Why Does Exxon Care About Polar Bears?

by Kert Davies

November 4, 2007

Why would Exxon pay a known global warming denial scientist to spread doubt about the impact of global warming on polar bears?   Hmmm, interesting question.  More to the point, why would Exxon want to keep the public from connecting fossil fuel combustion and greenhouse gas emissions to the bear’s demise?

We discovered this plot in the spring, during the flood of discussion around our legal action to force the US Fish &Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the polar bear as an the endangered species.  This work, initiated by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2005, has helped to elevate attention to the polar bears’ plight, generating wave upon wave of media coverage.  

During the public comment period on the proposed bear listing, a draft of a new polar bear science paper surfaced. It had been submitted to the obscure Journal of Ecological Complexity. The paper’s lead author is Markus Dyck of Nunavut Arctic College, the co-authors include several lead ExxonSecrets actors, Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, David Legates and Tim Ball.

DeSmogBlog has more goods on Mr. Ball here.

Here’s a new map of this gang and their wide connections to the Exxon-funded network of front groups.

These people and organizations are also detailed on our new wiki pages.  Please add more stuff if you’ve got it!

The Alaskan Department of Fish and Game even referenced the paper in its comments to the USFWS this spring.

Fast forward…Ecological Complexity finally published the paper this summer as a Viewpoint article – not peer reviewed.  Then the fun began…in the back page acknowledgments we read that Mr. Soon started this work with Dyck in 2002, but then he makes a startling admission:

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

The Koch Foundation is a known contributor to several free-market libertarian organizations including the Cato Institute.  The Koch brothers recently bought Georgia Pacific Corporation using their oil bankroll.

We know Soon and Baliunas have been paid by API before, most notably for their 2003 attack on Micheal Mann’s “hockey stick” work published by the George Marshall Institute  as reported by Jeff Nesmith of Cox News Service in June 2003, just as we launched.

But direct funding from ExxonMobil Corporation is something very unusual to see in print and certainly demands some answers from Exxon.

After an October 17th House Science Committee hearing entitled, Disappearing Polar Bears and Permafrost: Is a Global Warming Tipping Point Embedded in the Ice?, Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina penned a letter to Exxon demanding answers.  He wrote, “Exxon has the right to fund any research or publications it wishes.  However, the Congress and the public have the right to know why ExxonMobil is funding a scientist whose writing is outside his area of expertise to create the impression that expert scientists have conducted rigorous, peer-reviewed work that says the problems with polar bears are unproven or unserious.”

ABC.com “The Blotter” covered Rep. Miller’s letter well. New Scientist also covered the story, but fell for another corporate front group, quoting Craig Loehle, one of the editors of the Journal of Ecological Complexity, who defends Willie Soon’s right to take corporate money.  New Scientist failed to note that Loehle’s organization, the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. is funded by the timber and paper industry.  NCASI calls itself an "Independent non-profit research institute that focuses on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry".  hmmm…www.kimberlyclarksecrets?

Back to the Dyck, Soon paper, there are so many blatant flaws in the “science” of the paper that leading polar bear scientists Sterling and Derocher felt compelled to respond here.  Derocher has been going back and forth with these characters for years its seems.

When we asked the ice scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center for their take on the Dyck, Soon paper, they sent back pages and pages of detailed analysis of the errors and omissions in the paper’s sea ice assumptions and conclusions.

There are real questions remaining for you investigative reporters out there.

How much was Mr Soon paid?
Over what time period?  
Exactly what was the contract from Exxon?
Are there other scientists getting cash straight from Exxon Corporate?
Why doesn’t the company report this "science" funding to its shareholders?

…Enough for now, but this story will continue.

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