–Ben Jervey, in a DeSmogBlog re-post
David Legates announced this week that he was asked to step down as Delaware State Climatologist, a position he held for seven years. A long-time denier of the human contribution to climate change, Legates’ tenure as State Climatologist has always been a controversial one.
Back in 2007, because of his stance on climate, then-governor Ruth Ann Minner insisted that Legates stop using the formal title in any public statements on climate change policy. Minner wrote to Legates:
“Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration. In light of my position and due to the confusion surrounding your role with the state, I am directing you to offer any future statements on this or other public policy matters only on behalf of yourself or the University of Delaware, and not as state climatologist.”
Legates maintained the title, however, which is designated by the Dean of the public university’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. But this week, according to Legates himself, the Dean asked him to “step down.” Legates sent the following note to his email list:
From: David R. Legates
Date: Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM
Subject: New State Climatologist
I want to notify you of a change in the Office of the Delaware State Climatologist. I have been asked by our Dean’s office to step down and the former Deputy Dean, Dr. Daniel J. Leathers, will be reassuming the title of the Delaware State Climatologist. He will be representing the Office in Asheville and I hope you will welcome him.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve as the Delaware State Climatologist for the last seven years and to work alongside each of you.
David R. Legates
The obvious question becomes: why now? Legates had endured as a denier in the role of official Delaware State Climatologist through seven years under Democratic governors who openly support action on climate change.
I placed multiple calls to both the University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), and was unable to find anyone willing or able to go on the record to explain why Legates was asked to step down from the position.
The timing could indicate that it had something to do with Legates’ close ties to Wei Hock “Willie” Soon, another prominent denier who has recently found himself embroiled in controversy. Late last month, Greenpeace released documents acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, and these documents reveal deep financial ties between Soon and many oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil. The most startling takeaway from the Greenpeace report was that Soon has received more than $1 million from the oil and coal industries since 2001, and that “since 2002, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.”
Soon, who is not a climatologist, but an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has made a living over the past decade by taking an outspokenly skeptical stance to man made climate change. Soon’s name is also often linked to Legates’: The two co-authored the notorious and mightily-debunked “polar bear study” paper in 2007, the two are both listed as “experts” for the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington, DC-based think-tank that has received over $700,000 in funding from ExxonMobil, and Soon has referred to Legates as a colleague during Congressional hearings.
Further, buried in Greenpeace’s report is an eye-opening email sent by Soon in 2003 that anticipates the release of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, and more than hints at an overt and calculated plot to discredit the report’s findings. The email was sent to five recipients, including a “Dave,” that Greenpeace analysts say is “most definitely Legates.”
Finally, Soon and Legates were the only two “experts” featured in an Idea Channel video that portrays current warming as part of a “natural solar cycle.”
Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace US’s Research Department believes that the University’s decision to replace Legates as Delaware State Climatologist likely involved his close ties to the controversial Soon. “When we were investigating Willie Soon, it became clear that David Legates was deeply involved in many of his fossil fuel industry-funded attempts to undermine climate science,” said Baxter. “It’s heartening to see that the University of Delaware has finally seen the light.”
–Ben Jervey, in a DeSmogBlog re-post