The environmental activism group Greenpeace today disclosed that it led an undercover investigation to expose how easy it is for big oil, gas, or coal companies to pay academics at leading U.S. universities to write research that sheds doubt on climate science, and promotes the commercial interests of the fossil fuel industry.
The scientist involved is speaking at Sen. Ted Cruz's Senate hearing on promoting climate denial this afternoon, on Capitol Hill.
Posing as representatives of oil and coal companies, reporters from Greenpeace UK asked academics from Princeton and Penn State to write papers promoting the benefits of CO2 and the use of coal in developing countries.
The professors agreed to write the reports and said they did not need to disclose the source of the funding.
Citing industry-funded documents – including testimony to state hearings and newspaper articles – Professor Frank Clemente of Penn State said: "In none of these cases is the sponsor identified. All my work is published as an independent scholar."
Leading climate-sceptic academic, Professor William Happer, agreed to write a report for a Middle Eastern oil company on the benefits of CO2 and to allow the firm to keep the source of the funding secret.
Dr. William Happer is Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University.
In emails to reporters, Happer also revealed that Peabody Energy paid thousands of dollars for him to testify at another state hearing. The funds were paid to a climate-skeptic think tank.
Greenpeace claims their investigation also found:
• US coal giant Peabody Energy also paid tens of thousands of dollars to an academic who produced coal-friendly research and provided testimony at state and federal climate hearings, the amount of which was never revealed.
• The Donors Trust, an organisation that has been described as the "dark money ATM" of the US conservative movement, confirmed in a taped conversation with an undercover reporter that it could anonymously channel money from a fictional Middle Eastern oil and gas company to US climate sceptic organisations.
• Princeton professor William Happer laid out details of an unofficial peer review process run by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a UK climate sceptic think tank, and said he could ask to put an oil-funded report through a similar review process, after admitting that it would struggle to be published in an academic journal.
• A recent report by the GWPF that had been through the same unofficial peer review process, was promoted as "thoroughly peer-reviewed" by influential columnist Matt Ridley – a senior figure in the organisation.
The report echoes an investigation published earlier this year in the New York Times about Wei-Hock ("Willie") Soon, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He accepted donations from fossil fuel companies and anonymous donors in return for producing climate-sceptic scientific papers. He described those studies as "deliverables," and did not disclose who funded the research.
More: "Exposed: Academics-for-hire agree not to disclose fossil fuel funding" [energydesk.greenpeace.org]