Skip to main content

ExxonMobil funded a climate change denier years after it claimed to have stopped

ExxonMobil funded a climate change denier years after it claimed to have stopped


Exxon gave Wei-Hock Soon $76,106 from 2008 to 2010

Share this story

John Gress/Getty Images

Last week, we reported that Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon, a leading climate change denier, was paid upwards of $1 million by energy companies to conduct scientifically spotty research. Another round of documents released today by Greenpeace shows that oil and gas giant ExxonMobil was a big contributor to Soon's funding. The documents, obtained by Buzzfeed, show that Exxon gave Soon $76,106 from 2008 to 2010, despite the company's insistence in 2007 that it had stopped funding him.

"Exxon told us that they would stop funding climate denial front groups," Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman told BuzzFeed. "Years later, they were still funding Willie Soon."

ExxonMobil funded Soon for years after it said it would stop

We already knew Soon was taking Exxon's money: he received $131,000 from ExxonMobil in 2007 and 2008, according to a report from Reuters in 2011. Buzzfeed reports Exxon continued funding him through 2010, years after Exxon had vowed it would stop funding groups that denied climate change.

Mark Boudreaux, a spokesperson for Exxon, said in 2007 that the company's stance on climate change was "widely misunderstood". Now Exxon spokesperson Alan Jeffers tells BuzzFeed that the company's "position on climate change is clear — increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect." What isn't clear, though, is whether or not Exxon admits the carbon emissions are largely the result of human activity.

Soon, a part-time researcher at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says in his research that transformations in the sun's energy — not human activity — are the reason for the planet's warming. His work has been published in several scientific journals, like New Astronomy, Chinese Science Bulletin, and Climate Research, in which he neglected to disclose his ties to energy companies.

BuzzFeed reports that earlier this week, US Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) responded to the Greenpeace documents by asking fossil fuel lobbying groups and firms for their funding records. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) sent letters to US universities requesting they release their research funding sources.

ExxonMobil says its "position on climate change is clear."

In a 2006 speech ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said, "It is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the potential risks" of climate change, and that energy companies "should take steps now to reduce emissions in effective and meaningful ways."

Soon has also received funding from the American Petroleum Institute, coal utility Southern Company, and the Koch Foundation. Buzzfeed reports Soon is currently under investigation by his employer.