Companies and climate controversy

Most companies and industry organizations, especially those whose brands appear on consumer products, avoid controversial issues apparently because they do not want to alienate customers or attract consumer boycotts and the risk of mayhem at annual meetings. A few, however, seem to revel in controversial issues. GallonDaily is puzzled as to their motivation, unless they believe that secrets will be kept or that ultimately the public will not care.

Greenpeace in the United States has just published a report on funding of the work of Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist who is a climate change denier and, more recently, a defender of the safety of mercury emissions from coal fired power plants.

According to Greenpeace, Soon’s attacks on climate science have been funded over the last sixteen years by

  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • Mobil Foundation
  • Texaco Foundation
  • ExxonMobil Foundation
  • Charles G. Koch Foundation (Koch Industries Inc. has been labelled by Forbes magazine as the second largest privately-held company in the US and is involved in petroleum, chemicals, energy, pulp and paper, and ranching, among others)
  • Southern Company (an electric power utility)

The Greenpeace report also points out that Prof. Soon apparently describes himself as “a natural scientist at Harvard, [is] an expert on mercury and public health issues” though, according to Greenpeace, he “has no affiliation with Harvard University except sharing a building with Harvard students and staff on Harvard’s campus”.

Companies are allowed to take whatever position they wish on public policy issues, provided, for public companies, that their actions are in the interests of providing a return on investment to their shareholders. We wonder, however, why some of the above would jeopardize their reputations by funding activity that is so much in conflict with mainstream science.

The Greenpeace report Dr. Willie Soon: a Career Fueled by Koch, Big Oil and Coal is available through links in the announcement at

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