Field of Science

Climate expert bought and paid for by fossil fuel companies - not really news

Fossil fuel industry caught taking a page out of the tobacco playbook (link).  That's the headline from the March 3, 2015 online version of the Guardian. This refers to people finding out that W. Soon failed to tell people where his money comes from, but this is not really news.  This was known, but obviously not widely known, at least 18 years ago.  Here’s bit of history from an article (The Wall Street Journal Blurs the Lines Between Science, Opinion, & Politics on Global Warming, 1998) published in a smallish skeptic newsletter, which demonstrates the principle that work published in obscure journals tends to remain obscure, but bigger publications (e.g., Skeptical Inquirer) said the story was “old news” and not a current event story, so they declined to publish it.  Here's the introduction from the 1998 article.

"This affair started March 1998 when I received an unsolicited reprint of a scientific article entitled "Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide," by A. B. Robinson, S. L. Balinus, W. Soon, and Z. W. Robinson. The article was accompanied by two items. The first was a photocopy of a four-column news item from The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 4, 1997, although the date did not appear on the photocopy). "Science has spoken: global warming is a myth" by A. B. and Z. W. Robinson. The second item was a petition requesting that I, as a scientist, should agree with these authors and sign the enclosed petition signifying my opposition to the Kyoto global warming accord. As a scientist, I am concerned about global warming, and while I do research in botanical evolutionary ecology, climate and the various factors affecting it, are not my expertise, so I decided to read the article with an open mind."
"What a convincing article! How could any rational person continue to harbor doubts about the fallacy of global warming after seeing all this data? Obviously environmental extremists have been misinterpreting the data to sell us their global warming agenda. Rather than worry we can look forward to a future of lush plant growth and prosperity! The citations were numerous and from credible sources. The data figures were many and all pointed to the same conclusion: recent increases in carbon dioxide had no influence on global warming, or there was no evidence for global warming anyway! Hmm, so why wasn't this article more generally known? Usually Science News, The Scientist, or Science feature important and newsworthy publications before any national newspapers. How did the WSJ scoop our best science news publications?"
Unfortunately, some scientists can be bought and paid for by corporate interests to represent themselves as having legitimate contrarian positions to the main stream science of their field. This demonstrated that the WSJ happily bought into a phony publication misrepresenting real science; so much for checking out their sources.  And least you think it too difficult to find out, it was a class of seminar students who did all the digging including attempting to call Soon (no one at Harvard seemed to know how to contact him) and quite readily finding out the deception. No wonder it wasn't published. So while Soon has been "caught", he's actually gotten away with this act for about 20 years!

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