However, there is a small group of scientists who disagree with this view, and altogether, the issue has become one of political debate, with many Republican deniers. To prevent the undue (and unscientific) influence of outside organizations and groups, supporters and deniers of global warming have been questioned about their sources of funding and recently, one of the leading climate change deniers was revealed to have received more than $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry over the last decade.
The denier, scientist Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has argued, “Variations in the sun’s energy rather than greenhouse gas emissions are behind global warming.” With his clearly anti-global warming stance, Dr. Soon has appeared on a number of conservative news programs and conferences, and has also testified before Congress.
Though this discovery does not necessarily mean he falsified scientific reports or that his corporate funders influenced his scientific beliefs, it does cast a significant shadow on his integrity and reliability as a researcher. According to the Times, Dr. Soon published 11 pages since 2008 concerning his theory and omitted the required disclosure in each one. In at least eight, the Times reports that “he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.”
As if this were not enough, documents obtained from Dr. Soon show correspondence between the researcher and his corporate funders in which he described his papers as “‘deliverables’ that he completed in exchange for money.” Previously, Dr. Soon has also reacted angrily when questioned about his funding sources, and though he has acknowledged some corporate ties, he has not been upfront or clear about his sources.
Historian of science Naomi Oreskes, also at Harvard University, has weighed in on this case and its broader implications for scientific debate. She told the Times, “The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate…Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”
Perhaps then those who deny climate change are less interested in science than the “political theater” of the relentless back-and-forth between themselves and those they disagree with. Like parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, the views of these people say less about their scientific knowledge and more about their inability to trust the government or any ‘outside’ source of knowledge.
(Photo courtesy of Mark van Laere)