The newly released documents have showed that the energy industry had almost completely funded the popular work of an academic and climate change denier, who received over USD 1.2 million from firms, oil billionaires and lobby groups over more than a decade period.
Researcher Willie Soon, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, got a total of USD 1.25 million over the last 14 years from the American Petroleum Institute (API), Southern Company, Exxon Mobil and a foundation which is managed by the Koch brothers, according to the documents that were obtained by Greenpeace in the filings of freedom of information.
As per the documents, Southern Company was the largest single funder.
Southern Company is one of the biggest electricity providers of the country that relies heavily on coal.
The newly released documents have once again brought at the centrestage the issue of degrading climatic conditions and the efforts of the industry to block action against climate change, including US President Barack Obama’s proposed rules for power plants.
Soon received no grants from American space agency NASA or the National Science Foundation or any other institutions that were offering funds to his colleagues at the Center for Astrophysics. The documents showed that his work received funding from the fossil fuel lobby.
Kert Davies, an ex-researcher at Greenpeace who had filed the freedom of information plea, said, “The question here is really: ‘What did API, ExxonMobil, Southern Company and Charles Koch see in Willie Soon? What did they get for USD one million-plus. Did they simply hope he was on to research that would disprove the consensus? Or was it too enticing to be able to basically buy the nameplate Harvard-Smithsonian?”
The documents were shared by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center.
In a report to Southern Company, Soon wrote, “The funding would lead to active participations by this principal investigator of this research proposal in all national and international forums interested in promoting the basic understanding of solar variability and climate change.”
Greenpeace has accused Soon of improperly concealing his sources of funding for a recent article, which is in violation of the conflict of interest guidelines of the journal.
The institution wrote several letters to Congress and the Internal Revenue Service, saying Soon has likely misused the grants from the Koch foundation while attempting to influence legislation.
Soon, however, didn’t respond to the requests for comment. He has, however, denied such allegations in the past.