Soon and Baliunas controversy

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The Soon and Baliunas controversy was an incident in which a paper published by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas in the journal Climate Research led to the resignation of a number of its editors. The paper reviewed over 200 previous papers on global warming and alleged that the 20th century hadn't shown any especially large amount of warming.

A number of the scientists whose research was used in the paper complained that their work had been misrepresented. Other scientists trashed everything from the paper's methodology to its conclusions. Due to the number of complaints, editor-in-chief Hans von Storch wrote an editorial on the state of the review process at the journal and questioned the judgment of Chris De Freitas, who had been responsible for the acceptance of Soon and Baliunas's paper. When De Freitas objected, von Storch and a number of other editors resigned from the journal. Von Storch said afterward that deniers "had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common."[1] Claire Goodess, one of the editors who resigned, said:

Some journalists are digging even deeper – into the sources of Soon and Baliunas’s funding. Their Climate Research paper includes acknowledgements to NOAA, NASA and the US Air Force, as well as to the American Petroleum Institute. Yet NOAA flatly deny having ever funded the authors for such work, while the other two bodies admit to funding them, but for work on solar variability – not proxy climate records, the topic that has caused such a storm.[2]

Michael Mann criticized the paper:

“Serious scientists will tell you over and over again that this was a deeply flawed study that should never have been published… Scientifically this study was considered not even worthy of a response. But because it was used politically, to justify policy changes in the administration, people in my field felt they had to speak out.[2]

After the Bush administration attempted to include the paper in an EPA report, Jim Inhofe (Wingnut-OK) said:

The powerful new findings of this most comprehensive of studies shiver the timbers of the adrift Chicken Little crowd.[2]

The paper was later re-published with additional "research" added by the Idso family. Of course, Soon and Baliunas's work is still an article of faith among the denier crowd. After all, "it's peer-reviewed!"

E-mails regarding Climate Research and the controversy were quote mined during the Climategate investigations to make it appear as if scientists had been attempting to "censor skeptics" or "subvert the peer-review process" in some way.

Soon and Baliunas[edit]

Soon and Baliunas have acted as a climate denial duo for quite some time. They are employed both by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank founded by Frederick Seitz. When Seitz had begun to help distribute the Oregon Petition, Soon, Baliunas, and Arthur Robinson attached a brief "review" of denialist research to the petition. Robinson's organization has also published "research" by them claiming that global warming isn't bad because "carbon dioxide is plant food!"[3]

In further "research," the two claim that solar cycles were largely to blame for any increased warming. The solar cycle hypothesis has become a common talking point among deniers, but repeatedly debunked. Solar activity has actually been decreasing in recent history. UV rays are also proposed to be causing this effect, but other research shows that they have only a local effect on temperatures at best, not a global one. The hypothesis also fails to explain a variety of other phenomena, such as the warming at higher latitudes.[4] However, the two have been pushing this talking point hard for many years.[note 1]

Baliunas' "skepticism" dates back to 1995 with her adventures in ozone denialism when she testified before Congress that CFCs were not responsible for the hole in the ozone layer (ironically, a few weeks before the Nobel in chemistry was awarded to the originators of the theory).[5]

Soon himself has admitted to receiving loads of cash from oil and coal companies. He has also denied health risks related to mercury emissions from coal plants. For this, he was rewarded with column inches in (where else?) the Wall Street Journal.[6][7] In 2015, Greenpeace revealed that Soon had received $1.25 million in funding from energy companies over a period of 14 years.[8][9]

External links[edit]


  1. Climate History and the Sun is a rather representative example, where they pull the "satellites show no warming" gambit and cherry-pick temperature proxies and use woefully outdated research to claim the hockey stick is broken, so therefore it's the sun...or something!