Atlanta-based Southern Co. has been a major financial supporter of a prominent researcher whose work routinely sets out to debunk arguments that global warming is the result of the effects of power plant carbon dioxide emissions and other environmental pollution, according to a published report.
A New York Times report on the researcher, Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,” questions the impartiality and ethics of Soon’s work since he rarely discloses the source of more than $1.2 million from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade.
Soon, whose work is often cited by global warming critics, argues global warming can be explained by variations in the sun’s energy.
The Times report, citing research by the environment group Greenpeace, said Soon has received at least 34 percent of his funding – $409,000 – from Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of the Atlanta company, over the decade.
Southern spokeswoman Jeannice Hall would not comment directly on funding for Soon and would only tell the Times the company “funds a broad range of research on a number of topics that have potentially significant public-policy implications for our business.”
Southern’s plants in Juliette and Cartersville, Ga., and in Quinton, Ala., have been listed among the major sources of greenhouse gases from carbon dioxide emissions.
The Times report says Southern “has spent heavily over many years to lobby against greenhouse-gas regulations in Washington. More recently, it has spent significant money to research ways to limit emissions.”
According to a “Benchmarking Air Emissions” report released last year by several nonprofit environmental groups and utilities, CO2 emissions declined 13 percent between 2008 and 2012.