Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Why Willie Soongata May Be But the Start


With Willie Soongata going great gums Eli turns to his friend Jules, nonono, not the photosnapping Jules (Eli has some suspicions about what she has been up to) but Jules of the Klimaat Blog who has been tip toeing through the Legacy Tobacco Archives where he has discovered the source of all astroturf.

Of course, that is the tobacco industry, but in light of what has come to light in the last weeks it is eerily like the tip of today's iceberg, except that Jules has explored the underwater bulk, not completely, but enough to explain the current push back.

This is a long story, the short version that Jules has published takes fifteen pages with more to come, and there is supplementary material.  Oh my, there is supplementary material, but let us simply look at the summary
The recent case showing how climate skeptic Wei-Hook 'Willie' Soon was heavily funded by the fossil-fuel industry has once again drawn attention to the 'tobacco strategy' of casting pseudoscientific doubt on a scientific topic.

The tobacco industry used a series of scientists in so-called 'truth squads' to deny the harmfulness of second-hand smoking.

Lesser known is how the industry handed out well over 1 million dollars to a secret network of over 100 American economics professors, known as the "economists network".

The aim of the network was preventing the government imposing higher excise taxes on tobacco to cover social costs related to smoking. The economists were hired to spread economic doubt on the effectiveness of social cost related actions by the government.

The network, lead by George Mason University professor Robert D. Tollison and tobacco consultant James Savarese, engaged in different activities.

This paper will prove how the economists were:

-Targetting the media in well organized op-ed campaigns.
All op-eds had to be cleared by the tobacco industry's lawyers before publication The economists earned up to $3,000 per op-ed they managed to get published in newspapers

Testifying at political hearings
The economists earned up to $10.000 per hearing Some economists defended arguments they knew were flawed

Producing 'scientific' papers that were approved by the tobacco industry.
The economists earned up to $40.000 per scientific paper they published Some economists "authored" reports actually written by the tobacco industry Every single scientific paper was cleared - corrected by the tobacco industry's lawyers

Producing pro-tobacco books 
Robert D. Tollison and Richard E. Wagner wrote/edited at least 5 pro-tobacco books
The books were promoted in well organized media-tours funded by the industry all over the USA, the authors receiving media training organized by the tobacco lobby on how to deal with tricky questions Positive book review were sent to newspapers by other members of the network 

The economists consistently forgot to mention they were paid by the Tobacco Institute.
Details at the Klimaat Blog

A member of the US Congress,  Rep. Raul Grijalva sent letters to a number of universities asking for information on Prof Utonium 

Prof. Utonium being one of  David Legates at UDel, John Christy at UAlabama Huntsville, Judith Curry at Georgia Tech, Richard Lindzen at MIT, Robert Balling at ASU, Roger Pielke Jr. at UColorado Boulder and Steven Hayward at Pepperdine.

In light of this it is perhaps, well really clear instead of perhaps, why Rep. Raul Grijalva thought there might be fire under the smoke that some have covered his committee with.  Many, including the AMS and AGU and some who comment at Rabett Run have had problems with these letters as being intrusive and discouraging free interchange amongst scientists and between scientists and the public.

Eli submits that given the history of these folk, remembering that Heartland at the core of the opposition to climate change legislation was one of the public relations operations that the Tobacco Lobby used to oppose regulation of tobacco and, of course that Heartland did budget to fund at least one Utonium, Prof. Balling perhaps, Rep. Grijalva was not operating right off the wall.

The letters inquired, not too politely about
1. What is your university's policy on employee financial disclosure? Please provide a full copy of all applicable policies, including but not limited to those applying to Prof.Utonium.
The letter was sent to the president's of the universities and this information is public.  however, Grijlava went too far, as he himself now admits, when he asked for
2. For those instances already mentioned and others that apply, please provide:
a. all drafts of Utonium's testimony before any government body or agency or that which, to your knowledge, he helped prepare for others;
b. communications regarding testimony preparation.
However, in light of what we know about the tobacco and other industrial astroturf operations it certainly was reasonable to ask for
3. Please provide information on Prof. Utonium’s sources of external funding. “External funding” refers to consulting fees, promotional considerations, speaking fees, honoraria, travel expenses, salary, compensation and other monies given to Prof. Utonium that did not originate from the institution itself Please include:

a. The source of funding;
b. The amount of funding;
c. The reason for receiving the funding;
d. For grants, a description of the research proposal and copy of the funded grant;
e. Communications regarding the funding. 
4. Please provide all financial disclosure forms filed by Prof Utonium in which MIT is listed as his professional affiliation, even if it is only stated for purposes of identification.  
5. Please provide Prof Utonium’s total annual compensation for each year covered here.
 and these are all documents that are in the possession of the University.

Photo from Climate Social on Twitter

50 comments:

Donald Gisselbeck said...

Given the billions at stake with both tobacco and fossil fuels, the industries involved sure look like cheapskates.

Magnus Westerstrand said...

This dark money thing is there any way of getting round that? Seems like it is easy to get away with it like lomborg...

Everett F Sargent said...

We The People Petition Titled:

Nominate Willard Anthony Watts as the next Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization created by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, will elect a new chair this year. The post is currently being filled by an interim chair following the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri.

The United States has currently nominated Dr. Christopher Field. We petition the current administration to withdraw his nomination and instead nominate Willard Anthony Watts.

Willard Anthony Watts is an American TV meteorologist who runs the blog Watts Up With That? which is billed as “The world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change”. His understanding of the science and related policy issues make him a better choice for American Fossil Fuel interests.”

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/nominate-willard-anthony-watts-next-chair-intergovernmental-panel-climate-change/ktC7w1Md

Shorter URL:

http://wh.gov/ijHfm

Don’t expect too many votes, but 150 votes would at least make it visible in the current list of petitions.

Victor Venema said...

We should know about funding, but I still feel it is wrong to ask this only about a group of people for their political opinion. You can solve this by creating a database with the funding of everyone, which creates much more transparency that a few shot in the dark letters.

Tom Gray said...

> Given the billions at stake with both tobacco and fossil fuels, the industries involved sure look like cheapskates.

Yep, but then, why would they pay more than the market requires? It's evident that even the most slipshod crap is enough to feed the media's yen for a controversy.

Lars Karlsson said...

"It's evident that even the most slipshod crap is enough to feed the media's yen for a controversy."

The media that depends on advertisement money from the tobacco and fossil fuel industries.

EliRabett said...

Everette, are you and Russell double teaming wee willard?

Hank Roberts said...

"We have the best government that money can buy." - Mark Twain
_______________________________
kimstanleyrobinson.info/w/index.php5?title=Fifty_Degrees_Below

[Edgardo:] (p.114).

"The economists should be trying to invent an honest accounting system that doesn't keep exteriorizing costs. When you exteriorize costs onto future generations you can make any damn thing profitable, but it isn't really true. I warn you, this will be one of the hardest things we might try. Economics is incorrigible. They call it the dismal science but actually it's the happy religion."

Russell Seitz said...

If nominated I will not run, and if elected, I shall demand a recount, until such time as UNEP provides a smoking section at IPCC meetings, for climate modeling is definitely a two pipe problem.


Any way to surface a list of Fred Singer's cout appearances as a professional witness in his patent troll days ?

JohnMashey said...

Jules is doing good work, more to come.

Regarding Tollison and George Mason University, see pp.58-62 of <a href="http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/see.no_.evil_.s, Speak Little Truth ... PDF (2012)</a>
GMU Economics ~ Kochs + tobacco.

Russell Seitz said...

Willie's Heartland handlers have outdone themselves - if irony had mass, their latest press rease would have an event horizon.

nigguraths said...

Koomey says his paper derived no federal support but he submitted the paper to count against it. Akbari's paper, it appears, was submitted to OSTI at one point but the database entry subsequently deleted.

These are people who don't follow the rules, out to destroy an individual's livelihood, for doing better than them.

Romm's article contains lies written specifically targeted at people who don't have an understanding of how the system works. He says Soon wrote papers his funding agency asked for, on the basis Soon reporting the written papers to the granting agency. Why don't you correct him?

EliRabett said...


There is no counter including dollars where Willie Soon was or is doing much better that a blogger sitting in his mom's basement in his underwear. Soon has been hanging on with his fingernails for over a decade. His own description of himself as a post-doc gives you a strong clue.

That, of course, is why he did much of what he did do and by the way Southern is a company, not a funding agency. Soon has not had any funding from a funding agency in maybe forever. He probably had some salary funding through Baliiunas a decade ago or more

Finally, Shrub, perhaps you know where Sally Baliunas is. She has completely disappeared. Neither good nor bad on that, but just curious.

JohnMashey said...

Eli: you are confused: Shrub was Molly Ivens' counsge, ie a small Bush. Without the r, Lovecraft."

andthentheresphysics said...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69iB-xy0u4A

nigguraths said...

Rabett, I meant Soon did better than Akbari, Romm and Koomey in terms of disclosure. They took federal funding and left gaps in reporting it. Koomey is particularly egregious.

I don't think Romm even understands what conflict-of-interest means.

JohnMashey said...

ATTP: yes, but really Molly Ivins' Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

JohnMashey,

Everyone should read Molly Ivins. She had an amazing insight into the id of Texas and therefore the id of America. I miss her dearly.

Russell Seitz said...

While Hollywood is full of folks testifying that re-makes aren't addictive , they have failed to suppress Christopher Buckley's ' Thank You For Not Smoking ', which inspired Merchant's of Doubt by celebrating a dining club of Dangerous Stuff lobbyists and professional congressional witnesses who dub themselves "The Merchants of Death" .

The same author provides a terrifyingly funny and realistic account of what Vice Presidential PR flacks and West Wing speechwriters get up to in The White House Mess

andthentheresphysics said...

ATTP: yes, but really Molly Ivins' Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush.
Yes, that may well be apt, but I did like the analogy that Shrub's attempts to critique climate science (and science in general) is comparable to trying to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring.

JohnMashey said...

Ahh, yes that does fit as well. Some cases are fit by multiple analogies.

Kevin O'Neill said...

The only time I've ever found myself literally rolling on the floor laughing was watching a Molly Ivins' speech on CSPAN.

I later managed to catch one of her appearances at a local university and she was just as impressive and funny.

Short version of one of her favorite stories: a right-wing Republican Texas state legislator introduced a bill banning sodomy, both homosexual and heterosexual. When the legislator succeeded in passing the bill with the help of an ally, the two men high-fived each other in celebration. Seeing this, a Democratic legislator told the sergeant-at-arms he needed to arrest them both, "because under the new law it’s now illegal for a prick to touch an asshole in this state."

nigguraths said...

In 2008, Koomey published a paper 'Worldwide electricity used in data centers' in ERL. He acknowledged funding from AMD in the acknowledgements but the paper is not listed in Scitech Connect. But in 2010 Koomey and co-authors acknowledged federal funding in Scitech Connect but vehemently deny recieving funding.

In 2002, Koomey and co-authors published 'What can history teach us?" A retrospective analysis of long-term energy forecasts in the US' in Annual Reviews of Earth and the environment. DOE contract funding is listed by the authors in Scitech Connect but they fail to disclose this in the journal draft copies.

It appears there is a clear pattern of improper disclosure and reporting practices at the LBNL. Do you think this deserves investigation?

Kevin O'Neill said...

Shub writes: "He acknowledged funding from AMD in the acknowledgements but the paper is not listed in Scitech Connect."

Ummm ... what's your point? Scitech Connect is supposed to be "... a portal to free, publicly-available DOE-sponsored R&D results..." I don't think AMD = DOE.

Oh, and draft copies, are umm.... drafts.

EliRabett said...


FWIW in Eli's experience acknowledgements to funders especially in multi author/institution papers are usually the last thing to be added before submission.

Whoever is coordinating the drafting whips around and asks all of the others what they want for the acknowledgement and it gets tacked on to the end of the paper or in a footnote, whichever the journal uses.

nigguraths said...

Kevin, you say:
""He acknowledged funding from AMD in the acknowledgements but the paper is not listed in Scitech Connect."

Ummm ... what's your point?"

The 2008 ERL paper derives support from AMD. As a result one can presume, Koomey did not submit it to Scitech Connect which is a repository of federally-funded research work.

So, why does Koomey categorically state his 2010 ERL paper derives no financial support, demand an apology from Pielke Jr and smear Soon, when he submitted it to Scitech Connect as federally-funded research work?

Kevin O'Neill said...

shub writes: "...when he submitted it to Scitech Connect as federally-funded research work?"

I'm sorry, do you have a source that claims Koomey submitted it? Or is this just made up BS on your part?

nigguraths said...

Sorry Kevin, I don't play semantic games.

Check this out: In 2005, Koomey published the paper 'Using energy scenarios to explore alternative energy pathways in California' in the journal Energy Policy. The DOE contract funding is not disclosed in the journal article. DOE contract funding is reported to Scitech Connect.

Do you see a pattern emerging?

andthentheresphysics said...

Shrub,
Ignoring the obviously infantile nature of what you're doing here, your arguments appears to be that someone who wrote a paper on energy scenarios in California did not disclose funding from the DoE. This appears to ignore that the person in questions works for a lab that - AFAIA - is funded by the DoE and that they used this as their address on the paper in question. Maybe they should have acknowledged this specific funding line (I don't know) but arguing that they hid some kind of conflict of interest would appear to be rather nonsensical.

Do you see a pattern emerging?
Yes

Kevin O'Neill said...

Shub, it's not a semantic game. That your thought process is so limited that you cannot envision a scenario where Koomey didn't submit it to Scitech Connect, but that someone *else* did is rather telling.

nigguraths said...

Kevin, I find your ethical flexibility quite telling. Perhaps Soon declared funding in his papers but someone else removed them.

Mal Adapted said...

Here's hoping the third time pays:

Shub, whether or not it's disclosed, it's common knowledge that the lion's share of research funding for the DOE National Laboratories comes from the DOE itself. For that matter, private enterprise has historically declined to invest in basic science because ROI is unpredictable, and when it does pay off it's often long delayed; OTOH, investment in science has demonstrated long-term public benefits, so it's widely considered a legitimate use of public funds. Does that seem somehow scandalous to you?

nigguraths said...

Mal, in 2010 a high-ranking member of an environmental advocacy group published a paper based on the organization's self-funded research in a non-peer-reviewed journal, co-wrote major portions of an IPCC chapter as lead author, centered around the pressure group's work, citing his own paper. Immediately following, he and his co-authors made a duplicate submission of the same paper to a different peer-reviewed journal, got it published and went back and cited his own paper in the final version of the IPCC report. Subsequently the main conclusion of this paper then became the press release headline propagated around the world in the name of the IPCC.

The name of the organization is Greenpeace. The same Greenpeace whose former member now makes noise about Willie Soon.

Show me the expression of indignation from online climate supporters

Pressure groups and government both march holding hands on the basis of hastily promoted ideologically motivated poor-quality science, pushing for regulation. It is not industry alone that stands to benefit if it fights back.

andthentheresphysics said...

Mal, in 2010 a high-ranking member of an environmental advocacy group published a paper based on the organization's self-funded research in a non-peer-reviewed journal
If Willie Soon had openly worked for an energy company and had published papers based on research funded by that company, this would not be an issue. This is not a complicated concept!

Show me the expression of indignation from online climate supporters
Show my an argument that is not essentially infantile nonsense from someone who thinks "ooh Greenpeace" is an argument worth making publicly. Do you actually think about what you write before doing so, or do you just get worked up about environmental groups and then write any old nonsense? The answer appears obvious, but I thought I would ask anyway.

nigguraths said...

ATTP, it has been noticed several times that you start commenting on an issue without much first-hand knowledge of it. It then becomes a waste of time explaining things. I can also see you don't have much understanding of the concept of conflict-of-interest.

The IPCC reviewers, unlike you, objected to the use of non-peer-reviewed Greenpeace reports as source material for the IPCC reports. The lead author Greenpeace member then had the material published in a trade magazine as a replacement.

Conflicts-of-interest in Greenpeace members becoming IPCC authors are multiple. Being 'open' about it only resolves some of them.

andthentheresphysics said...

it has been noticed several times that you start commenting on an issue without much first-hand knowledge of it.
Jeepers, that's rich coming from you.

It then becomes a waste of time explaining things. I can also see you don't have much understanding of the concept of conflict-of-interest.

HA HA HA HA HA. So far, you have shown little evidence that you understand this situation at all. Your examples so far seem to be someone working for a DoE lab not disclosing DoE funding and someone associated with Greenpeace.

The IPCC reviewers, unlike you, objected to the use of non-peer-reviewed Greenpeace reports as source material for the IPCC reports.
You might want to try thinking a little bit before saying such stupid things. I wasn't promoting papers by Greenpeace (where did I even say such a think - oh, I know, I didn't). I was simply suggesting that you pointing out, without providing any actual evidence, that someone associated with Greenpeace wrote a paper doesn't have any relevance in this particular situation if that was disclosed.

Here's why I think why what you're doing is childish. It's a bit like being back in School when people would say "he started it" in a whiny voice. If you think there are other situations that should be investigated, go ahead and make the case. None of this, however, changes whether or not Willie Soon's disclosures should be investigated today. If you want to get all worked up about these other cases, go ahead; other people don't have to.

Anyway, this is particularly silly, so I'll leave you to it.

Kevin O'Neill said...

shub writes: "Perhaps Soon declared funding in his papers but someone else removed them."

Are you now suggesting that Soon has lied in his response?

And I notice that you never put forward any evidence that Koomey submitted it to Scitech - so my assumption that it's just a fantasy on your part is correct? Or do you have evidence and just forgot to post it?


Russell Seitz said...

Shub Nigguraths :

" Sorry Kevin, I don't play semantic games."


What did you say your name was?

nigguraths said...

Kevin, sorry for the late response. But, you can't track answers to your own questions? First you suggested some 'else' wrote in the federal funding reporting in Koomey's papers but then you say someone else could not not have done the same with Soon? I don't get it.

More broadly, 'my dog ate the homework' is not a valid excuse even if your dog did eat the homework. You are responsible for whatever happens to the text of your own papers.

Soon has no 'conflicts', except in the imagination of Greenpeace. But, in terms of disclosure, he should follow journal requirements just like everyone else in his field does, just as journal rules require. If everyone else in his field do not uniformly report funding, he should not.

Sorry ATTP, you are too ignorant of the events I mentioned that I cannot respond to your comments.

andthentheresphysics said...

Shrub,
Sorry ATTP, you are too ignorant of the events I mentioned that I cannot respond to your comments.
Yes, whatever. From what I've seen you're neither capable of explaining them properly or putting them into any kind of relevant context. Your overall ignorance of climate science in general, would also probably explain why you seem to think that these supposed events have some kind of actual significance, rather than simply illustrating that not everyone behaves perfectly all the time.

Of course, to be clear, I'm not actually asking - or even hoping - that you will put some effort into explaining the context, since past experience would suggest that that would be a complete and utter waste of my time (well, as this is too, to be honest).

Mal Adapted said...

ATTP: "It's a bit like being back in School when people would say "he started it" in a whiny voice."

Yup. Tu quoque is a standard weapons in the AGW-denier arsenal.

Shub: "Conflicts-of-interest in Greenpeace members becoming IPCC authors are multiple. Being 'open' about it only resolves some of them."

Right, one might almost believe a single non-profit NGO is making up the entire scientific case for AGW as a strategem to dominate the world. I'm not a psychiatrist, so I'm not attempting to diagnose Shub. I will call his argument "conspiracist ideation", though.

nigguraths said...

Mal,
The IPCC had conflict-of-interest policy in place when Sven Teske was allowed to become an IPCC lead author. The first order drafts were not available for scrutiny until after the final version of the report.

You should be concerned that environmental pressure groups are directly writing material into the reports, instead of convincing people about the findings of such reports. Isn't that the kind of worry that motivates you to get angry at Soon? Or is it that undisclosed federal funding and conflicts on one side bother you but the other, do not?

nigguraths said...

Mal, The IPCC had *no* conflict-of-interest policy in place when Sven Teske was allowed to become an IPCC lead author

EliRabett said...


Not sure Shrub wants to dye on that hill.

TAR Technical Summary Lead Author
M. McFarland Dupont Fluoroproducts, USA

TAR WG1 Chapter 3 The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Lead Author
H.S. Kheshgi Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Company, USA

TAR WGII
Dennis Devlin Exxon Mobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc.
Howard Feldman American Petroleum Institute
Kenneth Green Reason Public Policy Institute
Richard Richels Electric Power Research Institute

TAR WGIII
B.P. Flannery Exxon Research and Engineering Co., United States of America
R.O. Jones American Petroleum Institute, United States of America
L. A. Kozak Southern Company Services, United States of America (Ho Ho)

and so on

nigguraths said...

Yes, Rabbit, you would want competent people writing reports. There was an oil guy in the SRREN too. But you wouldn't want a pressure group determining policy, being in a position of a lead author pretending to assess his own work objectively, picking out his own work among 165 others to highlight, committing one of the cardinal sins of academic publishing in order to shepherd one's own work into the IPCC report, would you? I thought you had a better understanding of conflict-of-interest being an academic?

Conflict-of-interest does not arise simply from the person associating himself/herself with 'corporations' or 'industry' (i.e., 'evil') - even at the height of the dawn of COI consciousness, it wasn't anything as crude as that.

The TAR WG2 and 3 reports were probably better than the SRREN given Greenpeace's involvement with it.

Mal Adapted said...

Shub: "You should be concerned that environmental pressure groups are directly writing material into the reports, instead of convincing people about the findings of such reports. Isn't that the kind of worry that motivates you to get angry at Soon? Or is it that undisclosed federal funding and conflicts on one side bother you but the other, do not?"

You have me mistaken for someone else. What surprises me about Soon is that he bothered to conceal his contractual commitments. My countrymen seem quite willing to overlook the pecuniary interest driving the AGW-denier disinformation campaign, even when it's right out in the open.

No, what pisses me off at the moment is your own determination to deny AGW because Greenpeace. Meanwhile, anthropogenic Tyndall gas emissions continue unabated, as does the upward trend of GMST.

You're a tired and tiresome cliche, Shub. But hey -- it's your right to make a fool of yourself on the Internet, where nobody knows you're a dog, but everyone can see at a glance that you're in denial.

Kevin O'Neill said...

shub - I asked you a question. Of course you didn't answer it. But in fact you *are* suggesting that Soon lied.

"...In submitting my academic writings I have always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally, consistent with the level of disclosure made by many of my Smithsonian colleagues.

“If the standards for disclosure are to change, then let them change evenly. If a journal that has peer-reviewed and published my work concludes that additional disclosures are appropriate, I am happy to comply...."


So, while it may easily be true that someone else submitted Koomey's paper to Scitech, it seems hardly likely in Soon's case - unless he was being disingenuous in his statement.

Still awaiting your evidence that Koomey submitted the paper to Scitech - or are you going to withdraw that fantasy?


EliRabett said...


So Shrub, your Greenpeace is somebunny else's Exxon. In both cases Benghazi.

nigguraths said...

Kevin, as I said earlier, it does not matter who submitted Koomey's papers to Scitech Connect. The papers are listed as having received federal funding and these are not declared to the journals. Exactly the same thing you say Soon did.

*You* started the line that someone else other than Koomey submitted his papers to Scitech Connect. I had to then make the point that if Koomey can be exonerated in such creative fashion so could Soon.

Eli, even though you are an academic, you haven't moved past the 'industry is evil' mode of green thinking. Teske's involvement with the SRREN is a problem, not primarily because he is from Greenpeace. When the press release and the summary came out, Ottmar Edenhofer promised everyone the report looked at a wide range of scenarios and Greenpeace's was just one of them. When the first order drafts eventually came out, it turned out the report mainly looked at three scenarios and Greenpeace's was two out of the three. At the time, its material was not even published anywhere. That is strong evidence for bias, and misdirection.

How would you feel if tobacco companies conducted studies that showed a lower risk of lung cancer from smoking, and, were allowed to write the attribution chapter of the Surgeon General report?

Russell Seitz said...

"How would you feel if tobacco companies conducted studies that showed a lower risk of lung cancer from smoking, and, were allowed to write the attribution chapter of the Surgeon General report?"

Better than if you were the editor.