Climate Change Researcher Received Funds From Fossil Fuel Industry

A Smithsonian-connected scientist is accused of failing to properly disclose his backers

Climate change Willie Soon
According to a statement released last year, the Smithsonian believes that humans are a cause of climate change. Frans Lanting/Corbis

A part-time researcher associated with the Smithsonian Institution, who claims that human activity has had little effect on climate change, has reportedly accepted more than one million dollars in funding from fossil fuel companies, according to the New York Times.

Working from documents obtained by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center under the Freedom of Information Act, the Times reports that Dr. Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon, a researcher working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has published scientific papers over the past decade claiming that recent climate variation is primarily due to fluctuations in the sun's energy, not human activity -- without revealing that at the same time he had received $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry to fund this research. "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," says the Times.

Hired to conduct research on long-term stellar and solar activtiy at SAO, Soon has funded his research on climate change via outside grants; his work is not funded by the Smithsonian. Nor does the Institution support Dr. Soon’s research and personal views on climate change, say Smithsonian officals, who point out that last year the Institution issued an official statement that points to human activities as a cause of global warming, including the assertion that “scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities.” The Smithsonian released an updated statement today concerning the allegations surrounding Dr. Soon's work, and Institution officials say that they will conduct a full review of Smithsonian ethics and disclosure policies.

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