Willie Soon, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist in the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Soon’s career has proven to be a textbook example of speaking truth to power and bravely facing the consequences.
Beginning in 1994, Soon produced an important series of astrophysics papers on the Sun’s impact on Earth’s climate, which received positive discussion in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) second and third assessment reports, released in 1996 and 2001, respectively. Throughout the 1990s, IPCC still acknowledged there were uncertainties about humankind’s potential influence on climate, despite pressure from nongovernmental organizations to find a “smoking gun” in the weak data.
In his 2007 book History of the Science and Politics of Climate Change, Bert Bolin, co-creator and first chairman of IPCC, deplored the denial of uncertainty, writing, “It was non-governmental groups of environmentalists, supported by the mass media who were the ones exaggerating the conclusions that had been carefully formulated by the IPCC.”
In 1997, Bolin told the Associated Press, “Global warming is not something you can ‘prove.’ You try to collect evidence and thereby a picture emerges.”
Soon’s study about the influence of the Sun on climate made him a target for alarmists, but Soon had defenders. In a 2013, Boston Globe article, iconic physicist Freeman Dyson praised Soon.
“The whole point of science is to question accepted dogmas,” said Dyson. “For that reason, I respect Willie Soon as a good scientist and a courageous citizen.”
Unjustified ‘Conflict of Interest’ Claims
In February 2015, Greenpeace agent Kert Davies, a vocal critic of Soon since 1997, falsely accused him of wrongfully failing to disclose “conflicts of interest” to an academic journal he submitted research to. Despite the fact the journal’s editors and the Smithsonian Institution found no violation of their disclosure or conflict of interest rules, Davies’ accusation created a clamor amongst alarmist reporters, who repeated the claim without further investigation.
The Greenpeace ruckus brought pressure from the Obama administration on the Harvard-Smithsonian Center to silence climate skeptics. Smithsonian responded with an elaborate new “Directive on Standards of Conduct,” which forced its employees to wade through bureaucratic rules replete with an ethics counselor and a “Loyalty to the Smithsonian” clause.
Despite the pressure applied to Smithsonian, its inspector general found Soon had not broken any rules, prompting additional attacks from alarmists.
In March and April 2016, two outlets published stories scurrilously demonizing Soon, relying heavily on bogus claims. The two activist-writers, David Hasemyer, who worked for the controversial InsideClimateNews, and Paul Basken, who worked for The Chronicle of Higher Education, seem to have forgotten journalistic ethics and the facts.