Willie Soon A Heartland Institute Star Since 2003: Was He Paid? If So, When And With Whose Money?


Willie Soon has gained a global spotlight from many recent news articles (New York Times, Boston Globe, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc).  This was lit by documents obtained from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), whose former director had said of Soon that “no one pays any attention to him.”  An impassioned defense was published, not by the CfA, but by the Heartland Institute, for whom he seems vastly more important, a tireless star.  Heartland has even purchased Google AdWords, so the first hit for Willie Soon is this:

Heartland buys Google AdWords for Willie Soon

Soon’s frequent efforts for Heartland started no later than 2003.  They raise questions about potential unreported Conflict of Interest  even if unpaid. But did Heartland pay him? If so, how much, when, for what and with whose money? Heartland is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) “public charity” whose climate anti-science tactics were preceded by a long history of paid efforts for tobacco companies, as per Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free Of Tax.

Readers unfamiliar wiith Soon might start with DeSmogBlog’s profile. and follow by reading  story of a personal encounter. The history and other details motivate some questions, summarized next, then explained in detail.

Q1: Was Soon paid as Lead Author for Heartland’s NIPCC (2013)?
Q2: Was Soon paid as Lead Author for Heartland’s NIPCC (2011)?
Q3: Did Heartland pay Soon expenses or speaking fees for conferences?
Q4: How did Soon get connected with Donors Trust and funded by it?
Q5: Did Heartland pay Soon for any articles in their newsletter?
Q6: Did Heartland pay Soon as a Heartland “Expert”?
Q7: Where has Hearland gotten the money for climate anti-science?

Maybe these questions will start being asked by people who can demand answers.

Q1: The 2012 Heartland Budget pp.7-8 detailed Heartland’s spending plan for its 2013 Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report.
It allocated $467,000 for “(2) Payment to lead authors and contributors.” Subsection authors were to get $500-$1,000/month. It listed Willie Soon “contributor – paid by review – assume $1500/year.” ($125/month).

This only proved intent to pay and Heartland needed to raise money, as seen in their 2012 Fundraising Plan. However, the final report showed Soon not as reviewer but as Lead Author of Chapter 3 – Solar Forcing,  which must have been demanding, since his co-Lead was a fossil company geologist, Sebastian Luning.
The report was published and Soon played a major role.
Was he paid and paid comparably with the other Lead Authors?

Q2: Soon was also a Contributor to the NIPCC (2011) Report, pp.415-416. Fakery 2, pp.34-36, 43-67 analyzes the report and its financials, rather opaque since NIPCC is not broken out separately.  Was he paid anything for this work?

Q3: Soon spoke at 6 Heartland International Climate Conferences (ICCCn):

year    City        Soon’s talk, linked to video when available
1 2008 New York “An Overview of Global Warming Science”
Although he usually quit claimng CfA affiliation for such talks, sponsors often remained “confused.” As late as 2011, the Wall Street Journal curiously described him as “Mr. Soon, a natural scientist at Harvard, is an expert on mercury and public health issues.”
In a report to the Southern Company, p.57(b), Soon claimed credit for this talk, although he gave a different title: “Global Warming 101: Al Gore’s CO2 Theory.””  One might ask who actually paid for this trip.  Heartland? Southern? Soon himself?

2 2009 New York “Disconnects in Sun-climate Studies: Removing Politics from the Science”

4 2010 Chicago “The Sun, the Milky Way and the C02 Monster”

6 2011 Washington, DC “A Circum-Global View on Sun-Climate Connection”

7 2012 Chicago “Almighty CO2, Giant Boa Snake and the Sun (What controls the equator-to-pole temperature distribution of the earth’s surface?)
Brendan Montague reported an unusual interview:

During a one-hour, nine minute interview he managed to attack his former sponsors at ExxonMobil, disparage his hosts at Heartland, and reveal that his employers were already seriously angry about his oil and coal sponsorships. …

Of course I will be labelled. I don’t want to go to the think tank because it’s going to immediately label you. But remember, I have to eat.”

Indeed, Soon was very disparaging about his fellow presenters at the Heartland Institute conference in Chicago that year.

In my point of view I can say that 50 percent is wrong here  too extreme. People are trying to argue that you cannot make a CO2 measurement,” he said.’

9 2014 Las Vegas IPCC: Gangster Science” plus “Still ‘Gangster Science’ and “Winner of the Courage in Defense of Science Award” See DeSmogBlog post.

Readers might sample these general-audience talks and decide whether they are science or anti-science. If these xamples are insufficient,  many more are available for the truly persistent.

Q4: In February 2012, DeSmogBlog published Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax, whose search for Heartland funding led to examination of Donors Trust, later shown to be a key dark money funder of climate denial, including that of Heartland.  It was a quite obscure entity not known for funding climate science, but somehow Soon got funding from it in 2010. Was Soon led to this by Heartland, also funded? If so, who helped him? Who was the real funder using Donors Trust to mask identity from CfA?

More research was integrated into the Fakery 2 update later in 2012, adding more data on Donors Trust, pp.68-76.  Case-sensitive PDF Search for “Soon” yields 35 hits, so he was quite visible in Heartland material.

Q5: In 2003, Soon started publishing articles and getting quoted often in Heartland’s Environment and Climate News (E&CN), summarized on Fakery 2 p.97. Was he paid or just happy to publish these somewhere? He certainly got quoted often by others. Following are 4 articles found during 2001-January 2012:
p.140 2003.07-1 Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas
Analysis Finds Our Climate Unremarkable
This was an infamously bad paper, led to mass resignations, published via “pal review.
p.154 2005.01-17 Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas
Consensus Can Be Bad for Climate Science
p.155 2005.02-11 Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas
Wind Farms May Threaten Crop Productions
p.164 2006.02-17 Willie Soon
Fish Is Good for You “Such mercury fears are unfounded in science.”

Fakery 2 links to the actual E&CN issues so readers can see the text.

Q6: Soon is a Heartland “Expert,” one of many. Do any of them get paid? Or is this perhaps just an ego-boost for people willing to affiliate with a group that still supports nicotine addiction of teenagers and young adults?

Q7: Heartland has a proven history of donations from direct or indirect fossil-energy interests (Fakery 2, pp.43-67), but much funding is still dark. Unlike Soon’s grants at CfA, Heartland does not reveal donors or their connections to specific activities, and Donors Trust seems designed to get around IRS disclosure rules.

Money is fungible. If Heartland seriously expects anyone to believe there has been zero fossil fuel money behind its climate anti-science efforts, it can prove that by publishing the real donors and the money flows.  Whether from corporations, individuals or private foundations, it is unclear why these activities deserve tax-breaks.  Who has paid for Heartland climate anti-science?

There still remain many questions on payments and undisclosed conflicts of interest, questions that ought to be asked by people who can get answers.

Soon may have been a star for Heartland, but sometimes stars go nova.


Willie Soon Attacks Funders of Climate Denial for ‘Lack of Courage’

How Often Were Willie Soon’s Industry-Funded “Deliverables” Referenced by the IPCC?

Heartland Institute 58 Experts Poster Remixed by DeSmog, Willie Soon Among Denialist Dozens

Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine 

UPDATE 03/06/15 Added the Heartland Google Adwords coment and image. Removed *s for a  few URLs that did not seem to work when this was written, but unchanged, work now.  H/T Lionel Smith.

Related Posts


DeSmog investigation finds multiple financial risks of work for fossil fuel clients aren't being assessed.

DeSmog investigation finds multiple financial risks of work for fossil fuel clients aren't being assessed.

Defeat of law by right-wing MEPs would be “final nail in the coffin” for Green Deal, say campaigners.

Defeat of law by right-wing MEPs would be “final nail in the coffin” for Green Deal, say campaigners.

From attacks on “eco-madness” and accusations of a “Net Zero Hoax”, here’s our climate guide to the MPs contesting Labour’s seat.

From attacks on “eco-madness” and accusations of a “Net Zero Hoax”, here’s our climate guide to the MPs contesting Labour’s seat.

Saudi Aramco is using Formula One to confuse and mislead.

Saudi Aramco is using Formula One to confuse and mislead.