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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Peter Dykstra: Doubling down on doubt

Swift support from the denial community for Willie Soon reflects a disregard for self-policing.
by Peter Dykstra, Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, March 5, 2015
The most remarkable aspect of Willie Soon’s soiled science scandal is that in the light of damning evidence of a serious ethical lapse, the climate denial camp shows no interest in self-policing.
When documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act showed Soon was promising “deliverables” for climate research funded by fossil fuel affiliates, the judgment outside the climate denial sphere was swift, largely because the evidence was from Soon’s own hand.
But many who embrace climate denial not only saw nothing wrong with this, they circled the wagons around their embattled Man of Science.
Many who embrace climate denial not only saw nothing wrong with this, they circled the wagons around their embattled Man of Science. Soon crossed what most scientists believe are several inviolable ethical lines. While academia doesn’t generally disdain funding from parties who may have an economic or ideological stake in the outcome, transparency is key. Soon, via his unpaid climate-related research with the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, failed to reveal on multiple papers that his climate change-related publications were largely bankrolled by Exxon Mobil, Southern Company, and the Charles Koch Foundation.
He also gushed about how the results would please prospective funders. "I have a big super-duper paper soon to be accepted on how the sun affects the climate system,” he wrote to a Southern Company sponsor. Southern is the biggest electric utility in the Southeast U.S., is heavily coal-dependent, and clearly would have something to gain should a scientific paper throw the sun under the bus for what the vast majority of scientists believe to be fossil fuel-driven climate change.
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute's Joe Bast called climate scientists and advocates "mental midgets."
The Climate Investigations Center and Greenpeace* obtained and released the documents. Some climate activists crowed. Editorial pages scowled. The Smithsonian promised a swift investigation.
Soon's defenders, meanwhile, pulled out what is now a reliable playbook for conservatives confronted with accusations of errors, omissions and downright lies: They doubled down and went on the attack.
The Heartland Institute, which has listed Soon as an in-house expert, took the reins as his communications clearinghouse, releasing Soon’s official statement on its website along with a volley of counterattack. Heartland chief Joe Bast called climate scientists and advocates “mental midgets.” To be fair, that may signal a softening of Heartland’s hard line, since three years ago they were likening their foes to mass murderer Ted Kaczynski.
The site was particularly unhinged in its response. The release of Soon’s own documents was a “crucifixion,” and reporting on the documents by The New York Times was a “hit piece” and a “smear.” Congressman Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) was singled out for the offense of re-tweeting the Times story. (Heartland’s Bast co-authored the “crucifixion” piece.)
Fox News took a more passive stance, deploying crickets. While Fox’s website lists multiple stories about sexual harassment allegations against R.K. Pachauri, the recently resigned head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Soon’s soiled science appears to have received only one brief mention on a Sunday talk show. The only other reference to climate change on Fox in recent weeks have centered on attempts to prove that a cold, snowy month in much of the U.S. is Exhibit A against climate change.
The World Affairs Council
Fox’s high-profile prime time host Bill O’Reilly (left) didn’t mention the scandal, either. O’Reilly once embraced climate science, telling "60 Minutes": “Global warming is here… all these idiots that run around and say it isn’t here, that’s ridiculous.” But as climate denial has embedded itself in conservative doctrine and in Fox’s Fair-and-Balanced reporting, O’Reilly no longer believes climate scientists.
O’Reilly might be excused for skipping the Soon story. Like Soon’s supporters, he’s busy doubling down to defend against his own accusers’ allegations that he embellished his own war-correspondent stories.
And in that is an illustrative lesson in how climate denial and American conservatism became inseparable: Doubling down against critics is the standard defense, no matter how demonstrable the evidence is against you. It’s what Dick Cheney did on his whirlwind media tour last December, in which he defended both the Iraq war and the use of torture by American intelligence officials. It’s what Pat Michaels, another widely-cited skeptical scientist, did when soliciting coal producers’ money back in 2006. And it’s what Oliver North, the Grandpappy of modern-day doubling down, did in the late 1980’s when he was caught at the center of the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. He became a hero to millions of Americans.
To this day, Ollie North still hosts a weekend show on Fox News. So in the event that Willie Soon has to face the music because ethics outweighs doubling down, there may be an opening for a Fox News science show host. It would be Super-Duper.
*I used to work for Greenpeace in the 1980s. That’s full disclosure, Willie.

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Doubt over climate science is a product with an industry behind it

With its roots in the tobacco industry, climate science denial talking points can be seen as manufactured doubt

The manufacturing of doubt on climate change science, backed by the fossil fuel industry, has its roots with the tobacco industry's assault on climate science in the 1960s.
The manufacturing of doubt on climate change science, backed by the fossil fuel industry, has its roots with the tobacco industry’s assault on climate science in the 1960s. Photograph: Richard Hamilton Smith/Richard Hamilton Smith/Corbis

by Graham Readfearn, "Planet Oz," The Guardian, March 4, 2015

It’s a product that you can find in newspaper columns and TV talk shows and in conversations over drinks, at barbecues, in taxi rides and in political speeches.
You can find this product in bookstores, on sponsored speaking tours, in the letters pages of local newspapers and even at United Nations climate change talks.
This product is doubt  doubt about the causes and impacts of climate change, the impartiality of climate scientists, the world’s temperature records, the height of the oceans and basic atmospheric physics.
There’s doubt too about the “agenda” of policy makers and government environment agencies and a continued attempt to politicise climate science as “leftist.”
There’s also doubt over the role renewable energy might play now and in the future.
Yet where it matters most, in the leading scientific journals in the world, any doubt that burning fossil fuels is causing the planet to heat up is almost nowhere to be seen.
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been given yet another glimpse into the global climate science denial industry and the machinery that produces all of this doubt.
For those playing catch-up, the story revolves around Dr Willie Soon, who is a long-serving climate science denialist and worker bee for numerous conservative think tanks over the past 15 years.
Documents obtained from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where Soon has a part-time research position, have raised questions over the rules around conflict of interest and funding disclosures in the journals where Soon has published his work.
As The Chronicle of Higher Education has explained, The Smithsonian doesn’t actually pay Soon a wage and he has no association with the world-renowned Harvard University, despite the name of his institution suggesting there might be one.
Soon chases money himself and in the last decade practically all of it has come either from the fossil fuel industry or conservative groups. The Smithsonian is now carrying out a review, after it also emerged that it had agreed to a clause preventing the institution from revealing the identity of at least one donor.
Now three US Senators have asked 100 fossil fuel groups, conservative “free market” think tanks and conservative aligned funding groups for information about climate change research and scientists they might have been involved with.
Soon claims the sun is the main driver of the world’s climate, but he also downplays concerns over rising sea levels and the health impacts of mercury from burning coal.
Scientists have long criticised Soon’s work as flawed. Dr Gavin Schmidt, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has described Soon’s work as “singularly poor” and “almost pointless.”

The Denial Machine

For more than 15 years Soon has been a key part of the globe-spanning industry producing doubt about the science of climate change.
There are four main cogs that make up the machinery as I see it  conservative “free market” think tanks, public relations groups, fossil fuel organisations and ideologically aligned media.
Occasionally over the years, the hood on the climate denial machine has been lifted to reveal its hidden workings.
As I wrote for The Guardian last week, in 1998 a leaked American Petroleum Institute memo detailed how a dozen fossil fuel lobbyists, think tank associates and PR professionals had come together for a mass scale misinformation project on climate science.
The memo claimed that “victory” would be achieved when “uncertainties” (read: doubt) became part of the conventional wisdom among the public.
As detailed in my piece, many of the same individuals continue to work in the climate science doubt production industry while defending fossil fuels.
But this wasn’t the first or the last time that internal documents have shown how the fossil fuel industry and ideologues work together to produce doubt on climate science.
In 1991, for example, a group of coal utilities devised an advertising and public relations campaign that would also recruit scientists to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).”
In 2000, influential US Republican pollster Frank Luntz produced a memo for the energy industry and anyone else challenging the science of climate change. Luntz wrote:
Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.
Luntz also proposed that Republicans should stop using the phrase “global warming” and replace it with “climate change” because this was “less frightening.”
In 2006, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association – a group that distributes coal-generated electricity  produced a "fact" sheet for their members to pass around to employees who should then pass them on to their friends and family.
The materials claimed climate change was mainly caused by changes in the output of the sun, changes in the earth’s orbit and by plate tectonics.
Despite every major science academy in the world disagreeing with them, the pamphlet claimed the role of carbon dioxide was minor. The "fact" sheet said:
Trendy global warming theory suffers the great conceit that human activity has a significant impact on climate change.
Another infamous effort was the Oregon petition – a supposed survey of US science graduates claiming 17,000 “scientists” (later building to 33,000) who claimed there was “no convincing evidence” that carbon dioxide was a problem for the world’s climate (most of the signatories had graduated in completely unrelated disciplines).
As I wrote last year, despite the petition being one of the feeblest factoids in the climate science denial songbook, it didn’t stop Dick Warburton, a government-appointed reviewer of Australian renewables policy, from citing it as supposed evidence of a split among scientists over the causes of climate change.
The 1998 petition came with an attached manuscript, co-authored by Willie Soon, which claimed that “predictions of harmful climatic effects” from increasing carbon dioxide levels were “in error.”
The manuscript was produced in a format almost identical to that used by the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leading the National Academy of Sciences to issue a statement saying it had nothing to do with the petition, and that the manuscript “was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal.”

The actual tobacco playbook

The campaign to sow doubt and discredit science to maintain industry profits was one honed by the tobacco industry during its fight against the science linking its products with cancer.
In the book Merchants of Doubt (released as a film this week) authors Naomi Oreskes (an actual Harvard professor) and Erik Conway explain that some of the same individuals and think tanks who had worked with the tobacco industry had moved on to climate science denial.

A preview of the film Merchants of Doubt produced by Yale Climate Forum.

Documents obtained by US lawsuits against the tobacco industry in the 1990s and 2000s are now housed in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.
Among the many thousands of documents, is Bad Science: A Resource Book – described in Merchants of Doubt as a “how-to handbook for fact fighters.”
Produced by the tobacco industry to help any industry fight any legislation that responded to scientific findings, this was a representation of big tobacco’s playbook in written form.
The book provided sound bites and ready-made talking points to arm any industry fighting regulation. Among the talking points the book suggested should be pushed home were:
Too often, science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda.
Government agencies, too often, betray the public trust by violating principles of good science in a desire to achieve a political goal.
Public policy decisions that are based on bad science impose enormous economic costs on all aspects of society.
Among the newspaper cuttings provided as back up were newspaper columns, several of which took climate science denialists viewpoints, with self-explanatory titles.
There was “Warming Theories need a Warning Label,” “Earth Summit Will Shackle the Planet, Not Save It,” and “Great Hoax On Asbestos Finally Ends.” 

Think tanks?

At the time of the Oregon petition, Willie Soon was affiliated to the George C. Marshall Institute, one of the earliest US free market think tanks to take up climate science denial with the help of fossil fuel funding.
This week, another free market think tank, the Heartland Institute, issued a statement on behalf of Soon, who claimed his funding had never influenced his work and that he had always disclosed his financial backers when asked.
Of course, Heartland continues to defend the tobacco industry in its online “Smoker’s Lounge” and claims the public health community’s “campaign to demonize smokers” is based on “junk science.”
There is a network of these think tanks across the world, and they play a key role in producing doubt as part of what should be seen as a public relations effort that serves the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry
For example, the US has the Competitive Enterprise Institute, The George C. Marshall Institute, the Heartland Institute, and the Campaign for A Constructive Tomorrow.
The UK has the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a group that declines to disclose its funders but has been backed by wealthy conservatives.
Australia has its own cogs in the climate science denial machine.
As well as the sympathetic Rupert Murdoch-owned press and the fossil fuel industry, there is the influential free market “think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs.
The IPA is another group to push climate science denial while also defending the tobacco industry (the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2012 that British American Tobacco was a financial supporter of the institute).
Last year, the IPA encouraged supporters to take advantage of a tax concession to help fund a climate book with chapters written by a familiar line-up of climate science denialists – one of which was Dr Soon.
In February, the IPA ran a short speaking tour promoting its book Climate Change: The Facts (it was suggested to me that moving the semicolon in the book’s title one word to the left would better describe the contents).

Doubt is their product

In a famous 1969 tobacco industry memo, one executive wrote:
Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy. Within the business we recognize that a controversy exists. However, with the general public the consensus is that cigarettes are in some way harmful to the health. If we are successful in establishing a controversy at the public level, then there is an opportunity to put across the real facts about smoking and health. Doubt is also the limit of our “product.”
What’s clear – and has been clear for well over a decade – is that the climate science denial industry is largely an extension of a program developed in the 1960s by big tobacco.
Much of its product, liberally spread, is a public relations exercise. The fact that this is not regularly acknowledged is possibly also a result of the production of doubt.
You’ll probably be able to sample some of that product in the comment section of this post. Enjoy.

John Abraham: Ocean cycles have slowed the warming of global surface temperatures, but only temporarily

by John Abraham, "Climate Consensus - The 97%," The Guardian, March 5, 2015

A paper published last week in Science casts more light on oceans and how they may have contributed to a false sense of security about what we face in the future. The paper, coauthored by Byron SteinmanMichael Mann, and Sonya Miller, approached the problem in a new way that connected real-world observations with state-of-the-art climate models. What the authors find casts severe doubt on other work which had oversold the role of natural climate’s ability to halt global warming for the next 15 years. Instead, by correcting others’ errors, the new paper shows that things may be worse than we thought.
First, some definitions. The authors of this paper, in particular Michael Mann, are well known in the scientific community for researching various natural climate processes that recur periodically. These processes are often called oscillations, and they are key components of short-term climatic fluctuations. The two oscillations focused on in this paper are the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). 
The AMO is a cyclical variation in North Atlantic temperatures that lasts for 50–70 years. On the other hand, the PDO can actually be thought of as a short (a 16–20-year process) and a longer (50–70-year) process. Currently, the oceans are characterized by a slightly positive AMO and a more negative PDO. A recent publication discusses the role of the PDO and the continued warming of the plant, readers can go there for a basic description.
The authors focus attention on the longer of the two PDO processes (a 50–70-year process), and they ask whether the current status of the oceans can explain what we are observing at the Earth’s surface. What they find is interesting. These oscillations are “found to explain a large proportion of internal variability in Northern Hemisphere mean temperature.” The authors also show that other researchers who have incorrectly defined natural variability using simple linear detrending have been mistaken. 
In fact, recently published work on the climatic “stadium wave,” which is a highly speculative interconnection of climatic waves that reportedly travels around the globe, is likely not correct. According to this new paper, their analysis “reveals any putative correlation between the AMO and the PMO (the longer part of the PDO) and arguments of a stadium wave climate signal to be an artifact of the linear detrending approach.”
Some recent work, including publications of the “stadium wave” advocates, have argued that large parts of the changes we’ve observed in temperatures are attributed to these oscillations. The new research shows that “the methods used in these studies tend to inflate and distort the estimated internal variability owing to an incorrect partition of internal and forced variability.
Here is what Dr. Michael Mann had to say:
Our work reinforces the notion that there is no pause in human-caused global warming. If anything, we’ve been lulled into a false complacency by the fact that internal oscillations in the climate system temporarily masked some of that warming. That may come back to bite us as these oscillations swing back in the other direction and add to global warming in the decades ahead.
The study’s lead author, Byron Steinman told me:
There is inherent randomness in the climate system and a negative trend in these random oscillations is apparently the reason for the recent slowdown in surface temperature increase. When this trend reverses, warming will accelerate and this likely will impose substantial burdens on human society.
So in the end, what does this all mean? Well first, as I’ve written here before, there has been no pause of global warming. The real story of global warming is told in the continual and non-stop warming of the oceans. The whole story of the so-called “pause” is related to a slowdown in temperature increases in the lower part of the atmosphere. But this “pause,” as shown by the current research, is merely a result of natural climatic variations that move heat around in the Earth’s climate. These variations have likely suppressed temperature changes in the atmosphere, moved heat deeper into the oceans, and lulled us into a false sense of security that our current climate will continue indefinitely. We should not be so pacified.

Long-term data shows extensive loss of Arctic sea ice since the 1970s

by Hannah Hickey, UW Today, March 3, 2015

It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. University of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed.
The results, published in The Cryosphere, show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65% between 1975 and 2012. September ice thickness, when the ice cover is at a minimum, is 85% thinner for the same 37-year stretch.
submarine poking through ice and people disembarking
On June 5, 2001, the USS Scranton surfaced at the North Pole through almost four feet of ice. The new study uses submarine records to help track decades of thinning.U.S. Navy
“The ice is thinning dramatically,” said lead author Ron Lindsay, a climatologist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. “We knew the ice was thinning, but we now have additional confirmation on how fast, and we can see that it’s not slowing down.”
The study helps gauge how much the climate has changed in recent decades, and helps better predict an Arctic Ocean that may soon be ice-free for parts of the year.
The project is the first to combine all the available observations of Arctic sea ice thickness. The earlier period from 1975 to 1990 relies mostly on under-ice submarines. Those records are less common since 2000, but have been replaced by a host of airborne and satellite measurements, as well as other methods for gathering data directly on or under the ice.
“A number of researchers were lamenting the fact that there were many thickness observations of sea ice, but they were scattered in different databases and were in many different formats,” Lindsay said. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funded the effort to compile the various records and match them up for comparison.
black and white maps showing the locations of data points
Locations of sea ice thickness measurements by aircraft (AIR-EM and IceBridge), fixed points (other panels on the left), satellite (ICESAT) and submarines.R. Lindsay / UW
The data also includes the NASA IceSat satellite that operated from 2003 to 2008, IceBridge aircraft-based measurements that NASA is conducting until its next satellite launches, long-term under-ice moored observations in the Beaufort Sea from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and other measures from aircraft and instruments anchored to the sea floor.
The older submarine records were unearthed for science by former UW professor Drew Rothrock, who used the U.S. Navy submarine measures of ice thickness to first establish the thinning of the ice pack through the 1990s. Vessels carried upward-looking sonar to measure the ice draft so they knew where they could safely surface. Further analysis of those records found a 36% reduction in the average thickness in the quarter century between 1975 and 2000.
“This confirms and extends that study,” Lindsay said. The broader dataset and longer time frame show that what had looked like a leveling off in the late 1990s was only temporary. Instead, adding another 12 years of data almost doubles the amount of ice loss.
The observations included in the paper all have been entered in the Unified Sea Ice Thickness Climate Data Record that now includes around 50,000 monthly measurements standardized for location and time. The archive is curated by scientists at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and stored at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Lindsay also is part of a UW group that produces a widely cited calculation of monthly sea-ice volume that combines weather data, sea-surface temperatures and satellite measurements of sea ice concentration to generate ice thickness maps. Critics have said those estimates of sea ice losses seemed too rapid and questioned their base in a numerical model. But the reality may be changing even faster than the calculations suggest.
The average annual sea ice thickness, in meters, for the central Arctic Ocean. Red dots are submarine records. The green line is the long-term trend.
The average annual sea ice thickness, in meters, for the central Arctic Ocean. Red dots are submarine records. The green line is the long-term trend.
“At least for the central Arctic basin, even our most drastic thinning estimate was slower than measured by these observations,” said co-author Axel Schweiger, a polar scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.
The new study, he said, also helps confirm the methods that use physical processes to calculate the volume of ice each month.
“Using all these different observations that have been collected over time, it pretty much verifies the trend that we have from the model for the past 13 years, though our estimate of thinning compared to previous decades may have been a little slow,” Schweiger said.
The new paper only looks at observations up to the year 2012, when the summer sea ice level reached a record low. The two years since then have had slightly more sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, but the authors say they are not surprised.
“What we see now is a little above the trend, but it’s not inconsistent with it in any way,” Lindsay said. “It’s well within the natural variability around the long-term trend.”
Additional funding for the project was from the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What’s in a name: Willie Soon and the public perception of credibility

by Stephen Mulkey,, March 4, 2015
Update:  Inside Climate News has profiled my experience with Soon here.

I attended a conference billed as a forum for scientists in Boise in 2010, in which the panelists – and one in particular – delivered angry, polemic, nonscientific arguments against climate change. It was nauseating to watch one notable scientist cherry-pick data from short time frames and small geographic areas to try and debunk centuries of global data showing a rise in global temperatures.
At one point, the scientist, Dr. Wei ­Hock “Willie” Soon, claimed rising acidification of ocean water would lead to larger shells and bulkier weights for lobster and crab populations.
Not many in the crowd would have known that lobsters and crabs have chitinous exoskeletons, not calcium carbonate shells. The carbonate chemistry of the ocean has been massively altered by CO2-induced acidification, as demonstrated by numerous experiments and observation of imperiled shellfish populations. His conclusion about lobster and crabs was not only irrelevant; it was false. Nevertheless, the audience nodded their approval. I sat there stunned.
Quoted in a National Public Radio story on Soon, University of Rochester professor Adam Frank gave a similar reaction to the flimsy nature of one of his talks. “If Soon had been giving a Ph.D. defense,” Frank reported, “he would have been skewered.”
For many citizens, when a “Harvard climate scientist” says global warming doesn’t exist and thus presents no threat to civilization, the argument stops there.
But what if such a conclusion didn’t come from Harvard, wasn’t done by a climate scientist, and was funded by corporations vested in the outcome?
The motivations of scientifically corrupt climate change deniers were laid bare last week with reports in The New York Times, Washington Post and The Guardian that Soon – a scientist at the Harvard­ Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics – accepted more than $1.2 million from the petroleum industry over the last decade to write papers – “deliverables,” he called them – attempting to debunk the scientific fact of rapidly increasing global temperatures.
Worse, he failed to disclose those payments. The New York Times reported at least 11 papers he published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure. “In at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work,” the Times reported.
As is common among Harvard-Smithsonian scientists, Soon — who claims variations in the sun’s energy explain global warming – is expected to bring in external funds to support the Center. He relies on outside grant money, which the Center for Astrophysics doesn’t require its scientists to disclose.
Soon is often described as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” but he is neither. A Harvard spokesperson told the Times that Soon has never been employed by the university … even though he carries a Harvard ID and uses a Harvard email address. And he is not an astrophysicist; he is a part-­time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. There’s a difference, but one that is easily lost on many audiences.
There should be no confusion. The vast majority of experts – real climatologists with no vested interest except scientific truth – have concluded climate change is real, and that human-caused emissions pose long-­term risks to civilization.
This controversy reveals an inherent tension between academic freedom and the role of the scientific establishment in verifying the integrity of its participants. Should we look the other way when science is compromised by outside interests simply to respect the freedom of scholarship?
For the world of higher education, the problem is less with the industry-funded research that attempts to debunk scientifically undeniable underpinnings of global warming than with the cloak of academic legitimacy beneath which such efforts are hidden.
For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments with industry-funded people like Soon. Soon testified before Congress and infected the debate in state capitals, damaging our ability to shield civilization from further harm.
But Dr. Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard, said academic institutions and scientific journals have been too lax in vetting dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda, and she called on the journals that published Soon’s work to disclose the corporate funding behind it. I concur but, sadly, much irreparable damage has been done when the world of higher education is associated with junk science like Soon’s.
Just as the fight against global climate change is an ethical call to do the right thing by our planet and for the generations of our children and grandchildren who hope to inherit it; the academic community needs to look deeply at itself and start implementing ethical reforms that protect the integrity of academia. That means full disclosure of funding sources and a new look at whether public funding of scientific research is sufficient, and whether privately funded research is sufficiently tracked.
Meanwhile, for the sake of the preservation of critical thinking and the restoration of higher education to its place at the pinnacle of our civilization, we join the call of Dr. Oreskes – and scores of other legitimate, peer-reviewed scientists – that Soon’s papers be consigned to the trash heap, and that any legislation or policy debates arising from his work be revisited and rescinded — and soon.
Dr. Stephen Mulkey, president of Unity College, holds a Ph.D. in biology and ecology from The University of Pennsylvania and served as director of the environmental science program at the University of Idaho and science adviser to the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.

About Stephen Mulkey

Stephen Mulkey has recently served as Director of Research and Outreach/Extension for the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, and as science advisor to the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida. During this period, he was tenured faculty in the Department of Botany, and a research associate with the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida. He received a PhD in ecology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. Prior to coming to the University of Florida in 1996, Mulkey co-founded and later directed the International Center for Tropical Ecology, a nationally ranked graduate training and conservation program at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Mulkey's research was focused on tropical forest form and function, and he was affiliated for over 20 years as a research associate with the Smithsonian Institution, Tropical Research Institute. He is a scholar of the interdisciplinary literature in climate change and sustainability. Mulkey is active as a public interpreter of climate change science. His recent research focuses on the role of landscape carbon stocks in climate mitigation. Beginning in August 2008, he joined the faculty at the University of Idaho as director of the program in Environmental Science. He has been the lead in obtaining National Science Foundation funding for the creation of the new Professional Science Master’s degree at the University of Idaho. Supported by major funding from NASA, he is presently directing a project focused on climate change education. Stephen Mulkey is the current president of Unity College in Unity, Maine. Efforts led by Mulkey have resulted in Unity College being the first college in the US to divest its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, and the first college in the US to adopt sustainability science as the framework for all academic programming.