Lawmaker asks whether MIT climate researcher took oil money

Richard LindzenRichard LindzenA prominent Democratic congressman is probing MIT about funding for professor emeritus Richard S. Lindzen, who is known for his skepticism of what he calls climate change “alarmism.”

“My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships,” wrote Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, in a letter to President L. Rafael Reif.

Grijalva sent similar letters to six other universities on Tuesday. He is asking for detailed records about funding and other compensation for researchers who have testified before lawmakers and challenged the scientific consensus on global warming.

Lindzen, who spent three decades in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science, said Grijalva is “conducting a witch hunt in the tradition of McCarthyism.”

Regarding funding for his own work, Lindzen said he was not worried at all about what might come to light: “[Grijalva] has no evidence, and there is no evidence because there’s nothing to find.”

“I think the hope is you throw a lot of mud, and some of it’ll stick, and maybe you’ll get away with it,” Lindzen said. “This is just extraordinarily poor behavior.”

Grijalva’s letter came just after revelations that Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who also doubted the risks of climate change, failed to disclose sponsorship from the fossil-fuel industry in many of his papers.

An MIT spokesperson, Kimberly Allen, said on Wednesday that Reif was reviewing the congressman’s request with MIT’s provost and vice president for research. An assistant to Reif, Karla Casey, said that he had asked MIT’s lawyers to look into the request.

“I do hope that, on a matter of principle, that President Reif refuses this request,” Lindzen said. “It has no legal basis, and once he opens that up, he’s open to harassment.”