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Complainant Name:
Dr Willie Soon

Clauses Noted: 1, 2

Publication: The Guardian


Dr Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics complained that an article reporting on Sarah Palins campaign to prevent polar bears becoming protected as an endangered species had inaccurately implied that he had not fully disclosed all of the sources of funding in his research into the connection between variations in solar activity and the climate of the Arctic, and therefore that his conclusions were influenced by the source of his funding. In fact, he had openly declared the sources of his funding from the outset. The complainant was also concerned that he had not been offered an opportunity to respond to these claims.


The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following letter written by the complainant:

Your article (October 1) inaccurately implies that I wrote a paper demonstrating that none of the published studies on the imagined threat to polar bears from imagined global warming had followed the established scientific norms for population forecasting because I had received a grant from ExxonMobil. Not so. The rules of the leading journals in which my research is published are clear: the sources of funding must be openly declared in the paper, so peer reviewers can take them into account when deciding whether the scientific analysis has sufficient merit to justify publication.

Since 2002 ExxonMobil has also supported 22 other studies on Arctic wildlife and ecosystems. Main authors of these papers included researchers who proposed the (pointless) listing of polar bears under the US Endangered Species Act. There is, therefore, no more basis for your implication that my results were tainted by ExxonMobils funding than that other similarly funded results that better suited your editorial prejudice in favour of the alarmist consensus were tainted.

I do not write papers because ExxonMobil or Greenpeace pays me to, but because my academic researches demonstrate that the sun, not carbon dioxide, is the chief driver of Arctic temperatures, and that much of the evidence for the bears imminent demise is speculative. Indeed the population has increased fivefold since the 1950s, mainly because of restricted hunting. Where the Arctic has cooled, bears dwindle: where it has warmed, they increase.

Polar bears evolved from brown bears 200,000 years ago and therefore must have survived the last interglacial period, when global temperatures were many degrees warmer than the present. More perspective and less prejudice, please.

Report: 78

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