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Climate Science Scandal Deepens

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Maxim Lott, Fox News

A key signatory of a petition calling for government to sue companies that question climate change has pulled the letter from his institute’s website amid revelations his family reaped $500,000 in salary and benefits last year from the government-funded organization.

The controversy started after George Mason University climatologist Jagadish Shukla and 19 other scientists signed a letter on Sept. 1 urging lawsuits against companies like Exxon for, the petitioners claim, intentionally misleading about climate change. They say the federal government could sue using “RICO” laws originally designed to prosecute the mob, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has also backed the idea.

But global warming skeptics accused Shukla of channeling millions of dollars in government science grants into his own salary through a non-profit – while government agencies tell FoxNews.com that they stand by their grants.

Last year, tax records show that Shukla received a $333,000 salary and benefits from an organization he created called the “The Institute of Global Environment and Society” – a group that gets 90 percent of its revenue from government grants. His wife also received $166,000 in compensation from the group over the same period.

link to the letter on the Institute of Global Environment and Society website has been replaced with the following statement: “The letter that was inadvertently posted on this web site has been removed. It was decided more than two years ago that the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) would be dissolved when the projects then undertaken by IGES would be completed. All research projects by IGES were completed in July 2015, and the IGES web site is in the process of being decommissioned.”

The organization has been operating since 1991, and total payments from the group to the Shuklas since 2001 (the most recent year records are available) amount to $5.6 million, according to an analysis of old returns by the Free Beacon.

In addition to the government grants, Virginia state records show that Shukla gets an annual salary of $250,000 from the public George Mason University.

Shukla did not respond to requests for comment from FoxNews.com. A George Mason University spokesman declined to comment, referring all questions on the issue to Shukla.

The extensive taxpayer-funding for the climate advocate was first uncovered by University of Colorado environmental science professor Roger Pielke, Jr.

“It sure looks like the taxpayer and the public university are being taken advantage of for financial gain… this is not how publicly funded science should be done,” Pielke told FoxNews.com.

Shukla’s group’s millions in grant money came largely from three government agencies: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NASA.

NSF maintains an online database that indicates it has given $29 million in grants in which Shukla is listed as the principal investigator and an additional $12 million through Shukla’s organization.

 One NSF grant to Shukla totaled some $7 million between 2004 and 2009 to “work towards an understanding of the predictability of Earth’s current climate fluctuations on seasonal to decadal time scales using state-of-the-art, comprehensive models.”

Asked about Shukla’s salary by FoxNews.com, spokesmen from all three government agencies did not get into specifics of the grants to him but said that their institutions have high standards for awarding grants.

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