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« The Haunting 2 | Main | UEA financials »
Friday
Jul012011

Conflict of interest

The AGW upholder community is all a-quiver with the news that Willie Soon received a lot of money from the oil industry. Even Monbiot himself is on the case, with a stream of tweets on the subject:

Secret funding of climate change deniers exposed again: . Key issue here is that interests never declared.

In fact, they were flatly denied. Funny how the same story keeps recurring, just with different names.

Is there a single prominent denier who won't turn out to have been funded by an oil or coal company, or by the Koch brothers?

: That's just what we're not going to get. CC deniers go to great lengths to keep their sources of funding secret.

In response, Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal, notes that COI disclosures are now the norm for medical journals.

Now obviously there's a bit of Monbiot "puff" going on here, but I think we should look on this enthusiasm for disclosure of conflicts of interest as an area in which widespread agreement should be possible.

Perhaps George would like to consider a joint call (a) for the IPCC to activate its COI policy for all AR5 working groups with immediate effect and (b) for climate journals to require disclosure of conflicts of interest in the way that medical journals do. I'll write and ask him.

Where there is discord, may we bring harmony...

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Reader Comments (68)

Monbiot:

Is there a single prominent denier who won't turn out to have been funded by an oil or coal company, or by the Koch brothers?

The theory here has to include the words 'prominent' and 'denier'. These guys then influence the little fish like me, who don't receive oil and coal money. Or like Steve McIntyre or Andrew Montford, who don't. Hmm. What about Judith Curry? Are all her concerns about the IPCC and the hockey stick, for one thing, explained by such a framework? People that adopt it seem to ignore such concerns so I guess they feel it does.

I've been thinking again about this mindset since talking face to face with Paul Nurse and reading a quote from my old friend Connie St. Louis (who I've not seen for a while). I think this is the mental model. Big Oil and Coal funds the real influencers and these corrupted people influence the morons. But I don't think at least three of the four individuals mentioned in the first paragraph are able thus to be categorised.

I don't have any objection to Soon receiving money from any source - I believe him when he says that he'd happily accept a grant from Greenpeace and it wouldn't affect the science he was doing. But I really wonder at the reasoning of a Monbiot. It's so foreign to all my experience in this area.

Jul 1, 2011 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

AGW-ers, in their Alice-like world, like to change the meanings of words to meanings they like. Thus in their new model lexicon, 'peer-reviewed' has come to mean 'must be good/right/correct'. Similarly, 'Big Oil Funding' has come to mean 'must be essentially fake research producing answers that serve the paymasters economic interests'. And of course there we all were thinking that Big Oil has research interests it wants investigated, properly, of course to ultimately serve its interests. Just like Big Aero, or Big Auto does, largely because the State quite reasonably doesn't see why it should pay for research which will have specific commercial applications for a limited number of end users. So, Big Oil Funding = bad is at best disingenuous, at worst dishonest. And of course when the squeals go up, the Big Oil Funding of the greenies is conveniently overlooked. So perhaps the proposition is, 'Big Oil Funding = bad except when its funding us which is different'.

Jul 1, 2011 at 7:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

IMHO, they know the foundations of AGW are about to be shaken to the core with the Mann email and surface station FOI releases. These are desparate last ditch attempts to misdirect, "big oil" funds research on both sides of the debate !

Jul 1, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJason F

I thought Monbiot had declared the use of the word 'denier' unacceptable. Like all other sceptics out there, I look forward to the day when I get a cheque in the post from Shell/BP/Texaco. Typical bollocks from the Guardian crew, they can't produce any empirical evidence for the CO2 thesis, and can't defend the hockey team's practices, so they perpetuate the unfounded oil shill slurs.

Jul 1, 2011 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Judith Curry wrote a fair summary on funding.

http://judithcurry.com/2011/02/14/blame-on-heartland-cato-marshall-etc/

This quote from her essay put hings in perspective and this should be obvious to the likes of Monbiot.

"Well, who is David and who is Goliath here? My first reaction to all this is that those fossil fuel companies and the Koch brothers sure are stingy with all their $$billions in terms of spending it to refute climate change. With only a few scientists or other analysts on staff. Compared to 97% of climate scientists, that must number in the thousands. Compared to $$billions spent by governments on climate research, not to mention $$billions spent by enviro advocacy groups (many of whom have annual budgets exceeding $100M). "

Jul 1, 2011 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

I'd like them to be honest and put a simple pie chart up of AGW funding against all the science that goes against AGW, It'd probably be like Cuba taking on the US in financal terms and yet AGW is still a miserable failure when it comes to the real world (although the models show diffrent).

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Moonbat:


Secret funding of climate change deniers exposed again: bit.ly/m6Yjlp. Key issue here is that interests never declared.

Soon and Balliunas 2003:

Acknowledgements. This work was supported by funds from
the American Petroleum Institute (01-0000-4579),...

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

If Willie Soon has deliberately been hiding the source of his funding ( and I have no idea of the circumstances of this claim) .....he is in the wrong. No matter from whom he has been receiving it.
Why do people do this?
Just because research is funded by say, Greenpeace, does not make it invalid but it is a signal that extra care is needed when looking at the conclusions of any research to ensure that no institutional spin has been put on it.
Much as I have "issues" with Monbiot...he is at least consistant in his calls for complete transparency, even if he is a bit shaky on COI requests...etc..
The question that needs to be asked of Monbiot is: Are you then calling Willie Soon's research corrupt?

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Jack, it always pays to check the facts before accepting anything Monbiot says. See comment above.

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

Jack Savage: Just because research is funded by say, Greenpeace, does not make it invalid

Oh, I don't know.

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Much as I have "issues" with Monbiot...he is at least consistant in his calls for complete transparency ...

That's the good part of Monbiot, agree with that. It's his extrapolation from one instance to a mad theory about all 'prominent deniers' that I find extraordinary. (And I still, like Anthony Watts, deeply object to the second word. Anyway.)

I find it hard to believe that "Willie Soon has deliberately been hiding the source of his funding", given his reaction quoted in the The Guardian itself, but perhaps that's true. I'd say that was unwise more than wrong. Transparency matters enormously at the IPCC level though and if the price to be paid is declaration of all sources at all levels then I guess it's worth it.

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Just a thought. Last time I Wikipidea searched oil as a fossil fuel, it maintained that oil was "generally believed" to be a fossil fuel. I understand that the Russians many years ago suspected that it was in fact a mineral based fuel, their oil industry has blossomed since, although that may be coincidental. So there seems to be no "scientific" evidence that oil is indeed a fossil fuel, only that it is generally believed to be! Are people not putting the cart before the horse in the first instance based on fairly shakey ground - after all, 2,500 scientists can't be wrong, or can they be? As to COI, the hypocracy knows no limitations!

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

The whole "big-oil funding" meme is what John Cook (lately of this parish) and his faithful sidekick Tonto Dana would eloquently describe as "A Crock".

The major oil groups, like most large multinational technology based companies, have scientific research interests across a wide range of fields and most of them are players in the alternative energy business.

Way back in the eighties, I worked closely with BP solar on the development of large area, amorphous silicon solar cells. Sadly, despite a considerable investment, the efficiency never became commercially viable - but BP Solar is still a major supplier of solar panels based on more conventional silicon technology.

BP is also a big player in wind and other renewable technology sectors.

Shell Solar has installed some of the largest solar farms in Europe.

All the major oil companies support research by AGW supporting scientists (including CRU) - so it would be extraordinary if they didn't spend a small amount to keep abreast of the other side of the story.

The Greenpeace Willie Soon "big-oil" schtick is a hysterical non-story aimed at gullible, mud-dwelling Guardianistas like Vidal, Hickman and Monbiot.

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

PaulM:

Jack, it always pays to check the facts before accepting anything Monbiot says. See comment above.

Strictly speaking, one example of transparency doesn't prove he was open about all his funding. But thanks for digging this 2003 example out. As I say, I doubt he has been hiding anything.

Meanwhile the attempt at a 'smoking gun' in the emails amounts to this:

In one 2003 email released to Greenpeace, that Soon sent, it is believed, to four other leading sceptics, he writes: "Clearly [the fourth assessment report] chapters may be too much for any one of us to tackle them all ... But as a team, we may give it our best shot to try to anticipate and counter some of the chapters ..." He adds: "I hope we can ... see what we can do to weaken the fourth assessment report."

If that's the sum total of the 'plotting' uncovered this email cache is going to find it hard to rival the Climategate one. But I'm sure Greenpeace and friends will try ...

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Dyck, Soon et al 2007 paper on polar bears:

W. Soon’s effort for the completion of this paper was partially supported by grants from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation

Soon 2005 paper on solar influence on the arctic:

This scientific research was supported by generous grants from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation.

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

"he'd happily accept a grant from Greenpeace and it wouldn't affect the science he was doing."

Which is why they wouldn't give him one...

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Alan the Brit

The "mineral" hypothesis has been around for a long time. I'm fairly out of date, it's a long time since my last cheque from Big Oil, but nothing has ever come of it. The Swedish government wasted 10s of millions of dollars drilling through granite to find nothing except drill contamination.

What the Russans have is conventional oil in (relatively) unusual weathered igneous reservoirs. The oil doesn't care about the reservoir material. An example of a weathered igneous reservoir is Big Bear (Dai Hung) in Vietnam. BHP caught a cold on that one.

Jul 1, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

I think Jason F is heading down the right track with his thinking. They are getting desperate ( or running out of things to say ). Lord Monckton is Australia at the moment and is getting blasted from all sides
( the idiots don't realise it is all just free publicity for his tour ). The latest is the people that own the venues which have been booked for his talks are being pressured to not allow the talks to take place
( today it was a rugby league club facility ).

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

PaulM: thanks. He sure makes a bad conspirator this guy, he keeps blurting out the truth in his publications. Must work harder.

James P: :)

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I've been tweeting George Monbiot about PaulM's comment.

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

It is apparent that Soon has acknowledged his source of grants, despite what George said. Can the same be said for the prominent AGW authors? As others have ponted out, with UEA having been funded by big oil money, where has been their COI?

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

Why would Monbiot care about this? He's obviously only interested in smearing the 'deniers'.

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered Commenteramabo

From the CRU history website:

Acknowledgements
This list is not fully exhaustive, but we would like to acknowledge the support of the following funders (in alphabetical order): .... British Petroleum, ... Shell, ...

See also this WUWT post about the climategate emails where CRU ask for money from Shell BP and Esso.

Double standards George?

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

Didn't the CRU receive funding from Oil Companies?

And if they did, what exactly is the objection?

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

Ooops PaulM, missed your previous post.

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

I understand Monbiot is funded by Autotrader magazine. Can I surmise from that that he has the proof of the CO2 AGW hypothesis but his paymasters believe it to be against their interests for him to release it?
To George I say this: come on man, stop all this innuendo, you might loose your job but think of the greater good!

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Monbiot,

I'm a reasonably prominent climate skeptic/denier who has not spent a cent aquired from any vested interest party. There are two reasons. First, I conduct science at my expense without selling my soul or my conscience. Second, nobody has made me an offer.

So, you can add one to your list of people who fit your currently-vacant category. Note as well that I use my real name and have even put a c.v. into climate blogs.

On the right of reply principle, do I know any reporters who are unpaid or uninfluenced by media barons, some of whom stand to lose a lot of money when CAGW crumbles? No. Are you going to volunteer your name now to start the alternate list?

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Damn. Proofreading hopeless. Moment passed.

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Monbiot,

I'm a reasonably prominent climate skeptic/denier who has not spent a cent aquired from any vested interest party. There are two reasons. First, I conduct science at my expense without selling my soul or my conscience. Second, nobody has made me an offer.

So, you can add one to your list of people who fit your currently-vacant category. Note as well that I use my real name and have even put a c.v. into climate blogs.

On the right of reply principle, do I know any reporters who are unpaid or uninfluenced by media barons, some of whom stand to lose a lot of money when CAGW crumbles? No. Are you going to volunteer your name now to start the alternate list?

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

re PaulM's comments:
It's taken George Monbiot/Guardian 8 years to spot this? Just shows how much investigative journalism they do, cut and paste is so much easier don't you think? Or perhaps they think everyone else is like them and won't bother to check the facts.

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"Monbiot is funded by Autotrader magazine"

Deep joy!

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

James P

Surely it is that The Guardian and Monbiot are subsidised by second hand car dealers, amateurs and professionals.

Not sure who I trust the least. People who will state what is necessary to keep the churn and income stream positive or car dealers

Jul 1, 2011 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

I would trust him when he says he believes what he thinks he knows about the second hand car he tries to sell me is true. But I wouldn't drive it.

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

The Russian theory on oil being an exhalation from the earth's mantle, and hence basically inexhaustible, was around before plate tectonics explained the unexpected depth of some Russian reservoirs better.

Hector's general point is quite right tough - petroluem geologists don't really care whether the generally accepted thery of il's origin is right or not. What they care about is whether it works as a model for making real-world predictions as to where oil can be found. It is pretty good at this.

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Any car dealers out there with advice on how The Guardian could be more successful shifting unreliable, unwanted and unsustainable rubbish off the forecourt, and try and make a profit?

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Lada for sale. 20 yrs old, very low mileage, original condition (Didn't work then, doesn't work now)

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

"The Greenpeace Willie Soon "big-oil" schtick is a hysterical non-story aimed at gullible, mud-dwelling Guardianistas like Vidal, Hickman and Monbiot."

After having had a careful look round.....this indeed seems to be the case. Is this all the shot CAGW brigade have left in their locker? Faux-outrage as something already well known?

Maybe there really is something very,very special in Michael Mann's soon-to-be-viewable emails. Is it really wicked of me to hope so?

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

I assume the coincidence of timing of this particular brouhaha with the ICCC6 meeting is just that, a coincidence.
My cynical reporter's brain can't resist noticing this opportunistic collision of events. Certainly while you are talking about one thing you can't be talking about the other. Peas? Thimbles?

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMIke Jackson

Monbiot has plumbed the depths of hysterical non-objective, eyes-wide-shut 'investigative' reporting. This is a monumental 'own goal' when Willie Soon has always declared his funding.
But I must hold my hand up to receiving cash from 'big oil', too, before I am exposed for all the world to see as a shill for Big Oil. Over forty years ago I worked for a few weeks in a Caltex (California and Texas Oil Company) regional depot on the outskirts of a provincial NZ town.. My job was to assist customers such as market gardeners and weed-spraying contractors and the like to load product, to wash and spray-paint used 44 gallon.oil drums and to mow the depot lawns by shifting the three tethered sheep that actually mowed the lawns and were being fattened for the Christmas staff and family barbecue. After a month of mild physical activity and lots of wandering about in the sunshine, I began the university employment I had been waiting for.
So that's it, George. Come and get me. I have confessed and my conscience is now clear!

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

I must be a shill for Big Oil too. Between 1970 and 1973 (ish) I worked after school and at weekends as a pump jockey at the local ARCO service station. From memory I got 25p per hour and 1p for each pint of oil I sold.

This largesse has had a profound influence on my life and I have been in complete thrall to the petroleum industry ever since.

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

GC

I was forgetting the connection between the Graudiad and Autotrader (Uatrotedar?). Does Monbiot still drive his old Clio, or has he bought a Hummer yet?

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"Graudiad" Oh no - I spelled it wrong!

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Any car dealers out there with advice on how The Guardian could be more successful shifting unreliable, unwanted and unsustainable rubbish off the forecourt, and try and make a profit?
Jul 1, 2011 at 12:07 PM golf charley

V Good.

I suppose it we're going to have absolute transparency, the Graun banner ought to read :-

The Guardian and Used Cars Not Quite Good Enough For Respectable Dealers Emporium

With a by line - "Comment is free, but facts are sacred (speedometer readings excluded)"

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Alan the Brit: Put "abiotic oil" into a search engine, Alan, and settle down for a week's reading. I go with abiotic; but the debate fires hot...

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

One more example:
Central England temperatures: monthly means 1659 to 1973
G Manley, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1974.

This paper has 558 citations and is the paper that set up CET, building on a previous paper by the same author. The final paragraph says

I am indebted to the Shell Organisation for a personal research grant...

Jul 1, 2011 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

There's a good passage in Michael Crichton's novel, State of Fear, where it's put to the young idealistic lawyer, the hero, that as most of his work comes from environmental groups, he might be conflicted. His indignation is a joy to behold - it is only people who take oil money who can be corrupted. He is one of the good guys. Such underlying automatic assumptions are prevalent in daily life.

Jul 1, 2011 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

Wow. This is simply priceless.

Has anyone noticed how the consensus side is starved of any interesting stories to tell? All they do is play at copycats. When the various IPCC-gates tumbled out, they tried a few 'gates' of their own. And now, when the IPCC is strung up in conflict-of-interest resolution, they pull this conflict-of-interest story out of the hat. Greenpeace has to do all the work for them: write them their renewable energy reports, tabulate expenditures of advocacy groups on the 'other side', and dig up 'investigative material' for them. All this, in addition to banner-unfurling in order to revive their drooping morale, at regular intervals.

Mr Monbiot, you must know better than others how licking at the feet of power, robs you of your capacity for insight, and analysis. It is a law of nature.

Jul 1, 2011 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I love the idea of search engines running on abiotic oil!


I'll get my coat .........

Jul 1, 2011 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMIke Jackson

"George Monbiot has issued a correction/apology.."

Albeit in a much smaller font size.

Jul 1, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

So if you are looking for honest advice, and do not want to end up with egg on your face, putting your trust in Greenpeace is not a good idea. Wow, what a shocker for IPCC, Guardian, Monbiot, Nurse, Royal Society etc

I expect George is on the phone to his mates at Greenpeace already looking for the next expose

Jul 1, 2011 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

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