Smithsonian scientist Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon doesn't believe in the general consensus that human activity is largely responsible for global warming. He has his work to support his claims but it's not his research that U.S. lawmakers are interested in right now. Rather, it's who his research was done for.
According to public documents released, Soon failed to disclose that his studies received funding support from the fossil fuel industry. This throws doubt over his work because it would appear his motives for being a climate skeptic has been heavily influenced. To Rep. Raul Grijalva, this means anyone remotely questioning climate change must be investigated because their arguments might have been driven by oil companies.
In particular, Grijalva is interested in the funding sources for seven scientists. This prompted him to send letters to the presidents of the universities employing the scientists, demanding information about funding sources as well as potentially funding-related communication involving them.
Grijalva is not wrong in asking for funding information because it is routine to disclose sources of support in the academe. He may be overreaching though on who he's targeting and insisting on communication.
This isn't the first time that climate scientists have had to deal with probes. In the past, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia and GOP Rep. Joe Barton had looked into climate scientist Michael Mann's activities, demanding he hand over materials that were protected under academic freedom like unpublished manuscripts, private communication with other scientists and other works.
Grijalva's office is adamant it is not crossing a line like GOP-led probes, defending its request for communication to determine if any explicit or implicit promises were made to funders.
Roger Pielke, Jr., one of the recipients of Grijalva's letters, is not convinced, citing the representative knew he had no conflicts of interest as he had already disclosed funding information about his research when testified before Congress in the past.
"So I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated 'witch hunt' designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name," he added.
Other climate scientists on Grijalva's list include: Steven Hayward from Pepperdine University, Robert Balling from Arizona State University, Richard Lindzen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Christy from the University of Alabama and David Legates from the University of Delaware. Pielke is affiliated with the University of Colorado.