The outrageously indefensible libels against Willie Soon

Dr Willie Soon

Dr Willie Soon — level-headed unbeliever

Dr Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a prominent sceptical climate scientist, was virtually mugged on 22 February last year but he’s only just given his first public account of it. I am publishing this account and a transcription of his address because it cries out for justice.

Greenpeace was the contemptible mastermind, warping the perfect truth into a sham of misconduct and leading numerous ‘news’ organs uncritically to swallow their lies. Leading off with Greenpeace’s criminal libel was the once-venerable New York Times. With the NYT on the ramparts, sundry lickspittle warmists fell over themselves to mindlessly echo what they saw as Greenpeace’s juicy accusations and thunder their outrage at Dr Soon in articles and blog posts around the world.

They included the Washington Post, the Guardian, lots of little climate troublemakers, do-gooders, troughers, would-be despots, and big-money recipients, all too keen to signal their climate virtue and advance their lucrative stake in the climate change fraud to stop and think.

Cast-iron proof

In attacking this honest scientist, Greenpeace didn’t question his methods or conclusions. You might think that surprising, since attacking a scientist has no other target than his science. You find fault with it, so you question it. But they couldn’t, as they hadn’t found errors in his science, because he didn’t make any errors. So all they could do was to claim that he had failed to declare his funding properly, usually a serious blunder for any publishing scientist. But the blunder turned out, monumentally, to be Greenpeace’s, because Willie made no mistakes there, either.

Ironically, cast-iron proof of Willie’s innocence was in the very documents obtained by Greenpeace under FOI requests and intended to impeach him. Because those funding contracts don’t mention Willie Soon, as they are between the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and the funding body.

On their website, Greenpeace strongly criticises Willie for describing the research reports he provided for these contracts as “deliverables”, as though there was something wrong with that:

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as deliverables that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

But a minute spent examining the contracts shows that’s simply what the Smithsonian refers to. The term ‘deliverables’ has become a perfectly neutral term to describe any output of work.

Willie would talk to ExxonMobil, or Southern Company or Donors Trust or whomever for an amount of funding for a specific project, the Smithsonian would approve the sum and its purpose then itself apply to the funding body for a grant. If approved, the Smithsonian received the funds and passed a portion to Willie for the research. Their contract with Willie required him to declare to the journals that the Smithsonian was the source of the funds, which of course turned it into a legal obligation—Willie was legally constrained from saying anything else.

Bald-faced lie

Greenpeace accused him of accepting:

more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers.

But it was a bald-faced lie. They held the proof of that lie in their hands even as they issued their poisonous press release.

First, the Smithsonian kept about half of the $1.2 million. Second, accepting funding from oil companies is quite legal. Third, oil and gas make human civilisation healthy, educated and long-lived. Fourth, there was no conflict of interest. Fifth, the Smithsonian itself contractually prohibited Willie from naming the donor.

Indeed, what conflict could there be? Why should Willie be more likely to falsify the results of a study of (say) the sun according to the preferences of an oil company client than another researcher might cast results according to his client Greenpeace’s beliefs? Why does the NYT not challenge Greenpeace researchers on the same grounds of conflict of interest? After all, they openly declare it, saying “Greenpeace funded my research” yet Greenpeace trumpets the results: “A victory for science,” they proclaim.

What flimsy thunder

And this: if Greenpeace and the New York Times truly believe that Willie deliberately skewed his results for his clients, where is their evidence? It should be easy to produce it. Just compare similar studies between researchers funded by different donors and compare the conclusions to judge the influence, if any, of the donor’s beliefs and preferences. How long would it take? Yet, manifestly, they omit this step — what hollow umbrage, what flimsy thunder.

But, of course, the entire show was malevolent innuendo, which doesn’t need evidence. In peddling lies, Greenpeace hoped to destroy Willie’s reputation in a devastating, multi-national campaign that might have broken a lesser man.

The mainstream media were stupid, quite neglecting to check their sources. There were swift rebuttals and defences by sceptics, with some outstanding expressions of support. An essay by Kip Hansen at WUWT caught my eye for the most ferocious brevity under perhaps the longest title I’ve ever seen (an upside-down essay?). Regrettably, none of these made their way onto prime news or into major newspapers — let us again give thanks for the internet.

Willie has since concentrated on his career, but now, for the first time, he gives his account of those unsavoury events, includes hidden details and reveals his inner warrior. Beneath the natural humility of a true scientist his heart is brimming with a cheerful courage.

There’s a summary of these events by Lord Monckton at Watts Up With That and a wonderful, encyclopaedic account by the Heartland Institute with a rich collection of links to videos, articles and papers.

This post was prompted when I found out that Willie Soon appeared a few weeks ago at a conference sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and The Heritage Foundation, on December 8, 2016, in Washington, DC. It brought together national policymakers, leading energy experts and the field’s “most innovative minds” to explore the impact of the national elections on energy and climate policy.

Willie addressed the conference and described the attacks against him. The conference video is available at YouTube, where he comes on precisely one hour (1:00:00) in (if you click this image, that’s where it starts). You can download the transcript here. I recommend you dip in to the Willie Soon portion of the video, as it’s an amusing, moving and spirited account of his troubles.

Transcript excerpts

What does he say? Numbers indicate run-time on the video.

1:00:00 – He’s speaking about these attacks for the first time and he hopes it will be the last, because it’s so uncomfortable. He’s lived under a cloud of intimidation and attempted censorship since 1992.

1:02:16 – He shows a photo just for Greenpeace of an amazing gold-plated toilet, saying this is where “all the secret money” Greenpeace claims he’s been receiving all these years went. Everyone laughs.

Willie Soon’s secret toilet

1:02:37 – Willie says he will describe three instances of intimidation against him by professional bodies.

First, about his 2003 publication in Climate Research of Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years, he will tell how it caused five editors to resign, how he was hounded to cite certain papers and why he now describes that paper as a “hoax”. (Its science wasn’t a hoax, but its references bypassed attempted coercion.)

Second, how scientific sessions he planned for an AGU conference in 2009 were shut down at the last minute without explanation.

Third, how the PNAS complained in 2015 that Willie had failed to reveal the funding behind a letter he published, insisting it had been funded by oil interests, though it had not been funded by anyone—the letter had been written in a few hours of his own time.

Willie finishes his address with a serious error he and David Legates found in Michael Mann’s work on the hockey stick. In the space of a year, Mann’s graph of global temperature shows a rise of between 10°C and 25°C per century. Material released in ClimateGate helps prove Mann’s culpability in this.

The major error in Michael Mann’s global temperature graph

It may well be that the information given here is already in the public domain, but Willie’s account is unique and worth watching. To be fair, and with the greatest respect, his facility with English can be described as patchy. At times beautifully lucid, as he becomes more passionate his syntax tends to break down and it can be difficult to discern his meaning. To clarify those points which remain obscure, we must wait for someone close to these events to describe them for us—and if such a description is already available, please let me know.

Throughout his address, I am impressed with Willie’s honesty, humility and courage, and I publish his story without hesitation. His persecution by these so-called professionals stands condemned by its self-evident stupidity; it is motivated not by a desire for truth, but by perfectly contemptible malice from a bunch of single-minded zealots.

Beside whom, Willie is a wonderfully level-headed unbeliever.

19 Thoughts on “The outrageously indefensible libels against Willie Soon

  1. Gary Kerkin on January 29, 2017 at 10:26 am said:

    Thanks for posting this, Richard. It is interesting, and not a little inspirational, to see and hear Willie describe his treatment despite his obvious discomfort. He is not the only one to suffer in this regard—after all Galileo was confined to house arrest for the remainder of his life after the Inquisition examined his support for the Copernican theory of heliocentricity. And we have seen the mocking vituperation with which the writings of Christopher Monckton are greeted. Closer to home most of us will have seen the ClimateGate emails endeavouring to have Chris de Freitas removed from his editorial position. It takes a great deal of courage to stand, head up high, knowing that your funders may well desert you even though they know you are not guilty of the calumnies cast against you. I am reminded of some apposite quotations from Charles Darwin (who also experienced severe and unfounded criticisms of his theories):

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
    ― The Descent of Man

    “I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men”

    “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation”

    https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/12793.Charles_Darwin

  2. Maggy Wassilieff on January 30, 2017 at 8:37 am said:

    Judith Curry has filed an Amicus curiae in support of the appellants being sued by Dr Michael Mann.

    It is well worth reading to understand the tactics that have been employed in attempting to silence one of the critics of Mann’s work.
    https://cei.org/sites/default/files/2017.01.25%20Br.%20of%20Amicus%20Dr.%20Judith%20A.%20Curry%20Nos.%2014-cv-101%2014-cv-126%20%28D.C.%29.pdf

  3. Dennis N Horne on February 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm said:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Soon

    Soon disputes the current scientific understanding of climate change, and contends that most global warming is caused by solar variation rather than by human activity.[7][8] He gained visibility in part due to scientific criticism of the methodology of a paper which he co-wrote.[9] Climate scientists such as Gavin Schmidt of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies have refuted Soon’s arguments,[4] and the Smithsonian does not support his conclusions, but he is frequently cited by politicians opposed to climate-change legislation.[4][10]
    Over the past decade, Soon’s research and his salary have been funded largely by fossil-fuel interests,[11] which provided over $1.2 million in funding over 10 years, including $409,000 from The Southern Company and $230,000 from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. These funding sources were not disclosed in a number of papers published since 2008, leading the Smithsonian Institution to investigate whether Soon had violated conflict-of-interest policies.[4][12][13] Soon says he has “always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally”.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/23/the-favorite-scientist-of-climate-change-deniers-is-under-fire-for-taking-oil-money/?utm_term=.b909e7598e59

  4. Dennis N Horne on February 2, 2017 at 1:38 pm said:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Zad1DVGSME
    Climate Change Conversation feat. Richard Alley & Michael Mann (January 2017)

  5. Dennis N Horne on February 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm said:

    Dr James Powell’s latest analysis shows:
    “For 2013 and 2014, I found that only 5 of 24,210 articles and 4 of 69,406 authors rejected anthropogenic global warming, showing that the consensus on AGW is above 99.9% and likely verges on unanimity.”
    http://www.jamespowell.org

    The greater the evidence for AGW the deeper the science deniers’ faith in mumbo jumbo.

  6. Dennis N Horne on February 2, 2017 at 2:51 pm said:

    https://twitter.com/JournalAltFacts
    The Journal of Alternative Facts

    We have the best climates, really, they’re great.

    In this paper we refute work by out-of-touch scientists who insist the climate is changing — why would it change when it’s so great already?

  7. Alexander K on February 2, 2017 at 3:40 pm said:

    I am losing my patience with this conversation due to the constant shouting of nonsense by DNH.
    Even though I earned my free bus pass years ago, there is too much to do each day to get involved in arguing against nonsense.
    I will look in from time to time but if I see that name at the head of any letters, I shall tip-toe away.

  8. For a bit of light relief, you might enjoy this interview between Tucker Carlson on Fox vs a Californian non-scientist on the climate consensus.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alU5595DrQg

    Apparently Carlson is getting great ratings and you can see why; he is a fairly good interviewer and won’t let it go

  9. Richard Treadgold on February 2, 2017 at 4:21 pm said:

    Alexander,

    I am losing my patience with this conversation

    Yeah, sorry about that, friend. I feel your pain.

  10. Richard Treadgold on February 2, 2017 at 5:46 pm said:

    Dennis,

    Soon disputes the current scientific understanding of climate change

    Do your own thinking, Dennis, please. We can scarcely respond to this, as you don’t cite a source. You give us an extract full of random numbers that aren’t linked to anything, apparently expecting us to visit Wikipedia, sift through the sources they cite and creatively divine which one you referred to. You’re dreaming! Cite your sources!

    By the way, does this renewed onslaught from you mean that you’ll never respond to my latest scientific answers to you, with references here and here? You know you’re high maintenance, right? Start acknowledging my answers or I will give up on you. What a shame that would be, what a neglected opportunity.

  11. Richard Treadgold on February 2, 2017 at 5:51 pm said:

    Dennis,

    the consensus on AGW is above 99.9% and likely verges on unanimity

    That’s highly unlikely, but tell me: how does he define AGW? I can’t find it on jamespowell.com but it’s fairly important. Highly important. Crucial. You can’t leave it out. Omitted, Powell is busily accumulating confirmations of an unknown theorem. We cannot possibly check whether he’s got it right. What a waste of time. Yours and ours.

  12. “For 2013 and 2014, I found that only 5 of 24,210 articles and 4 of 69,406 authors rejected anthropogenic global warming”

    So what? How many of these 24,210 articles independently investigated detection, attribution and climate sensitivity to CO2?

    I presume that the author can answer this question, since he must have read all 24,210 articles in depth.

  13. That’s right Andy, Dennis is probably correct when he states a 99.9% consensus, but he doesn’t realise that all the sceptical scientists are part of the consensus because none of them reject that CO2 has a warming effect (albeit minimal) – I can’t think of any sceptical scientists that reject CO2 warms.

    To try to state that some scientists reject the warming abilities of CO2 completely because they dispute how much it warms, or how much the feedbacks will be, is just a desperate strawman argument from a desperate global warming alarmist.

    Dennis dear boy, your silly little misrepresentation of sceptical scientists just makes you look like the desperate, teenage fool that you are.

  14. Dennis N Horne on February 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm said:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_d****l
    Peer-reviewed research rejecting man-made global warming is almost non-existent as of 2013–14. Over 99.99% of authors did not publish rejections.[1]
    Climate change d****l, or global warming d****l, is part of the global warming controversy. It involves d****l, dismissal, unwarranted doubt or contrarian views which depart from the scientific opinion on climate change, including the extent to which it is caused by humans, its impacts on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions.[2][3][4] In the global warming controversy, some d****rs do endorse the term, but other often prefer the term climate change skepticism[3] whereas scientists think it “inappropriate to allow those who d**y [anthropogenic global warming] to don the mantle of skeptics”; in effect, the two terms form a continuous, overlapping range of views, and generally have the same characteristics: both reject, to a greater or lesser extent, mainstream scientific opinion on climate change.[5][6] Climate change d****l can also be implicit, when individuals or social groups accept the science but fail to come to terms with it or to translate their acceptance into action.[7] Several social science studies have analyzed these positions as forms of d****lism.[5][6]
    Campaigning to undermine public trust in climate science has been described as a “d****l machine” of industrial, political and ideological interests, supported by conservative media and skeptical bloggers in manufacturing uncertainty about global warming.[8][9][10] In the public debate, phrases such as climate skepticism have frequently been used with the same meaning as climate d****lism.[11] The labels are contested: those actively challenging climate science commonly describe themselves as “skeptics”, but many do not comply with common standards of scientific skepticism and, regardless of evidence, persistently d**y the validity of human caused global warming.[5]
    Although scientific opinion on climate change is that human activity is extremely likely to be the primary driver of climate change,[12][13] the politics of global warming have been affected by climate change d****l, hindering efforts to prevent climate change and adapt to the warming climate.[14][15][16] Those promoting d****l [17][18]

    WORTH REPEATING: … “commonly use rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of a scientific controversy where there is none.”

  15. Dennis N Horne on February 3, 2017 at 3:37 pm said:

    http://www.pmcsa.org.nz/blog/scientific-advice-in-a-troubled-world/
    February 1, 2017. Professor Sir Peter Gluckman FRS
    Chair, International Network for Government Science Advice
    Introduction
    “Indeed, what some theorists once called our ‘post-trust’ society, now appears to have taken a step further towards what has become a trendy term: “post-truth.’ In this evolution, knowledge is considered irrelevant in the face of personal beliefs. Cliché and somewhat misleading though it is, the popularity of the term is nonetheless a useful, if perhaps alarmist, shorthand to describe some of the changes at the science[3]-policy and science-society interfaces.

    “Science is caught up in this new and challenging dynamic because – as the primary method of obtaining relatively reliable of knowledge of our world and ourselves, it is inevitably intertwined with the functioning of democracy itself. The problem is given added urgency by virtue of the fact that virtually every challenge a government faces has a scientific dimension. The issue is whether robust science is available to assist in their policy-making and is used well or is, misused, manipulated or ignored.”

  16. Dennis N Horne on February 3, 2017 at 3:39 pm said:

    http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/understanding-truthiness
    “This columnist is greatly perplexed by how in today’s post-truth world people hold views or which are not true … described below some of the psychological findings of cognitive bias important in behavioural economics. … all have been demonstrated in tightly controlled experiments…

    “Anchoring: describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the ‘anchor’) when making decisions. Once an anchor is set, there is a bias toward interpreting other information around the anchor. Example: A subject is given a random number (say the outcome of a spin of the chocolate wheel) and subsequently asked to estimate a fact (say the number of countries in Africa). The estimate is affected by the random number. Comment: That means that the information that one is given may influence one’s beliefs about another matter, even though it is misleading or irrelevant. By choosing seemingly related information the presenter (often a politician) can greatly influence belief even more.” [continues]

  17. Dennis N Horne on February 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm said:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/3322.abstract
    The Arctic sea ice retreat has been one of the most dramatic climate changes in recent decades. Nearly 50 y ago it was predicted that a darkening of the Arctic associated with disappearing ice would be a consequence of global warming. Using satellite measurements, this analysis directly quantifies how much the Arctic as viewed from space has darkened in response to the recent sea ice retreat. We find that this decline has caused 6.4 ± 0.9 W/m2 of radiative heating since 1979, considerably larger than expectations from models and recent less direct estimates. Averaged globally, this albedo change is equivalent to 25% of the direct forcing from CO2 during the past 30 y.

  18. Maggy Wassilieff on March 5, 2017 at 10:18 am said:

    Soon’s co-author in the “Soon-Baliunas controversy” also endured a load of nasty attacks for not falling in line with consensus views.
    Some background here:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/03/04/a-climate-story-that-must-be-told/

  19. Richard Treadgold on March 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm said:

    Maggy,

    That’s a sobering story.

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