A deal with the devil

Greenpeace has been trying to take down astrophysicist and climate change denier Willie Soon for a while and they may have finally done it. Hats off to them and their tenacity. Willie Soon may not look like an assassin or a dangerous terrorist, and yet, he may end up being the biggest mass murderer in history. Overstatement? I think not.

I highly suggest that you go to this Greenpeace article, which, at the time of this post, had not been updated, although I suspect that it will be soon: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/koch-industries/CASE-STUDY-Dr-Willie-Soon-a-Career-Fueled-by-Big-Oil-and-Coal/

Their exhaustive reporting about Soon’s highly impactful publishing and bogus “research,” along with his extensive list of funding by the fossil fuel industry, who paid him for decades to deny the science of global warming, really deserves a thorough reading. Additionally, their links to a plethora of other skullduggery within that same article are impressive.

Nature Publishing Group had this article about Soon just yesterday:

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Back to the mass murderer assertion.

As an analogy, let’s look at two very different things which, to me, apply to what Soon has dubiously accomplished for his Big Oil bosses. The first one relates to the thoroughbred horse industry, and the second to cropdusting. However disparate these things may appear at first, there is a connection. I promise.

First, let’s take the race horse analogy. I live in Kentucky, commonly referred to as the horse capital of the world. If you are in our city center (Lexington) and you drive away from downtown using any one of the “spokes,” or roadways, chances are that you will find yourself alongside a horse farm.

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Beautiful and picturesque, of course, but the business of horse farms is to breed, raise and sell horses. In the case of thoroughbred stallions, the money can be enormous. At the Keeneland Horse Sales which take place each year here in Lexington, you will find people closely examining the horses prior to the actual auctions. They look at their pedigree, their physical make-up, and other things which may, or may not, be well suited to the rigors of competitive racing. Racing stable owner, Matt Lyons says that when he is looking at a horse to invest in, he pays “particular attention to temperament, which he believes should be controllable boldness that exudes confidence rather than high-strung and nervous, which would cause a racehorse to use most of its energy before leaving the gate.”

You may think that my analogy simply relates to the potential to win horse races, but that isn’t the whole story. In fact, a stallion only really needs to do well in big name stakes races, and winning a few of them goes a long way to the REAL money: going out to stud. Now, get your mind out of the gutter for a moment because I’m not insinuating that Soon is going to be having his way with young ingénues anytime soon. The point here is that if a stallion can make a name for himself in some prominent races, the owners will likely take him right off of the racing circuit and he will go “out to stud” and earn huge fees for breeding. They’ll take him right off the racing schedule and parade him before the biggest horse farms they can reach “up to,” and he’ll spend his days there, getting booked to mate, or “cover” mares and create expensive offspring. These stud fees are incredible and can add up to $500,000 to tens of millions of dollars a YEAR.

But let’s get back to Soon. You can see that the early grooming and investment into someone like him has paid off in spades. There are countless well-documented instances of the fossil fuel industry essentially grooming and investing in young academics in hopes of them ultimately providing long-term economic benefit to their industry. ExxonMobil, Southern Energy Company, the Koch brothers and all the others who nurtured young Soon have received an incredible return on investment. He “won” his stakes races, putting himself in great position to just keep creating a wealth stream of “academic” papers, lectures, books, etc., all the while causing climate scientists trouble along the way, and by which he will keep earning his “masters” money by obfuscating the facts. He’s been doing it for years, and his body of work will cause trouble for decades to come. You can almost imagine him being considered for just such an investment…

Big Oil: “Well, you say he’s an immigrant from a small town in Malaysia called Kangar? Okay. He’s a hard worker, and he’s pretty much alone here in the US. Smart guy. Keeps his head down. Calm, steady. Not too jumpy. And he’ll take orders pretty well. Okay, I’ll take him!”

Seller (his boss at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, climate denier, Robert Jastrow): “Great! We’ll ship him right off to a place where he can do some REAL damage. You won’t be disappointed. I know, I know, sometimes they don’t put out, but in THIS case, I think you’ve picked a winner. His performance should be incredible and you’ll continue to reap the benefits for years to come.”

Big Oil: “Okay then. Ill leave the check on the bedside table.”

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And the crop dusting analogy? Okay, let’s imagine a young, inexperienced pilot. He’s fresh out of getting his license and he’s ready to start working towards his dream of being a fighter pilot. He knows he’s pretty good, but he’s short on cash, with loans to pay off, and there’s a waiting list to get into the fighter pilot program. One day, out of the blue, he’s introduced to a shady businessman by the head flight instructor:

Shady Businessman: “So, I want to hire you to be a crop duster. I’m going to have you drop thousands of pounds of little seeds that, when they do germinate, will have maximum impact. You’re gonna make a ton of money dumping this crap and even though a lot of it might not “take,” enough of it WILL, so it’s going to be worth it.”

Young Willie Soon: “But sir, I really want to fly fighter jets and “wow” the crowds and make my family back home in Malaysia proud. And I’ll be the envy of all the other pilots! Dropping seeds over dirt and waiting for them to take root and grow isn’t going to earn me ANY respect from other pilots or from my family. Why on earth would I do it?”

Shady Businessman: “Listen, son, who cares about those other pilots. What do they know anyway? I’m going to make you really rich. Much richer than they’ll EVER be, and I’ll tell you what…I’ll organize a bunch of conferences where you get to be the star! Imagine that! Even though you’ll just be a crop duster, you’ll be a really rich AND famous crop duster. And I’ll even throw in some made-up awards and prestigious titles, okay?”

Young Willie Soon: “Well, hmmm, let me think for a moment. I guess I didn’t come from very much, and I guess I can do without being a really important fighter pilot IF it means I’m going to live the American dream. Okay. You can buy me.”

Shady Businessman: “Great. The check will be on the bedside table for the rest of your life. Good doing business with you, Willie.”

Young Willie Soon: “Uh, sir, can I ask you something?”

Shady Businessman: “Sure, but make it quick. I have a plane to catch to interview my next sell-out.”

Young Willie Soon: “Why aren’t there any mirrors in this dodgy hotel room?”

Shady Businessman: “Well, you see, son, we find our return on investment is much higher when our employees can’t see themselves in the mirror.”

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And my assertion that Willie Soon is a mass murderer? While the exact number cannot be quantified, I’d say he’s on track to accomplish a LOT. When you take Soon’s publications, which have been cited thousands of times and which will continue to be used as proof that climate change isn’t real for decades to come, and which have slowed the vital work of REAL scientists in solving this extinction-level problem which looms over all of us, what you get is death and destruction on a global scale.

And not just climate and weather related catastrophes, which are on track to kill roughly 100 million people worldwide by the year 2030 (here is a good article about that: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/climate-change-deaths_n_1915365.html), but ecological crimes which have not only wiped out entire species, but have prevented countless other living beings from ever being born through the continued and escalating burning of fossil fuels, causing horrific pollution and emitting dangerous by-products along the way.

Indeed, it is impossible to overestimate just how much misery and devastation have been inflicted upon the planet through the corruption of people like Willie Soon. From slowing and diverting the attention of real scientists who must defend their every move involving climate change research against people like him, to the countless hours of vital work which never get performed towards getting renewable energy projects up and running, to the politicians elected into office perpetuating the myths and amplifying the uncertainties about climate science simply to keep money flowing in from the fossil fuel industry.

In the end, Big Oil had a 1000% return on investment in Willie Soon. The rest of us? We’re gonna lose everything.