An undercover investigation by environmental activist group Greenpeace showed that academics at American universities were willing to write research papers promoting the interests of polluters and carbon emitters in exchange for money. The academics also agreed not to disclose where the money for the papers came from.
Greenpeace activists reportedly posed as representatives of oil and coal companies and approached two academics — Professor William Happer of Princeton University and Professor Frank Clemente of Penn State University — about writing research papers that served the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
In Professor Happer’s case, the representatives asked him 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.” Harper agreed to prepare the report for $250 per hour with the funds going to the CO2 Coalition, a climate skeptic group whose board he sits on, adding “If I write the paper alone, I don’t think there would be any problem stating that ‘the author received no financial compensation for this essay.’”
Professor Happer also reportedly told the undercover Greenpeace activists that Peabody Energy paid $8,000 to the CO2 Coalition in return for his testimony at a Minnesota state hearing on the impacts of carbon dioxide on the environment.
In Professor Clemente’s case, he was asked by the representatives to “produce a report ‘to counter damaging research linking coal to premature deaths (in particular the World Health Organization’s figure that 3.7 million people die per year from fossil fuel pollution).'” Clemente agreed provided he was paid $15,000 for the paper and added that he charges $6,000 to write a favorable op-ed for a newspaper.
Greenpeace claims the undercover investigation not only revealed the venality of some in academia, but discovered a system used by oil and gas companies to “anonymously fund US climate-sceptic scientists and organisations.”
When the undercover Greenpeace activists asked Professor Happer how they could ensure the money they were giving his organization could not be traced back to them, they were put in touch with a former Exxon Mobil Corp. lobbyist and current CO2 Coalition board member named Bill O’Keefe. O’Keefe recommended funneling the money through Donors Trust.
Greenpeace, posing as representatives of a Middle East energy company, contacted Peter Lipsett of Donors Trust and asked if the organization would take money from an oil and gas company based out of the Middle East to avoid scrutiny for funding Professor Happer’s research. Lipsett said Donors Trust preferred taking money from US bank accounts but was willing to take money from “foreign bodies” on a case by case basis. The audio of the exchange was recorded and posted online by Greenpeace.
The results of the undercover investigation by Greenpeace have been published as nations around the world attend the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, France. Whether further evidence that many of those denying climate science are being paid by polluters and carbon emitters will change any minds at the conference remains to be seen.