Friday, February 3, 2012

Authors of Wall Street Journal climate piece Downplay Industry Ties by Amy Silverstein

Half of the 16 scientists who penned a controversial Wall Street Journal opinion piece proclaiming there is "no need to panic" about global warming have ties to either the oil and gas industry or groups dedicated to debunking climate science, a investigation has found.

The article, criticized by climate scientists and environmental groups, says that the field of climate science is dominated by opportunists and that "a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed."

"Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many," the authors wrote. 

The Journal noted that 16 scientists co-authored the article. But in listing their affiliations at the end of the piece, the paper didn't mention half of them have ties to groups and businesses that often cast doubts about man-made global warming.

One example: The Journal credits William Happer as a professor of physics at Princeton University. 

Unmentioned is his role on the board of the George C. Marshall Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based think tank that assesses scientific issues impacting public policy. 

The institute has long rejected that humans can influence the planet's climate. Newsweek in 2007 described the organization as “a central cog in the denial machine.” The group has previously listed support from oil giant Exxon Mobil on its website.


Criticism from climate scientists


Happer, in an interview, downplayed the issue, saying there is more money to be made in climate science than climate-denialism. "I don't get a penny," he said.

The Wall Street Journal did not respond to phone calls and e-mails inquiring about the piece. 

The paper has been criticized by climate scientists for publishing the article. On Wednesday, the Journal published a letter signed by 38 climate and earth scientists claiming that most of the authors of the original piece "have no expertise in climate science."

"The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert," the letter from the scientists said.

A deeper look at the authors' biographies suggests some industry influence, too.

Happer, for instance, was one of three experts associated with the Marshall Institute to have a say in the Journal's piece.

Institute board member Rodney W. Nichols also signed the article and is credited by the Journal as former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences. 

Roger Cohen is listed by the Journal as a fellow at the American Physical Society, a non-profit group working to expand knowledge of physics. His Marshall Institute biography adds another position unmentioned by the paper: ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. retiree.

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