/solarcycle-primer.html#.UnpI3CcUtPY

      Global warming is real, but not cause by humans.

      Both the human part and the underlying natural effects have been measured by specialists.(Thousands of them.) It seems you are repeating nonsense put about by ignoramuses, who are scientifically illiterate, cannot measure, or are just plain liars.

      Maybe in a few hundred years we’ll be able to manipulate the sun, much like we can manipulate the weather now.

      ????

      In the meantime, it would be prudent to ensure we don’t pollute and damage our planet, hopefully find alternative energy instead of continuing to use fossil fuels.

      We already have a considerable range of alternative energy sources. (Solar-thermal, Photovoltaic, tidal, wave, hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, bio-ethonol, ground-heat-storage, and properly ventilated and insulated buildings.
      It is the obstructive deniers and paid stooges like Soon who are slowing down their implementation, and promoting further pollution of the planet.

      But kudos to Soon for standing up for scientific truth.

      .. . . . . . Right alongside the flat-Earthists and Biblical literalists! – Ha! ha! ha!

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-cycles-global-warming.htm

    • In reply to #6 by Zeta:

      much like we can manipulate the weather now…

      Secret Stealth technology calibration problems no doubt.

      Fifth Generation (TM) fighter technology depends of manipulating the weather to camouflage themselves. That’s why it’s taking so darn long to get them to fly properly. Kennedy went to the moon in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost.

      Learning to respect climate science now would help. If we wait until 2020 the F35 will require reconfiguring as a water bomber.

    • In reply to #6 by Zeta:

      Maybe in a few hundred years we’ll be able to manipulate the sun, much like we can manipulate the weather now.

      Yea right. We could drop the entire earth into the sun and it would make no more impact than throwing a brick into a lake.

      … and you think you have a scientifically literate opinion on climate change …

  4. What is the motive? I think the most likely is he was given a large quantity of money just to keep the doubt alive and thus procrastinate a clampdown on greenhouse gases. The other possibility is he just likes the attention. He is a planetary traitor. What he did is worse than genocide.

    Note he presented no evidence.

  5. He has, nonetheless, established himself as a front-line combatant in the partisan crossfire over rising oceans, melting ice, and other climate issues beyond his primary expertise. Coveted for his Harvard-Smithsonian affiliation, and strident policy views, he has been bankrolled by hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy industry grants.

    Many professions have cowboys and charlatans who will use cons to make money. Why should anyone think science is different!

    Time for a Harvard-Smithsonian academic misconduct hearing, or at least a public statement disowning him, in order to uphold their reputation for honest science.
    (Yes I know the conspiracy theorists would make a meal of this in the likes of Fox – but how many past liars and fraudsters, have squealed “innocence” through the courts, all the way to jail?)

    It is also time some people with expertise in these subjects took his claims apart in public and exposed him to ridicule!

    Working in close coordination with conservative groups in Washington, he passionately seeks to debunk the growing consensus on global warming before audiences of policymakers, at academic seminars and conferences, and in the media.

    The classic hired stooge who will prostitute science for money in front of gullible audiences!

  6. By latest count, 127 US representatives and 30 senators believe that global warming is not happening or, if it is, that human activity is not the cause, according to a tally by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal advocacy group.

    That’s what I like best about the “skeptics” viewpoint. These are two entirely different and ultimately irreconcilable views, but the conspiracy theorists naturally don’t give a damn about that. Quite similar to Creationists, where Young-Earth-nutbags happily join hands with ID-iots, seemingly not realizing that they put forward utterly different theories (please note that I used boldface quotation marks).

  7. In response to Zeta:

    “Good sense and good science. It’s about time someone spoke out about sun activity. Global warming is real, but not cause by humans.”

    Zeta, your layman’s opinion (or mine, for that matter) is completely irrelevant. Especially in this man-made global warming discussion we should be humble and let the relevant scientists do the talking. There is broad scientific consensus that man has itself become a force of nature, and the deniers always have sinister and selfish motives to think otherwise (and this is not just my opinion).

  8. In 2011, it was revealed that Soon received over $1,000,000 from petroleum and coal interests since 2001.[30] Documents obtained by Greenpeace under the US Freedom of Information Act show that the Charles G. Koch Foundation gave Soon two grants totaling $175,000 in 2005/6 and again in 2010. Multiple grants from the American Petroleum Institute between 2001 and 2007 totalled $274,000, and grants from Exxon Mobil totalled $335,000 between 2005 and 2010. Other coal and oil industry sources which funded him include the Mobil Foundation, the Texaco Foundation and the Electric Power Research Institute

    From Wiki.

    Ahem

    • In reply to #18 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      In 2011, it was revealed that Soon received over $1,000,000 from petroleum and coal interests since 2001.[30] Documents obtained by Greenpeace under the US Freedom of Information Act show that the Charles G. Koch Foundation gave Soon two grants totalling $175,000 in 2005/6 and again in 2010.

      So let me see! – How many solar cookers (see @28) at about $10 each could have been provided for the 3rd world impoverished, to stop them from destroying trees for firewood,- instead of paying liars like Soon to con gullible politicians?

  9. While I admit to being a non-scientist, that CO2 traps infrared heat has been known by science for a century and a half. To think we can pump endless amounts into the atmosphere with no effect is counterintuitive to say the least.

    But I have a sulotion I’m surprised Willie Toon hasn’t posited- if we could just rocket all the deniers’ tin-foil hats into low earth orbit, it might reflect enough of the incoming rays to compensate.

  10. Meanwhile – back in the real world:-

    Concentrations of warming gases break recordhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24833148
    The WMO says that fossil fuel activities such as oil refining are driving atmospheric levels of CO2 to record highs

    The levels of gases in the atmosphere that drive global warming increased to a record high in 2012.

    According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), atmospheric CO2 grew more rapidly last year than its average rise over the past decade.

    Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also broke previous records

    Thanks to carbon dioxide and these other gases, the WMO says the warming effect on our climate has increased by almost a third since 1990.

    The WMO’s annual greenhouse gas bulletin measures concentrations in the atmosphere, not emissions on the ground.

    Carbon dioxide is the most important of the gases that they track, but only about half of the CO2 that’s emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the plants, trees, the land and the oceans.
    Upsetting the balance

    Since 1750, global average levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased to 141% of the pre-industrial concentration of 278 parts per million (ppm).

    According to the WMO there were 393.1ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2012, an increase of 2.2ppm over 2011.

    This was above the yearly average of 2.02ppm over the past decade.

    “The observations highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

    Emissions of nitrous oxide have also grown, with the atmospheric concentration in 2012 at 325.1 parts per billion, 120% above pre-industrial levels.

    Nitrous oxide gas, although its concentrations are tiny compared to CO2, is 298 times more warming and also plays a role in the destruction of the ozone layer.

    Recent research indicates that the rate of increase in emissions might be slowing down, but the gases can continue to concentrate in the atmosphere and exert a climate influence for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    Scientists believe that the new data indicates that global warming will be back with a vengeance, after a slowdown in the rate of temperature increases over the past 14 years.

    “The laws of physics and chemistry are not negotiable,” said Michel Jarraud.

    “Greenhouse gases are what they are, the laws of physics show they can only contribute to warming the system, but parts of this heat may go in different places like the oceans for some periods of time,” he said.

    This view was echoed by Prof Piers Forster from the University of Leeds.

    “For the past decade or so the oceans have been sucking up this extra heat, meaning that surface temperatures have only increased slowly.

    “Don’t expect this state of affairs to continue though, the extra heat will eventually come out and bite us, so expect strong warming over the coming decades.”

  11. There’s no doubt either way that the planet IS warming, both sceptics and scientists agree on that – the evidence is clear and collaborated from leading experts worldwide……..arguing over who’s responsible seems to be ‘a distraction’ from the more important focus of dealing with the potentially disastrous consequences that will take effect and gather momentum……Governments have ignored the problem for the last 20 years, always shifting the focus to blaming and not acting on the problem…Deja vu.

    7 billion humans need warmth and energy for cooking daily….that alone must be having an effect on the planet’s temperature let alone the energy consumption of big business worldwide with less trees in the world to absorb CO2…….even if humans act now to deal with the predictable effects that global warming will present to 7 billion of us and all other species on the planet….our numbers are barely sustainable at present – let alone with a climate shift or disaster……

    Ice ages are very long and aren’t that friendly to large populations either…….Earth has a long history of ice ages and warming……aside from what humans have done to influence the situation in the last 200 years – we are the only animal burning energy…….
    Its a bit like a macro version of Easter Island…people cut all the trees down until none were left before they looked up and realise the forest was gone and their utter greed and stupidity has just doomed them to cannibalism then slow population death…..

  12. It is easy to see why paying large sums to lying lobbyists, is small change to the carbon moguls!

    Fossil fuel subsidies ‘reckless use of public funds’

    The world is spending half a trillion dollars on fossil fuel subsidies every year, according to a new report.

    The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says rich countries are spending seven times more supporting coal, oil and gas than they are on helping poorer nations fight climate change.

    Some countries including Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan, have subsidies bigger than the national fiscal deficit.

    The new report calls on the G20 to phase out the payments by 2020.

    While there is no globally agreed definition of what a fossil fuel subsidy actually is, the report draws on a range of sources from the International Monetary Fund to the International Energy Agency.

    It details the range of financial help given to oil, coal and gas producers and consumers from national governments and through international development.

    What emerges is a complicated web of different types of payments in different countries.

    Fossil funding

    In the United States, for example, the government in 2011 gave a $1bn fuel tax exemption to farmers, $1bn for the strategic petroleum reserve and $0.5bn for oil, coal and gas research and development.

    Germany gave financial assistance totalling 1.9bn euro to the hard coal sector in the same year.

    And the UK gave tax concessions worth £280m in 2011 for oil and gas production.

    The report accuses rich governments of “shooting themselves in both feet” by undermining attempts to put a price on carbon and by giving no incentive to companies to switch from high carbon fuels.

    “This is a reckless use of public money at a time when people are very concerned about energy costs,” Kevin Watkins, executive director of the ODI, told BBC News.

    “Why are we spending $112 per adult in the OECD countries subsidising an energy system that is driving us towards dangerous climate change when there are alternatives?”

    In developing countries, the report says the subsidies often take the form of keeping fuel prices low to help alleviate poverty.

    Governments in Indonesia, Pakistan and Venezuela are spending twice as much on fossil fuel subsidies as they are on public health.

    “Almost all these subsidies go to those who are connected to the grid because the governments give money to the energy providers, who pass it on to consumers.

    “The top 20% of these societies get around half of the total subsidy package,” said Kevin Watkins.

    International finance for development is hugely focussed on oil, coal and gas. According to the ODI, 75% of energy project support from international banks went to fossil fuel projects in 12 of the highest emitting developing nations.

    The research adds to data from the International Energy Agency that says global subsidies for fossil fuels are six times higher than those for renewable energy. The OECD has stated that coal is subject to the lowest levels of taxation.

    The ODI hopes that enough countries in the G20 group will follow up on promises made to look at the issue.

  13. Chancellor George Osborne has obviously been listening to nonsense from carbon industry denial-stooges like Ken Clarke.

    Britain is playing its part in a worldwide bid to reduce emissions and should not weaken its proposed cuts, says a report to the UK government. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24834697
    >

    The Committee on Climate Change says no change in global science or policy justifies a slackening of effort.

    The report was compiled after Chancellor George Osborne said the UK’s competitiveness might be put at risk by leading the world in curbing emissions.

    The CCC research challenges this assumption.

    “It is not accurate to say that the UK is leading the world on this,” the CCC’s chief executive David Kennedy told BBC News.

    “We aren’t acting alone. We have made ambitious commitments, but other countries have too – they are acting on them and developing low-carbon technologies.

    “Some of our European counterparts are discussing targets stricter than ours for 2030 so if we want to be part of the low-carbon revolution we will have to make sure we aren’t left behind.”

    Mr Kennedy said China was now clearly global leader in clean technology: “China is leading the low-carbon revolution. It has committed to invest in 700 Gigawatts of renewable power generation by 2020 – that’s 10 times the whole UK power system.

    “They are investing in five million electric vehicles – in multiples of what we are doing here.

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