What role does money play in the climate-change debate

Spinoff from this ongoing GD thread, but see also this recent Pit thread. What it comes down to is that each side in the debate seems to believe – or, at least, to say – that the other side’s climatologists are the money-whores. AGW skeptics/denialists say things like:

OTOH, there is a lot of documentation about the fossil-fuel industry and associated interests spending a lot of money to fund astroturf denialist think-tanks. See the Wiki article Business action on climate change (some, but very little, of which involves trying to do anything about climate change as such; most of the money is spent on denialism).

Oh, and in full disclosure – watchwolf49 insists he is not a skeptic in the usual sense – he believes AGW is happening, but is a good thing.

I can believe that some scientists get into CC because there might be more openings but it’s hard to believe that they make up any kind of sizable minority of all PhD’s in the country. Any amount of money to be made in CC research is balanced out by the money supplied by the petroleum industry so in the end I don’t think it’s a factor.

I believe that if any scientist had reasonable data to indicate that AGW was not, in fact, caused by human activity then it would be published quickly. It would probably come up against initial resistance but in the end (assuming it was credible) would be accepted.

Does anyone have a source of what sort of funding goes into climate science from the government?

As for the money angle, everyone wants the moral high ground. If your opponents are beholden to dirty dirty money, you get that high ground by default.

According to this report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. government spent $77 billion “to address global climate change” from 2008 through 2013; but only some of that went for scientific research. In the Admin’s request for $11.6 billion in climate-change related funding for 2014, 23% would be spent on science.

This is something that should be elaborated on:

There are multiple angles to the climate change debate. You not only have the deniers on one side being a bunch of jerks, you have activists on the other side being crazy in the opposite direction. In between those two extremes, you have a diverse variety of beliefs. Stuff like “It’s not happening, but I don’t care.” “It’s happening, but it’s not man.” “It’s happening, but I don’t care.” “It’s happening, but the proposals to tax and trade are bad.” “It’s happening and I like the tax and trade.” “It’s happening and mankind is doomed, so why do anything?” and so forth.

Deniers and Activists alike are the ones that make the debate so contentious. They both attack anyone who isn’t 100% in agreement with them.

$2.668 billion being spent on climate science research?

Yeah, I could see a scientist trying to shoe horn their research into a “this is tangentially related to climate science” to get some of those dollars. I’m suspect about the claim that the actual science they do (even if what they do is only climate science in name) is somehow not rigorous, though. I’d need proof of that.

That’s a fairly significant amount of money; more than I would have guessed.

Scientists that publish AGW studies are often frequently condemned if their funding is associated with industry groups. Assuming, I think, that they are likely to alter their results to conform with the expectations of their benefactors. One could coherently make that argument the other direction (assuming that government spending is, at least roughly, correlated with the AGW views of the incumbent administration). Certainly, even more broadly, it seems safe to assume that discovering an iminent catastrophe is a decent way to drum up additional government funding (“World may be coming to an end; women and minorities likely to be hardest hit; more research needed” is probably a pretty compelling grant application).

Still, the bigger the risk that AGW is, the more relevant that “climatologists” remain. I would think job security, more than money, would motivate “believers” into the field of climatology (you’re less likely to study something that isn’t going to matter as much) and once you study it, you probably have a vested interest in keeping it relevant.

See, I’d need evidence both ways. Both corporations and governments have a history throughout time of manipulating things to their needs, so it could certainly be happening.

But I’d want to see proof that science is being perverted by either.

Things is, the best shot at showing a perversion/conspiracy was the old “climategate” and after several investigations it was reported that the contrarians just quoted out of context and misrepresented what the scientists did.


'Ware the Golden Mean Fallacy.

I think after seeing the levels of agreement seen among the scientists after more than 100 years of research and tests one should realize that most of the debate is based on false equivalencies.

As Barry Bickmore tells it, it is not activists like Gore who are the problem, the ones that are alarmists (Lovelock) are also dismissed by researchers like him, but the main criticism is directed to the ones that are in reality false skeptics.

And, as **BrainGlutton **points out, one should beware of the golden mean fallacy, specially when there is plenty of evidence of poisoned wells of information out there coming in no small part from the fossil fuel industry.

Please note that I didn’t say anyone was right (or even give my own position, although I’m sure you can guess). I just said that there are viewpoints different than “The earth is a static ball that never changes, not even between summer and winter” and “The earth will burn 1,000 flaming deaths.” I think it helps engage a debate along if we don’t simply class everyone as either “insane left” and “insane right”.

Vocabulary difference. To me activist = alarmist and is the farthest end on the scale (to be fair “denier” isn’t the farthest on the other side, that’s held by “idiot” :wink: ). Gore isn’t an activist, he was trying to get the people and government on board with regulation that would enhance his company-at-the-time’s green energy investments. I think he had a carbon credit management firm, also, but I don’t remember the details clearly. “An Inconvenient Truth” was a part of that overall push. That it coincided with a history of generally pushing environmentalist agendas helped that along.

Actually most of what you said there about Gore are also standard issue points from the deniers, I think one still needs to be aware of the well poisoning done for a long time by one side that also attempts to pass itself as reasonable. As I see it, they have done a very good job with their FUD with a chunk of the population.

If you’re talking about the scientific debate itself, your premise with industry money is a little out of date. Virtually all of the big corporations that were funding research to discredit climate change in the 90’s and 2000’s have more or less realized that particular tactic is not going to work and have moved on. They still spend lots of cash trying to affect the political parts of the debate using lobbyists and PR firms, but the days of big corporations acting as sugar daddies to climate scientists with more bills than scruples are mostly over. There probably is still money out there available for that sort of thing from smaller companies and political groups, but definitely far less than there once was.

Really? The deniers have green technology they want us to invest in? :smiley:

True, but I don’t call those making money “Deniers” either. I consider them all to be lobbyist mouth pieces. If you shill for regulation at the behest of money from anyone (even the government) I don’t take whatever you’re trying to tell me seriously.

Since a lot has been written recently about this topic in several threads, I would like if I may to point again to this recent paper in the journal Climatic Change which is one of the more comprehensive studies I’ve seen about the funding behind the denialist spin campaign. As someone with an interest in climate science I’ve been aware of this in general terms for a long time, but I wasn’t aware of the full malignant extent of it. I was particularly sensitized to the tactics of the PR industry after reading Wendell Potter’s excellent book, nominally about the health insurance industry, but offering great insights into how the propaganda industry works behind the scenes.

Regarding the above quote. One could get the impression (you may not have meant it that way) that corporations and governments are on opposite sides of this issue. Actually this is a case where both corporations and government have incentives to oppose the science, and do so. Corporations – not just oil and coal producers and power generation industries but those who are major energy consumers and, basically just about everyone who benefits from economic growth – will naturally prefer that global warming was not a problem. Is anyone surprised that so many denialist editorials appear in business papers like the Wall Street Journal?

Governments are empowered by economic growth, and Congressmen by their political benefactors, so they don’t want that shit either. Denialism is pretty much a plank of the Republican party, and Democrats seem to emerge here as spineless weasels who regard climate policy as a political hot potato that they won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Why do you think it’s been impossible to achieve meaningful carbon mitigation treaties? Or why it is that, as I mentioned before, every single Republican candidate for president in the last election had to be a denialist to have any hope of securing the nomination. Ninety-six of 100 newly elected Republican members of Congress either deny climate change is real or have signed pledges vowing to oppose its mitigation.

It’s no great exaggeration to say that we have government and industry pretty much working together on denialism with all the money on their side, and scientists working on the other side with nothing going for them but the facts.

Science isn’t being perverted. Public opinion is.

Impossible. She was a whore from the start.

Public opinion is not a whore. She is just a dumb blonde, and fickle as hell! :smiley:

In my experience, people do NOT go into academic research for the money. They do not choose a field based on the money either. Finally they do not choose a specialty based on the money.

In my household, here is where the glory of grant money has made itself known:

  1. A spare monitor for the home computer, for the use by the resident researcher.
  2. A spare printer for the home computer, also for the use by the resident researcher.
    Note that both of these MIGHT be used by others such as myself at times.
  3. Summer salary. Faculty salary typically officially covers 9 months, and you are not paid for the summer (Though you can take your salary over 12 months). Summer salary can be paid as part of a grant, which adds a little more cash flow to the family.
  4. Cost of attending certain conferences (airfare, conference fees, hotel, food) which we would have paid for out of pocket if not covered by the grant.

Now with that amazing bounty added to my partner’s pay package, that drives her to alter her research not one bit. She focused on a topic years ago, continues to study it, and continues to publish. The only alteration to her course of research has been due to some advances in the science.

Yes, a nice grant package can outfit a lab - computers, testing gear, payments for subjects, etc. But that belongs to the University.

Yes, you have to dance the controversy sometimes. That means if you want to be published, you have to say more than “I found that out too!.” You also have to be damned sure that you are right if you choose to go against any of the current beliefs / theories / thoughts. But you can still get it done. My partner is in a long-term pissing match with a couple others in her field that goes back to her mentor vs. their mentor in some cases. In some cases it has made articles take longer to get published, and in one case almost cost her grant money due to one of these people. This is petty politics, and there is no way she could walk away from decades of work just to get one grant funded from the feds.

TL/DR - I call “bullshit” based ONLY on personal anecdotes and observation that people are changing their tune in climate research just to get another NSF grant. The money just is not worth it - but their careers might be in danger if not tenured and you can’t get published. Which might be a contradiction.