The paper by Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon and three other climate-change skeptics contends the United Nations panel that tracks global warming uses a flawed methodology to estimate global temperature change. Soon and his co-authors claim to have a simpler, more accurate model that shows the threat of global warming to be exaggerated.
The Chinese journal that published the paper, Science Bulletin, imposes a strict conflict of interest policy on authors, obligating contributors to disclose any received funding, financial interests, honors or speaking engagements that might bias their work.
In a note at the end of the paper, all four authors claimed no conflicts of interest on the published study. But Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, an organization based in Virginia, said Soon’s long track record of accepting energy-industry related grants indicates otherwise and might constitute a violation of Science Bulletin’s disclosure policy.
In a letter to Science Bulletin, Davies points to the more than $1 million Soon has received from companies and interests supporting studies critical of climate change.
“At the end of the article under the heading ‘Conflict of interest,’ there is this statement: ‘The authors declare that they have no conflict.’ This simply cannot be true,” Davies wrote. “I am concerned that Dr. Soon has not disclosed his funding sources or his outside consulting fees when submitting this article for publishing in your journal, and I am worried that such failure to disclosure may impact the reputation and credibility of both the journal and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.”
Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian, and Science Bulletin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Soon, the subject of a lengthy Globe profile in 2013, has long been on the radar of environmental activists, who have kept close track of his academic papers, lectures, and funding sources.
Soon has received more than $1.3 million in grants from companies, think tanks and organizations that have either publicly criticized human-caused climate change or have a financial interest in fossil fuels, according to documents obtained by environmental activist group Greenpeace through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Fossil-fuel interests that have funded Soon’s work include the Electric Power Research Institute, the American Petroleum Institute, the Texaco Foundation, the ExxonMobil Foundation. He’s also received funding from the Koch brothers, the libertarian-conservative moguls who have lobbied against anti-climate change legislation.
Soon maintains a strong relationship with the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank known for hosting skeptical conferences on climate change. He’s listed on its website as an expert and he spoken at seven of the institute’s nine conferences. In September 2013 appeared on Fox News with Heartland’s Joseph Bast to discuss the institute’s report “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science,” which downplays some of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change’s observations of global warming. He also spoke at the conservative Heritage Foundation in 2013 to support a Heartland rebuttal of IPCC claims, where he called the UN council “a pure bully” that pushed “blatant manipulations of fact.”
Though Soon uses his full Harvard-Smithsonian credential on this report, he is technically employed by the Smithsonian side and has no other affiliation with Harvard University. The institute has previously disavowed his work on climate change.