CLIMATE Money: Monopoly SciencePosted: October 2, 2013
“No matter if the science of global warming is all phony…
climate change provides the greatest opportunity to
bring about justice and equality in the world.”
– Christine Stewart,
former Canadian Minister of the Environment
“We’ve got to ride this global warming issue.
Even if the theory of global warming is wrong,
we will be doing the right thing in terms of
economic and environmental policy.“
– Timothy Wirth,
President of the UN Foundation
A valuable post from Joanne Nova investigating the ‘monopolistic’ funding of research into the science of man-made global warming, versus the non-existent resources directed toward the study of natural climate change.
This imbalance of government funding skews and distorts the science that is output, and as Nova notes, a “lack of funding for alternatives leaves a vacuum and creates a systemic failure. The force of monopolistic funding works like a ratchet mechanism on science. Results can move in both directions, but the funding means that only results from one side of the equation get “traction.”
The systemic failure self-perpetuates :
- Where’s the motivation in proving anthropogenic global warming wrong?
- How serious are they about getting the data right? Or are they only serious about getting the “right” data?
- “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair, 1935
The oneway-traffic flow of government funding leads not only to an unhealthy distortion of science, but also to an unhealthy bias in the scientific and media reporting we receive on climate change.
The scientific process has become distorted. One side of a theory receives billions, but the other side is so poorly funded that auditing of that research is left as a community service project for people with expert skills, a thick skin and a passionate interest. A kind of “Adopt an Error” approach.
Can science survive the vice-like grip of politics and finance?
Despite the billions of dollars in funding, outrageous mistakes have been made. One howler in particular, rewrote history and then persisted for years before one dedicated fact checker, working for free, exposed the fraud about the Hockey Stick Graph. Meanwhile agencies like the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, can’t afford to install temperature sensors to meet its own guidelines, because the workers are poorly trained and equipped to dig trenches only with garden trowels and shovels. NOAA “adjust” the data after the fact—apparently to compensate for sensors which are too close to air conditioners or car parks, yet it begs the question: If the climate is the biggest problem we face; if billions of dollars are needed, why can’t we install thermometers properly?
How serious are they about getting the data right? Or are they only serious about getting the “right” data?
The real total of vested interests in climate-change science is far larger than just scientists doing pure research. The $30 billion in funding to the CCSP (graphed above) does not include work on green technologies like improving solar cells, or storing a harmless gas underground. Funding for climate technologies literally doubles the amount of money involved, and provides a much larger pool of respectable-looking people with impressive scientific cachet to issue more press releases—most of which have little to do with basic atmospheric physics, but almost all of which repeat the assumption that the climate will warm due to human emissions. In other words: a 30-billion-dollar cheer squad.
Lots of one-sided honest research does not make for fair debate
The scientists funded by governments don’t need to be dishonest for science to become distorted. They just need to do their jobs. If we ask 100 people to look for lizards in the jungle, would anyone be surprised if no one sees the elephant on the plain? Few people are paid or rewarded for auditing the IPCC and associated organizations. Where is the Department of Solar Influence or the Institute of Natural Climate Change?
Thousands of scientists have been funded to find a connection between human carbon emissions and the climate. Hardly any have been funded to find the opposite. Throw 30 billion dollars at one question and how could bright, dedicated people not find 800 pages worth of connections, links, predictions, projections and scenarios? (What’s amazing is what they haven’t found: empirical evidence.)
And scientists are human, they have mortgages and kids. If Exxon money has any pulling power, government money must also “pull”.
I can’t say it better than Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair, 1935
Ironically it was Al Gore himself who helped ensure there was copious funding for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) from 1993-2000. We’ve poured billions into focusing bright brains on one angle, one topic, one cause. That’s a lot of salaries.
The monopolistic funding “ratchet”
There doesn’t necessarily need to be a conspiracy. It doesn’t require any centrally coordinated deceit or covert instructions to operate. Instead it’s the lack of funding for the alternatives that leaves a vacuum and creates a systemic failure. The force of monopolistic funding works like a ratchet mechanism on science. Results can move in both directions, but the funding means that only results from one side of the equation get “traction.”
Ideas that question the role of carbon in the climate are attacked with a fine-tooth comb by large teams of paid researchers. If real flaws are found they are announced loudly and repeatedly, and if there are imagined or irrelevant flaws, these too are announced and sometimes with even more fanfare. But ideas that support the role of carbon in the climate are subject to a very different analysis. Those on Team-AGW check to see if they have underestimated the impact of carbon, or made an error so obvious it would embarrass “the Team.” Since there are few paid supporters of natural causes, or people who benefit from defending non-carbon impacts, there is no one with an a priori motive to dig deep for non-obvious mistakes. So the pro-AGW ideas may only be scrutinized briefly, and by unpaid retirees, bloggers running on donations, or government scientists working in other fields—like geologists, who have reason to be skeptical, but who are not necessarily trained in, say, atmospheric physics.
Normally this might not be such a problem, because the lure of fame and fortune by categorically “busting” a well-accepted idea would attract some people. In most scientific fields, if someone debunks a big Nature or Science paper, they are suddenly cited more often; are the next in line for a promotion and find it easier to get grants. They attract better PhD students to help, are invited to speak at more conferences, and placed higher in the program. Instead in climate science, the reward is the notoriety of a personal attack page on Desmog1, ExxonSecrets2 or Sourcewatch3, dedicated to listing every mistake on any topic you may have made, any connection you may have had with the fossil fuel industry, no matter how long ago or how tenuous. The attack-dog sites will also attack your religious beliefs if you have any. Roy Spencer, for example, has been repeatedly attacked for being Christian (though no one has yet come up with any reason why that could affect his satellite data).
Ironically, the “activist” websites use paid bloggers. DeSmog is a funded wing of a professional PR group Hoggan4 and Associates (who are paid to promote clients5 like David Suzuki Foundation, ethical funds, and companies that sell alternative energy sources like hydro power, hydrogen and fuel cells.) ExxonSecrets is funded by Greenpeace6 (who live off donations to “save” the planet, and presumably do better when the planet appears to need saving).
Most scientific fields are looking for answers, not looking to prove only one side of a hypothesis. There are a few researchers who are paid to disprove the hypothesis of Global Warming, and most of them are investigated and pilloried as if they were a politician running for office. This is not how science works, by ad hominem attack. The intimidation, disrespect and ostracism leveled at people who ask awkward questions acts like a form of censorship. Not many fields of science have dedicated smear sites for scientists. Money talks.
Respected MIT climatologist Richard Lindzen7 has spoken out against the pressure to conform and laments the loss of good researchers:
Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.
The combination of no financial reward, plus guaranteed hostile scrutiny, and threats of losing employment would be enough to discourage many from entering the contentious side of the field or speaking their mind if they question the “faith.”
Salient words and a brutally honest appraisal from Climatologist Judith Curry on the institutionalised and defunct IPCC ~ Suffering, more than anything, from the monopolistic funding syndrome discussed above …
And the public conversation finally starts to move on to discussing not whether the IPCC is wrong, but why it was wrong, and what we need to do about it. Credit to Judith Curry and the Financial Post. I’ve posted a few paragraphs here. The whole story is in the link at the top. – Jo
Kill the IPCC: After decades and billions spent, the climate body still fails to prove humans behind warming
The IPCC is in a state of permanent paradigm paralysis. It is the problem, not the solution
The IPCC has given us a diagnosis of a planetary fever and a prescription for planet Earth. In this article, I provide a diagnosis and prescription for the IPCC: paradigm paralysis, caused by motivated reasoning, oversimplification, and consensus seeking; worsened and made permanent by a vicious positive feedback effect at the climate science-policy interface.
In its latest report released Friday, after several decades and expenditures in the bazillions, the IPCC still has not provided a convincing argument for how much warming in the 20th century has been caused by humans.
We tried a simple solution for a wicked problem:
We have wrongly defined the problem of climate change, relying on strategies that worked previously with ozone, sulphur emissions and nuclear bombs. While these issues may share some superficial similarities with the climate change problems, they are “tame” problems (complicated, but with defined and achievable end-states), whereas climate change is “wicked” (comprising open, complex and imperfectly understood systems). For wicked problems, effective policy requires profound integration of technical knowledge with understanding of social and natural systems. In a wicked problem, there is no end to causal chains in interacting open systems, and every wicked problem can be considered as a symptom of another problem; if we attempt to simplify the problem, we risk becoming prisoners of our own assumptions.
As I’ve been saying, monopolistic funding doesn’t work in science any more than it works in business:
The large investment in climate modeling, both in the U.S. and internationally, has been made with the expectation that climate models will support decision making on both mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change. So, are these complex global climate models especially useful for decision makers? The hope, and the potential, of climate models for providing credible regional climate change scenarios have not been realized.
With the failure of climate models to simulate the pause and regional climate variability, we have arguably reached the point of diminishing returns from this particular path of climate modeling – not just for decision support but also for scientific understanding of the climate system. In pursuit of this climate modeling path, the climate modeling community — and the funding agencies and the policy makers — have locked themselves into a single climate modeling framework with a focus on production runs for the IPCC, which has been very expensive in terms of funding and personnel. An unintended consequence of this strategy is that there has been very little left over for true climate modeling innovations and fundamental research into climate dynamics and theory — such research would not only support amelioration of deficiencies and failures in the current climate modeling systems, but would also lay the foundations for disruptive advances in our understanding of the climate system and our ability to predict emergent phenomena such as abrupt climate change.
As a result, we’ve lost a generation of climate dynamicists. We have been focused on climate models rather than on climate dynamics and theory that is needed to understand the effects of the sun on climate, the network of natural internal variability on multiple time scales, the mathematics of extreme events, and the predictability of a complex system characterized by spatio-temporal chaos.
Judith A. Curry is Chair and Professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology.
via Real Science
“I’m not happy with the IPCC,” she told Fox News. “I think it has torqued the science in an unfortunate direction.”
That torquing, she suggests, is because the money in climate science (the funding, that is) is tied to embellishing the IPCC narrative, especially the impacts of global warming. She is critical of the IPCC’s leadership as well, in particular its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri.
“They have explicit policy agendas,” Curry told Fox News. “Their proclamations are very alarmist and very imperative as to what we should be doing. And this does not inspire confidence in the final product.”
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