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Google Still Supporting Climate Change Deniers. Why Google, Why?

  • Posted on: 27 September 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

The heartland institute funded this billboard.

Yet another Google-funded organization is out promoting conspiracy theories about the threat of man-made global warming. On Monday, September 23, the Google-financed Heritage Foundation hosted hosted Heartland Institute president Joseph Bast, Willie Soon, and Bob Carter to present “Climate Change Reconsidered II,” in which they argued that the world’s scientific community have systematically overstated the dangers to humanity of unregulated carbon pollution.

Like the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, Soon, and Carter have significant funding from the fossil-fuel industry and a long record of questioning not only the economics of regulating climate pollution but the underlying science itself, as explained in our new Dealing in Doubt report

Greenpeace activists confronted Bast at Heritage after the event, asking him to reveal whether Chicago magnate Barre Seid funded the multimillion-dollar climate-denial initiative. Bast refused to answer the question.


 

Since Google’s selection of former Republican representative Susan Molinari as their chief lobbyist, the Internet giant has embraced key players in the climate-denial machine. In the last few months, Google was the top funder of the annual dinner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, famed for its “CO2: We Call It Life” ads, held a fundraiser for the re-election of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who penned the book “The Greatest Hoax,” and was revealed to be a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has argued that “substantial global warming is likely to be of benefit to the United States.”

Google’s support of the Heritage Foundation elicited new criticism from climate scientists associated with the company.

“Their motto may be ‘don’t be evil,’ but they apparently don’t have any problem with giving it money,” climate scientist Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, told Hill Heat in an e-mail interview.

“If you want to be a corporate leader on climate change or science education, you should fund groups to combat the anti-science garbage produced by Heritage, not the other way around,” said climate scientist Simon Donner, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, when asked for comment.

Dr. Dessler and Dr. Donner were Google Climate Science Communication Fellows in 2011. They and 15 other Fellows recently sent an open letter to the company criticizing its fundraiser for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), writing that “in the face of urgent threats like climate change, there are times where companies like Google must display moral leadership and carefully evaluate their political bedfellows.”

In a campaign led by climate accountability organization Forecast the Facts, over 150,000 people have signed petitions challenging Google’s support for climate deniers, and have staged protests in Washington DC, New York City, and Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

 
Here's a link to the Google-ALEC petition:
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Michigan State: students highlight Willie Soon's oil and coal-funded climate denial career

  • Posted on: 8 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image from a USA Today article detailing Willie Soon's at events to confuse the public over climate science.

Written by Rachna Pannu. This event was covered in the Michigan State News by Simon Schuster, whose interview with Dr. Willie Soon confirms CFACT paid for Soon to attend these events.

Dr. Willie Soon, a well-known climate change denier, was invited by the MSU Campus Conservatives at Michigan State University to talk about climate change.  The event was sanctioned by CFACT, an obscure but vocal group among climate science deniers. We at MSU Greenpeace saw this as a great opportunity to have some of our members attend and question the reasons and methods with which he chooses to deny what 98% of climate scientists have agreed to be true
 
The bulk of Dr. Soon’s talk involved aggressively targeting published or well-known supporters of climate change prevention, including professors, Al Gore, and federal, national and international organizations. He went through the data, attempting to discredit it with conflicting data from other studies and experiments. However, this aspect of his talk left me with more questions than answers, especially since he is a known recipient of oil and coal money.
 

Willie Soon’s fossil fuel-funded career

 
Willie Soon spent a good amount of the talk repeatedly defending himself as an independent scientist simply seeking to learn the truth before anyone had even questioned his motives and his expertise. He ranted that people question his funding and his intentions, but he is just an objective man trying to get to the truth of climate change. He also used this opportunity to criticize the current scientific model of publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals, claiming that it was a buddy-buddy system and peer-reviewing did not affect the validity of the article.
 
Essentially, Dr. Soon was warding off the holes in his credentials before anyone had questioned them because his doctorate is in astrophysics, which is not even related to the Earth’s climate, and has only been able to publish one article on climate science in a peer-reviewed journal. Even that article was hotly debated by the editors, who wrote a negative response and resigned from their positions in outrage. And Willie Soon's funding? It comes from fossil fuel companie--like ExxonMobil and Southern Company--totaling over $1 million in the last decade.
 

Questionable Climate ‘Science’ 

 
Willie Soon pulled up a graph showing the temperature range over a series of years in the 2000’s and asked rhetorically whether anyone could see an increase in the temperatures over time. Yes, I could, but I would rather like to question the validity of using a period of less than 10 years to examine the change in the Earth’s temperature over time. In another example, he showed a graph that analyzed both the variance in amplitude and shift in time for the predictions of temperatures by many different model used by scientists. The models were dispersed around the central point of zero difference in amplitude and zero shift in time, but he simply stated that the image showed errors in all of the models and stated that none of them were in the lower left corner. Why they should be in a region of less amplitude and a negative shift in time in relation to the actual temperature patterns baffles me.  
 
Members of MSU Greenpeace questioned Soon about his articles on climate science, and he became aggressive and very defensive, stating that peer-review did not signify greater accuracy (peer-review is crucial to ensuring the highest conduct in scientific research). When a member of The State News, the MSU student newspaper, asked why with about 13,900 published articles on the verity of climate change and only twenty-something that argue the reverse he felt that climate change did not exist, Dr. Soon again became frustrated. Soon referred to a quote from Albert Einstein, saying that it only takes one person to disprove what everyone agrees upon. Read coverage of this event from the State News here.
 
There was no way to have an effective discourse about climate change with Dr. Willie Soon because he refused to accept the very basic premises of our current scientific standards that peer-review ensures accuracy of the published articles and that a large consensus by educated individuals who have done their own research into a matter indicates the verity of the hypothesis. In addition, some of the data and sources he provided seemed either not applicable or reputable as we are taught is critical to reliable scientific research. 
 

Dr. Soon adds Ocean Acidification Denial to his Growing list of Specialties

 
Separate from Willie Soon’s questionable assertions about global temperature trends were his assertions used to dismiss ocean acidification, a serious problem that is linked with increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (caused by companies funding Dr. Soon, like ExxonMobil and Southern Company). Soon's sources were shaky--data cited from a BlogSpot website, for instance, not exactly a credentialed scientific institution. He disputed a report by a marine biologist that claims increasing CO2 content of the ocean results in weakening of the shells of marine organisms by interfering with their ability to use calcium carbonate in their shells. 
 
Scientists who are serious about scientific standards tell us that ocean acidification is having a profound impact on coral reefs (they are dying rapidly), and scientists are working to determine if more acidic oceans are impacting crustaceans, ocean animals that have shells. Dr. Soon apparently already has the answers, stating that crabs and lobster shells were not composed of significant amounts of calcium carbonate, and then he provided data that showed lobsters and crabs increasing in size after carbon dioxide was bubbled through their water. If indeed the shells of crustaceans are not mainly composed of calcium carbonate, how does an experiment showing the effect of carbon dioxide presence in the water of lobster and crabs conflict with the statement that it affects the availability of calcium carbonate? 
 

Soon’s Limited Audience

 
The only thing I can say is that I felt some relief in that he was only able to attempt to influence a half-filled classroom composed of 1/3 individuals who did not attend the university and already believed in Soon’s paranoid vision of the world and 1/3 supporters of the movement to protect our planet. There are always a few doubters, a few critics and a few conspiracy theorists that refuse to acknowledge global warming no matter how much evidence is presented to them. If we can get the majority of rational individuals to understand the changes occurring to the environment, we can create change to save our planet and make it a healthier place to live. 
 
Rachna Pannu
Senior, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology B.S. 
Lyman Briggs College
Michigan State University
 

 

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Exxon- and Koch-funded scientist Willie Soon confronted at University of Wisconsin over discredited climate research

  • Posted on: 8 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Hannah Noll.

I was just getting out of class last Tuesday when Dan Cannon, Greenpeace Student Network Coordinator, called to inform me that Dr. Willie Soon was coming to University of Wisconsin-Madison the following night to “challenge the Global Warming status quo.” I attend school an hour away, but I just couldn’t allow myself to pass this opportunity up. I had prior knowledge that there are climate deniers that are funded from Big Coal and Big Oil, but what I learned about Willie Soon's funding, motives, works published, and past (and present) controversies shocked me.

“Harvard Astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon,” as listed on the fossil-fuel funded Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow’s event notification, consistently misrepresents himself to seem credible. Dr. Soon is not employed by Harvard University as suggested by CFACT Campus, but he uses the affiliation with the university to his advantage. He works for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Though located on Harvard’s campus, the group is not officially associated with the University, and Harvard University has distanced itself from Soon. He is an astrophysicist by training, but has no formal education on climate science.
 
His self-misrepresentation alone wouldn’t be jaw-dropping, but when paired with information about Willie Soon’s funding, it is clear that something fishy is going on here. The last grant he received from a funder with no ties to dirty energy interests was in 2002 (a grant that carried through to 2006). Since then, he has been entirely funded by fossil fuel interests. Dr. Soon has received over $1 million in coal, oil and gas funding for his work, including funding from Southern Company, the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, Texaco (now Chevron), and the Koch Brothers. Greenpeace Freedom Of Information Act inquiries to Smithsonian Institute reveal that in 2011 and 2012, Dr. Soon received nearly $115,000 from Donors Trust. He has been caught directly coordinating with lobbyists from ExxonMobil to undermine the United Nation’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report before it was even released. IPCC is the global research authority on climate change. 
 

Recounting the day’s events:

When the time came to leave Milwaukee for CFACT's event in Madison, Lynda Mouledoux and I probably had over 100 different species of butterflies in our stomachs. I’m just a college student, but this was my chance to demand accountability from someone meddling with important science in order to hold the world back from addressing climate change. After his presentation, he held a question and answer session. I came prepared to ask critical questions. During the questioning, something must’ve gotten under his skin and caused an aggressive and defensive posture that launched phrases like “childish,” “extremely rude,” “wrong,” and “if you had a bit of intelligence”  Not once did I use a personal attack on him; I was simply asking him about factual details of his career and those funding it.
 
My ask was "You have received over one million dollars in funds from coal and oil interests. The last grant you received from a funder with no ties to the energy industry was in 2002. That's over a decade ago. So Dr. Soon, why should we trust someone without credentials in climate science whose work is only funded by coal and oil interests?”  Watch the video below to see his reaction to this question.
 
 
Dr. Soon made an interesting claim, emphasis added:
"I don't like to claim that I am an expert on anything, but I have enough knowledge about climate science and climate system to be able to write scientific papers and go to meetings and talk about monsoon systems and talk about any other things that you want to discuss about climate science issues. I'm as qualified as anybody that you know on this planet on this topic"
But Soon certainly appears to claim that he’s an expert on things outside of his expertise. His lack of climate science credentials aside, perhaps the $290,000 he has received from coal-burning utility Southern Company explains why he abruptly appeared in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed dismissing mercury pollution from coal plants. The op-ed, titled "The Myth of Killer Mercury," ends with the following description:
Mr. Soon, a natural scientist at Harvard, is an expert on mercury and public health issues.
...except Soon doesn’t work for Harvard and carries no formal expertise on “mercury and public health issues.” Co-authoring that article was Paul Driessen, another known fossil fuel shill from the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)--the parent organization to the campus group hosting Soon’s discussion on climate science.
 
We’re living in a time where corporations and junk science are crippling the effectiveness of our own government to serve us. According to Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, “ExxonMobil made more money each of the last three years than any company in the history of money.” Corporations put profits over people and destroy the earth to please shareholders. I refuse to accept this, so I will continue to perform Non-violent Direct Action in order to do my best to change the status quo.
This blog was written by Hannah Noll. Hannah is a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Campus Coordinator with the Greenpeace Student Network, and a Greenpeace Semester alumna.
 
Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.
 
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Report Highlights Failure of Media to Disclose Fossil Fuel Interests

  • Posted on: 12 December 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Freshly released today: a report by the Checks & Balances Project examining how often top U.S. newspapers fail to attribute fossil fuel ties to organizations or people that appear news articles to promote fossil fuels, demonize clean energy or promote delay of climate change solutions. Tracking ten of the top fossil fuel front groups in 58 leading U.S. newspapers, the new report finds over 1,000 instances where ties to or funding from coal, oil and gas interests was not disclosed when including a shill group or quoting one of its "experts."

Only 6% of the time were fossil fuel ties disclosed when these top 58 newspapers reported on the ten fossil fuel front groups examined in the study. These groups wind up in the paper, on average, at least once every other day. In the five-year window the report uses, the ten front groups got at least $16 million from coal, oil and gas interests.

According to Checks & Balances:

These groups, and their proponents, have been quoted on average every other day for the past five years in 60 of the largest mainstream newspapers and publications. Despite having received millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, these groups’ financial ties to the fossil fuel industry are rarely mentioned.

Deniers are already taking notice--see Steven Milloy's complaints here. Steve Milloy has been a central climate denier, who was paid to shill for tobacco company Phillip Morris and oil giant Exxon before work for the Cato Institute (see below) and starting the climate denial website "JunkScience."

The ten groups that Checks & Balances examined are well-established fossil fuel apologists. Here is a roundup of watchdog sites with more information on each of these organizations' historic funding from and work for fossil fuel interests like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries (2006-2010 funding figures compiled in the Checks & Balances Project report):

American Enterprise Institute (AEI): $1.675 million from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI): $88,279 from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Cato Institute: $1.385 million from Koch/Exxon (2006-2010)

George C. Marshall Institute: $675,000 from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Heartland Institute: $115,000 from Exxon (2006-2010, see also $25,000 grant from Charles Koch in 2011)

Heritage Foundation: $2.523 million from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Hudson Institute: $75,000 from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Institute for Energy Research (IER): $310,000 from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Manhattan Institute: $1.38 million from fossil fuel interests (2006-2010)

Mercatus Center: $8.06 million from fossil fuel interest (2006-2010)

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More corporate funders drop the anti-science Heartland Institute, Including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon, and CUNA

  • Posted on: 24 May 2012
  • By: JesseColeman

UPDATE: Statement from Forecast the Facts added below (click here to see)

Pharmaceutical giants Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, along with Verizon, Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, and Credit Union National Association, have announced that they will not fund the climate change denying Heartland Institute in 2012.  According to the Heartland Institute’s own fundraising document, it hoped to receive $130,000 from these potential funders this year.  Today’s announcement brings the total number of corporate sponsors to drop Heartland to 15, representing $955,000 of Heartland’s projected $7.7 million budget this year.

This announcement comes in response to a petition signed by over 150,000 people calling for Heartland’s corporate funders to drop support of the organization, which recently ran a billboard campaign in Chicago comparing those that advocate for solutions to climate change to “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”  The petition was organized by Forecast the Facts, Greenpeace, SumofUs, Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and 350.org.

The Heartland Institute just finished their 7th“International Conference on Climate Change” which ran from May21-23 in Chicago.  The conferences, which provides a platform and meeting space for professional climate science deniers, are dedicated to attacking the climate scientists and the scientific consensus on climate change.  This years conference also questioned the authenticity of President Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. Because of the funding gaps brought on by the mass defection of corporate sponsors Heartland Institute president Joe Bast.  Joe Bast said at the conference:

"I hope to see you at a future conference, but at this point we have no plans to do another ICCC.”

Major corporations and trade groups like Nucor, Pfizer, Reynolds American Inc., and Phrma continue to fund the Heartland Institute.

Statement from Forecast the Facts on healthcare companies distancing themselves from the Heartland Institute:

"Forecast the Facts applauds the decision of pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer to sever their relationship with the Heartland Institute and its denial of scientific fact. Unfortunately, corporations like Pfizer and United Healthcare have yet to follow suit, ignoring the concerns of more than 160,000 concerned citizens, customers, and shareholders. Health-care companies have a special responsibility to act, as climate pollution is the key public health threat of the 21st century." -- Brad Johnson, Campaign Manager, Forecast the Facts

 

Recent press on the Heartland Institute:

Some of the major corproations still funding Heartland's climate denial:

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Senator Inhofe admits his views on climate science based on money

  • Posted on: 16 March 2012
  • By: JesseColeman

But first, a dose of climate reality:

In a recent study, scientists found that climate change will decrease the number of seasonal flowers, leading to an overall decrease in the number of butterflies, who rely on flowers for a sustainable source of energy - no destruction required.  Another recent study found that climate change will increase the number of Lyme disease infected ticks, parasites that drill into their prey and extract their blood, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. 

It’s almost poetic that continued reliance on puncturing the earth and sucking out the oil will lead to more parasites puncturing and sucking us in return…

 

Speaking of bothersome pests - Senator James Inhofe, staunch global warming denier and human prune, went on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his new book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

During the interview, the good Senator from Oklahoma repeated his belief that a global conspiracy of environmentalists and scientists (and global temperature readings) are colluding to create the illusion of a changing climate, just to justify taxes. 

See the left portion of this graphic for a summation of Inhofe’s climate views:

 

Though Inhofe has said ludicrous things about climate science many times before, he rarely mentions why he initially became such a zealous climate denier. 

As he revealed in the interview, Inhofe became skeptical of climate science once he found out solving the looming climate crisis might cost money.  In the interview he said “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

So, if Inhofe lets money dictate his policies, what does it mean that the top three contributors to his campaign are dirty energy companies (Koch industries being #1), or that he has taken well over $1 million from the fossil fuel industry since 1999?

Come on Inhofe, dont be such a tick.
 

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Study Finds Big Oil Money Controls Federal Research Spending, Influences Academia

  • Posted on: 19 October 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

Who needs academic freedom when you got money?

Oil companies are dictating future energy options by choosing which academic research projects recieve funding.

A recent report by the Center for American Progress found that over the past decade, five of the world’s top 10 oil companies—ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell Group, and ConocoPhillips Co.—and other large traditional energy companies with a direct commercial stake in future energy markets have forged dozens of multi-year, multi-million-dollar alliances with top U.S. universities and scientists to carry out energy-related research.

The results of the report’s analysis of university-industry contracts raise troubling questions about the ability of U.S. universities to adequately safeguard their core academic and public-interest functions when negotiating research contracts with large corporate funders.

In nine of the 10 energy-research agreements analyzed, the university partners failed to retain majority academic control over the central governing body charged with directing the university-industry alliance. Four of the 10 alliances actually give the industry sponsors full governance control.

These findings are not surprising when the amount of money put down directly by Big Oil is taken in to account.  10 university-industry agreements together totaled $833 million in confirmed corporate funding (over 10 years) for energy research funding on campus.

As large as this figure is, it represents less than half of what Industry actually controls.

Because of the federal government’s growing preference for allocating federal R&D funds through corporate matching grants and other cost-sharing and cooperative-research arrangements, private industry now directly influences anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent of university research funding overall. In this way, a significant share of U.S. taxpayer funding that starts out as “public” funding is effectively turned “private” by the time it reaches the university investigators in their academic labs.

 

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The Koch brothers' dirty money in California

  • Posted on: 23 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

The New York Times editorial "The Brothers Koch and AB 32" takes on efforts by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch to block California's signature climate law by pouring money into Proposition 23:

Four years ago, bipartisan majorities in the California Legislature approved a landmark clean energy bill that many hoped would serve as a template for a national effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil and mitigate the threat of climate change.

Now a well-financed coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil and gas companies and climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill that law with an initiative on the November state ballot. The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.

Flint Hills, a wholly-owned subsidiary of oil giant Koch Industries based in Kansas, has joined with Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro in trying to block California's landmark climate legislation by funding the campaign to pass Proposition 23. As the second largest private company in the US, Koch Industries has plenty of money to pour into this fight. Greenpeace: Koch Industries: Secretly funding the climate denial machine

In fact, the $1 million from the oil billionaires is only one tentacle of the oily Kochtopus. As we detailed in our report "Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine," oil billionaires David and Charles Koch have become kingpins of climate denial, funneling tens of millions of dollars to front groups and think tanks that oppose climate and clean energy policies. In recent years, they have even surpassed ExxonMobil in contributions to climate denial organizations.

Those front-group-tentacles have also reached California. David Koch's favorite front group, "Americans for Prosperity," is running TV ads promoting Proposition 23, and AFP's California director has said that the Prop 23 is the group's "top priority." Although AFP purports to be a 'grassroots' organization, in fact it was founded and is co-chaired by David Koch, and, as our report shows, Koch Foundations have poured more than $5 million into this front group. As David Axelrod told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker in her extraordinary investigative article exposing the Koch brothers, "What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

The Kochs are also directly funding political candidates who will support their agenda — including California senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who supports Proposition 23. KochPAC gave her $5,000 earlier this year, and is even co-hosting a fundraiser for her in Washington DC to give thousands more.

The fight over clean energy and climate policy in California is dripping with out-of-state oil money because the oil billionaires want to stamp out the progress that has been made to move toward clean energy and energy efficiency, and keep us addicted to their fossil fuels. That's how they became oil billionaires, after all. The NYT editorial concludes:

Who wins if this law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.

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