Harvard-Smithsonian Physicist: Computer Models Used by U.N. Overstate Global Warming

Barbara Hollingsworth | March 18, 2015 | 1:13pm EDT
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Dr. Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon, researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (Heartland Institute)

) – A scholarly paper explaining why predictions made by climate computer models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tend to exaggerate global warming has ignited a political firestorm.

Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a solar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, came under attack by environmentalists after co-authoring a peer-reviewed paper explaining “the widening discrepancy between prediction and observation” in climate change models, and members of Congress soon took sides.

The scientific paper, entitled “Why Models Run Hot,” concludes that the computer models overstated the impact of CO2 on the climate: "The impact of anthropogenic global warming over the next century... may be no more than one-third to one-half of IPCC's current projections."

The paper was published January 8 in China’s Science Bulletin, and has been downloaded more than any other paper in the publication’s history.

The paper was co-authored by Lord Christopher MoncktonDavid Legates and William “Matt” Briggs.

“The billion-dollar climate models that have so profitably predicted Thermageddon are hopelessly wrong,” Monckton said.

“We said the models were wrong because they were using a rogue equation borrowed from electronic circuitry and bolted on to the climate, where it does not fit. That equation, and that alone, leads the modelers erroneously to triple the small and harmless 1 Cº global warming we should expect from a doubling of CO2 in the air,” he wrote.

“Our irreducibly simple climate model does not replace more complex models, but it does expose major errors and exaggeration in those models, such as the over-emphasis on positive or amplifying temperature feedbacks,” Monckton explained.

“Take away the erroneous assumption that strongly net-positive feedback triples the rate of manmade global warming and the imagined climate crisis vanishes.”

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(Science Bulletin)

The paper generated a blizzard of responses, including an accusation by former Greenpeace researcher Kert Davies that Soon had failed to disclose “substantial funding from the fossil fuel industry” totaling more than $1.2 million over the last decade.

According to documents obtained by Davies under the Freedom of Information Act, donations to support Soon’s research on the link between solar radiation and climate change were signed off by Smithsonian officials, including center Director Charles Alcock, and the checks were made out directly to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

They included a $76,106 donation for “general support” for Soon’s research from ExxonMobil that was reclassified as an “unrestricted contribution” at the request of Smithsonian advance and external affairs officer Amanda Preston, who signed an affidavit on April 2, 2009 stating that no “goods and/or services [were] provided to ExxonMobile in return for this contribution.”

Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas confirmed to CNSNews.com that the Smithsonian accepted the donations, and then gave Soon a grant for his research after keeping 30 percent of the funds for “overhead.”

The Smithsonian does not monitor potential conflicts of interest when it accepts donations for targeted research, St. Thomas told CNSNews.com. “Individual scientists go to the science journals themselves and they have their own regulations about what researchers must tell them about conflicts of interest,” she said.

Heartland Institute senior fellow Robert Carter argued that Soon met all of the publication’s disclosure requirements.

“Because of the way in which the Smithsonian oversees and manages outside funding sources, simply by identifying himself on publications as being engaged by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Dr. Soon makes full and sufficient disclosure that he has no funding conflicts regarding his research.

"No further disclosure of funding sources is necessary because, for a scientist employed in this fashion, there simply are none,” Carter wrote in Soon’s defense, calling the attacks on him “false, mean-spirited, insulting and potentially libelous.”

One of Soon’s co-authors pointed out that they did not receive any financial remuneration for the Science Bulletin paper.

”Soon, like most research scientists, has in the past accepted money from sources other than our beneficent government (and what makes government money pure?),” Briggs said. “But we did this paper on our own time driven only by our intellectual curiosity. We had no conflict of interest of any kind.”

Nonetheless, the Smithsonian announced on February 22 that it was “greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research,” and has asked the inspector general to “review the matter.”

Two days later, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter citing the Soon controversy to seven universities, including the University of Delaware where Legates works, citing “potential conflicts of interest and failure to disclose corporate funding sources in academic climate research.”

The letter, which Grijalva later admitted was “an overreach,” asked for all sources of external funding that Legates and six other climate researchers who have challenged the prevailing "consensus" on global warming received, as well as copies of their correspondence.

Minority Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works also cited the Greenpeace allegations in a Feb. 25 letter they sent to 100 “fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations to determine whether they are funding scientific studies designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution,” according to the Climate Investigations Center (CIC) founded by Davies.

Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT) asked each group for a list of all research projects they have funded over the past ten years “as well as support for other efforts related to climate change.”

One of the recipients accused the three Democrats of “an attempt to silence public debate.”

“Are you not aware that neither his employer, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, nor the journal that published the scholarly article in question… has found Dr. Soon violated any of their rules or disclosure policies? Who asked you to repeat that lie?” Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, wrote back.

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Bast’s organization, which is sponsoring its Tenth International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, D.C. this June, gave its 2014 Courage in Defense of Science Award to Soon last year for challenging “computer modelers and advocates who consistently underestimate solar influences on cloud formation, ocean currents, and wind that cause climate to change.”

“I am very proud to report that The Heartland Institute has spent millions of dollars over the past ten years supporting scientific research that contradicts alarmist claims about climate change,” Bast said in his reply, adding that all the requested information could easily be found on The Heartland Institute’s websites.

Eleven majority members of the Senate Environment Committee then sent a letter to the same groups on February 27 calling their minority colleagues’ previous missive “wholly inappropriate.”

“Rather than empower scientists and researchers to expand the public discourse on climate science and other environmental topics, the [Democrats’] letter could be viewed as an attempt to silence legitimate intellectual and scientific inquiry,” the Republicans' letter said.

It was signed by Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), and Senators David Vitter (R-LA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Boozman (R-AR), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

In a March 2 statement, Soon called the Greenpeace-initiated attacks on him “a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming….

“Let me be clear. I have never been motivated by financial gain to write any scientific paper, nor have I ever hidden grants or any other alleged conflict of interest.

“I have been a solar and stellar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a quarter of a century, during which time I have published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The fact that my research has been supported in part by donations to the Smithsonian Institution from many sources, including some energy producers, has long been a matter of public record.

“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. I would ask only that other authors - on all sides of the debate - are also required to make similar disclosures.

“And I call on the media outlets that have so quickly repeated my attackers’ accusations to similarly look into the motivations of and disclosures that may or may not have been made by their preferred, IPCC-linked scientists.”

Related: Record CO2 Coincides With Record-Breaking Crop Yields

Related: Monckton: Political Danger Rises As Evidence of Global Warming Declines

Related: Climate Scientist: 73 UN Climate Models Wrong, No Global Warming in 17 Years

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