Opinion: Counterpoint to Peter Williams
Wednesday 7 Aug 2019Why sources matter in a climate of ignorance – In an article recently published by Newshub (and which appeared in WoodWeek last week), Magic Talk host Peter Williams challenged readers to tell him that so-called climate expert Dr Willie Soon doesn't know what he's talking about. In reply, Newsroom’s Joel Rindelaub explains why it's so important for those weighing on climate science to be transparent about their funding sources and conflicts of interest.
With all due respect, Mr Williams: Willie Soon does not know what he is talking about. Not only does Soon propagate material that misrepresents our current understanding of science, he has also displayed ethically dubious behaviour while doing so.
Let’s start with Soon’s credentials. As opposed to what Williams’ column would imply, Soon is not an astrophysicist. In fact, he is not even an employee of Harvard. Soon is a part-time scientist at the Smithsonian Institute, where even his employers have distanced themselves from his radical views, releasing a statement that supports human-induced climate change.
The Smithsonian Institute is not the only establishment to support the scientific consensus on climate change. Nearly 200 scientific organisations worldwide hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action.
In his research, Soon has published articles that have been criticised by scientists for their methodology and misuse of data. Additionally, he has accepted more than $1.2 million USD from the fossil fuel industry for his research while simultaneously withholding this funding information in many of his research publications. The failure to disclose funding sources and potential conflicts of interest is an egregious breach of scientific integrity and ethical guidelines, and it calls into question the validity of the motives for his work.
But we shouldn’t waste all of our time on Soon. The opinion of a single scientist does not constitute a consensus much like the results from a single scientific paper does not represent an absolute certainty.
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