Be Critical of Critics

Cross-posted from NextGen Journal

Of all the inane arguments made against the phenomenon of anthropogenic global climate change, the strangest – in my opinion – are the conspiracy theories.

Yes, scientific fraud does happen, but on the scale of one author, not an entire multi-disciplinary field stretching back for over a century. Imagine the scale of fabrication that would be necessary for this to be true, and the amount of journal editors, expert reviewers, and students who would have to be in on the conspiracy. Scientists are just not that organized.

And for what reason would they do this? Yes, there’s the old Communist-overthrow-of-the-world argument that Fox News pundits argue would somehow result from using capitalist market strategies to put a price on carbon…but many scientists who fully accept the reality of climate change are self-proclaimed Independents and Republicans.

Even if they don’t claim out-and-out fraud, many politicians, journalists, and citizens believe that scientists’ conclusions on climate change are influenced by the lure of grant money. This position shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way scientific grants work. As Dr. Andrew Weaver, top Canadian climatologist, argued in his fantastic book Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, if scientists were purely interested in grant money, it would be more beneficial for them to claim uncertainty in their work. Research dollars give preference to areas of science that remain fundamentally mysterious, not those that are just ironing out the details of well-understood basic processes. Additionally, as meteorology professor Scott Mandia recently showed, the grants that scientists receive for their research don’t actually influence their salaries.

Incredibly, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a highly credible organization that painstakingly summarizes the scientific literature on climate change – is comprised of volunteer scientists. Even the chair, Rajendra Pachauri, doesn’t receive a cent for his work with the IPCC.

Of course, the prospect of a global warming fraud isn’t impossible. Nothing is. But remember, fraud is a criminal charge, and should not be thrown around lightly. Climate scientists, just like anyone else, have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. They shouldn’t have to endure this endless harassment of being publicly labelled as frauds without evidence.

Here’s an example, from a retired American physics prof named Harold Lewis. He recently resigned from the American Physical Society because he didn’t think his views on climate change were being taken into account in the society’s statement. His resignation letter reads almost like satire:

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare…I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

The scientists involved in ClimateGate, the scandal that wasn’t, have been cleared by five independent investigations to date. While some reasonable issues about data archival and sharing have been raised, absolutely no science was compromised by the contents of the stolen private correspondence. For Lewis to say otherwise and fail to provide evidence for this potentially libelous accusation is unduly irresponsible.

I disagree that the definition of scientist is “someone who feels revulsion and jumps to the conclusion of fraud from emails that show, at most, that climate scientists are not always very nice”. On the contrary, I would expect that a scientist would assess media coverage of these emails with a critical eye, examine the context in which they were written, and read the published work of the scientists in question – many of the so-called damning phrases (“hide the decline”, “lack of warming at the moment”) had already been discussed at length in the literature (Briffa et al 1997 and Trenberth et al 2009 respectively).

On a side note, where did he get “literally trillions of dollars” from? The world GDP, according to the World Bank, is approximately $61 trillion. It seems staggering to imagine that a minimum of 3% of the world economy is devoted to climate change research alone.

Let’s see what else Harry Lewis has to say:

In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all.

And rightly so. Even if, for the sake of argument, the CRU emails had discredited all of the research group’s data and publications, their conclusions about the current planetary warming have been independently replicated by multiple land- and satellite- based databases. In the United States alone, there is NASA GISS, NOAA NCDC, RSS, and UAH. All show the same global warming that CRU detected. Some, due to complexities in the measurement of Arctic temperatures, show even more.

The scientific literature fully supports the general premise of the APS statement on climate change: the world is warming, humans are causing it, and unless we reduce carbon emissions quickly and dramatically, it’s going to be bad. No alternative explanation for the situation has been able to withstand the scrutiny of peer-review.

Science is about looking at all sides of an issue, but it’s not a free-for-all. If someone can’t back up a claim, they don’t have an inherent right to get it published regardless. Unfortunately, in the Internet age, that doesn’t matter – if what they’re looking for is media attention, not scientific accountability.

There’s a difference between “lacking the words to describe the enormity” of a so-called fraud, and lacking the evidence to support such an accusation. As scientists (and prospective scientists, such as myself!), we need to be critical in our assessment of all claims – including the claims of critics and contrarians. Being objective isn’t always the same as being neutral.

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37 thoughts on “Be Critical of Critics

  1. Oil companies and many large manufacturing businesses believe that the costs of mitigating climate change will destroy them. Thus they spend billions of dollars funding the struggling news media and many research scientists. Returning favors, a good percentage of those funded reporters and scientists tend to see global warming and climate change issues in a light more favorable to the oil companies and large manufacturing businesses.

    The problem is that while The First Amendment to the Constitution grants Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, it does not demand that the people and the press tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God.

    So when you are befuddled as to why some people do the strangest of things, just remember that money talks.

  2. I’m curious now: Has the reverse ever happened? A prominent scientist (or industry figure) publicly withdrawing from (what is perceived as) a lucrative position because the organization they’re apart of was in denial of climate change?

    The closest I can think of would be the withdrawals of several large companies (Apple, Exelon, PG&E, plus a couple others I can’t recall off hand) from the US Chamber of Commerce (Nike resigned from the board of directors but remained in the Chamber). There have to be other examples as well, but they’re eluding me.

    I ask because, like the scientific front, this reflects a larger investment, a greater number, and a higher degree of credibility than one lone (ancient) physicist speaking out on a topic he knows nothing about, and yet we hear endlessly about the small guy rather than the real news. (See also: Freeman Dyson, etc).

    A curious lack of PR, and a problem shared by actual scientists as well.

  3. Brian, the closest thing I can think of is the resigning of Hans van Storch and half the editorial board over the Soon and Baliunas paper.

    Wiki has a summary, and I know RC folks had a post on it a while back. Here’s the Wiki one.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soon_and_Baliunas_controversy#Impact_of_the_criticisms

  4. Excellent post, Kate.

    Brian D, I remember having read about someone high up in the ranks at one of the tainted think tanks who resigned after he found out the blatant bias he was supposed to adhere to. I think it was at Deltoid that I read about it, but I’ve since lost the link.

  5. Roger, your comments sound more like a conspiracy theory to me. Got any proof, other than the old “they say”? Anybody with more than 3 brain cells will agree that the climate is a changing. The devil is in the details. Warming or cooling? Man forced or natural? These are two of the most often used talking points. Sometimes it sounds like the same discussions you may here between different religious sects, say Sunni or Shiá, or maybe some of the earlier Christian disagreements between Catholic and Huguenots. The big difference??? We havent seen any real bloodshed yet.

  6. Hi Kate

    Thanks for this. Insightful, as usual. As a ‘climate scientist’ (albeit one not involved in any way with the IPCC) I occasionally face these accusations; ‘You’re in it for the grants’, ‘manipulating the data to suit the question’. Oddly enough, usually from students (mostly geology majors), and sometimes from ordinary folk I meet. The AGW skeptic geology profs at BU (they accept climate is changing, just not a human cause) strangely don’t engage in debate with me, but students tell me they do prosletyze to their classes. Hmmm.

    I guess you are right, this is in part due to the internet age. I know when I reference newspapers and TV news to my classes many of them look at me blankly. They use Twitter, Facebook and other social networking media and rely on a wide range of quite directed internet sources for information. Their degree of being informed varies enormously; some, like Kate are well informed and discriminate along the lines of the ‘credibility spectrum’, and others, despite studying science at university, are prone to being drawn into the prosletyzing from the climate change ‘skeptics’. I suspect this is in part a reflection of where I am; rural Manitoba is quite conservative in many ways, including a high number of people who are bible literalists.

    What do we do? We continue to encourage discourse based on information not rhetoric. We stay calm in the face of diatribe. We remain respectful even when faced with clear ignorance or bias. We try and use examples that resonate with our audience, and we don’t talk down to them.

    Cheers
    David

  7. Ken: Perfect example of the science side of things, to compliment the industry example I provided. The firsthand account is strangely missing, though.

    Bart: That’d be Matthew Crawford, who left the George C. Marshall Institute because, in his words, “the trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise. These positions served various interests, ideological or material. For example, part of my job consisted of making arguments about global warming that just happened to coincide with the positions taken by the oil companies that funded the think tank.”. (I recommended his book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, here last year, which is where the quote comes from.)

    As I said back then: It’s interesting to note that Crawford also appeared on the Colbert Report, describing another position he had which involved producing a whole lot of crap (his own words) by summarizing about 28 scientific papers per day (!!) with no quality control. Colbert applauded him for “actively damaging knowledge”.

    For the ClimateSight reader who hasn’t yet had to work through an academic paper, it can be a bit of an ordeal. I can typically manage only a handful of papers a day (averaging two) unless I ignore all my other work. Granted, I’m pretty new at this, but 28 is just ridiculous.

    (Oh, and if (like many other readers on this blog) you’re like me and regionally-restricted from playing that video, there is a workaround. Install the “Modify Headers” Firefox add-on, then choose Tools | Modify Headers. Click Configuration, check “Always On”. Then choose Add, enter “X-Forwarded-For” in the first box and “12.13.14.15” in the second (no quotes in either case), leaving the third box blank before clicking the Add button. This should bypass regional restrictions on some websites, including Colbert.)

  8. Has anyone found the culprits who stole the emails? If anyone has reference to this I would like to know. The hacking was aimed at damning the Copenhagen meeting and it was at least in part successful. Finding out who the hacker was (and his/her/their affiliations would be most enlightening!
    Tom

  9. Tom: The only one I know of who’s looking into this and providing information on the findings is Frank Bi. There were official investigations (including calling in national investigators at one point) but we’ve heard nothing on that front for months. Whether this is because of the UK police keeping quiet until the investigation is complete, or because they’ve given up, I don’t know.

  10. Interesting G Thomas, a conspiracy to derail the Copenhagen mess. Suggesting that it was in some ways successful says that the overall tone of the correspondence is correct. That there was and is malfeasence. that these prominent “gentlemen” were and are scared of having their efforts reviewed by experts, not in the “warming” field, but by statistitions. Experts in a different field, that may, repeat, may find errors in the math. My problem stems from someone who is proud of his work, and supposedly ethical who can say that he will not allow anyone to review what he has done because he is concerned that an error may be found. Mistakes happen.

    Too much has been written and said, the waters are muddy and the currents are hard to broach. Listening has stopped and nit picking has become the order of the day. We cannot go back and have a Dion “do over”. We can, by example, listen, hypothisise, test, conclude, retest when needed and then publish. No matter what the results.

  11. Another well-written, thought-provoking post, Kate :)

    Slightly tangential to the issues you raise, I wonder why it is that the contrarians/ deniers appear to have the monopoly on the conspiracy theory element.

    As a long-time game player and part-time studier of the teachings of Sun Tzu (as in ‘The Art of War‘): if I were a player with a vested interest in the status quo and ‘business as usual’, I’d be using exactly the tactics that have been, and are being, employed by the merchants of doubt, ie distraction, obfuscation, lies and propaganda.

    So why is it that this competing conspiracy theory isn’t given equal time (hah!) with the ‘scientists are all in a conspiracy’ theory?

    Ah, of course: such a theory doesn’t have access to the same level of resources as its opponent. Catch-22.

  12. Winnipegman:
    “Interesting G Thomas, a conspiracy to derail the Copenhagen mess. Suggesting that it was in some ways successful says that the overall tone of the correspondence is correct.”

    You read something that isn’t there. You don’t have to have correct information to derail something. If someone is fighting a war, the crud spread about the enemy doesn’t have to be correct. It is sufficient to just get people discussing the possibility that it is correct.

    I have been to a public discussion where Mike Hulme was one of the speakers, he stated that the CRU had been threatened with a leak, before it occurred.

    “…that these prominent “gentlemen” were and are scared of having their efforts reviewed by experts, not in the “warming” field, but by statistitions.”

    That is a laymans view. At the discussion I attended it was recognised that more partnerships between statisticians and scientists would be beneficial. It was also pointed out that it was difficult to get hold of good statisticians who would work with them, funding isn’t particularly good. CRU has now got funding for data archiving, which is a result of the email hacking and the resulting issues.

  13. Roger:
    “Has the reverse ever happened? A prominent scientist (or industry figure) publicly withdrawing from (what is perceived as) a lucrative position because the organization they’re apart of was in denial of climate change?”

    Some have been sacked (dismissed) for doing their job.

    The company head of sustainability at Grainger in the UK, got the sack for being to green and sustainable. He took the company to court and won his case for unfair dismissal.

    http://www.graingerplc.co.uk/

    In New Zealand, Jim Salinger (climate scientist) got sacked for talking to a TV channel about the weather.

    It’s usually not voluntary.

  14. G. Thomas Farmer:

    As Brian D said (thanks!), I’m collecting information about the CRU cyber-attack over at my blog, but information on the attack itself has been hard to come by lately (whether from official or unofficial sources).

    My blog currently also discusses the PR brouhaha around “Climategate” and also other somewhat-related issues; for information directly pertaining to the attack itself, you can focus on just the “SwiftHack” category of blog posts, including my main findings of the oddities in the FOI2009.zip file itself, and a summary of the known actions of the hacker.

    If you have further questions or other information, just write a comment at my blog.

    * * *

    The Ville:

    Wow. Did Hulme give any details on the threat he received? Or, what is the best way for me to get in touch with him? (I’d tried to contact Tim Osborn and Mike Salmon by e-mail a while ago, but failed.)

    * * *

    Kate:

    On a side note, where did he get “literally trillions of dollars” from?

    Meanwhile, Joanne Nova said it was “50 billion dollars”. I also want to know where they pulled out these random figures from.

    frank

  15. @TheVille:

    I have been to a public discussion where Mike Hulme was one of the speakers, he stated that the CRU had been threatened with a leak, before it occurred.

    Can I ask for more details on this? It could be quite significant.

  16. Bravissima, Kate! Thanks for this well written refutation of climate conspiracy-mongering.

    I often try to come at the deniers from another angle on wealth, suggesting that if any of them had real, solid evidence that the mainstream consensus on climate science was wrong, bringing it forward would get them “wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.”

    How much would the world pay to be rid of AGW once and for all? A Nobel prize would be the least part of it.

  17. Brian D wrote: “Has the reverse ever happened? A prominent scientist (or industry figure) publicly withdrawing from (what is perceived as) a lucrative position because the organization they’re apart of was in denial of climate change?”

    There was of course Rick S. Piltz, who resigned from the EPA in protest March 2005; saying Bush administration officials had acted to “impede forthright communication of the state of climate science and its implications for society.” He started the Web site Climate Science Watch.

    Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, a Clinton appointee to the Office of Science and Technology Policy who continued to serve into 2001, resigned later that year. She stated: “The scientists [who] knew the most about climate change at OSTP were not allowed to participate in deliberations on the issue within the White House inner circle.”

    In addition, Eric Schaeffer and Bruce Buckheit, both enforcement officials at the EPA, resigned in 2002 and 2003 respectively because of disgust at lax enforcement for polluters.

    But the pattern during the GW Bush administration was that scientists and others dissenting from policy decisions — and there were many — were either muzzled or fired.

    One of the best books on the subject is Seth Shulman’s Undermining Science Here’s my review:

    http://www.chris-winter.com/Erudition/Reviews/S_Shulman/Undermining.html

  18. @ Kate and Frank. Nova’s $50 billion would have come from the desk of Senator Inhofe. No doubt the trillions is an exaggeration, a genuine mistake (Lewis is in his eighties), or it may have been fed to him by the likes of Fred Singer.

  19. Bear in mind that the billions or even trillions will have mostly been spent on the satellite and bouy systems, which would be up and running regardless of climate change anyway. Compare that to the $500 billion a year the fossil fuel industry gets in taxpayer subsidies each year worldwide (according to Pielke Jr.)

  20. J. Bowers. What 500 billion dollars in subsidies? Where in heavens name did that figure come from?

    Robert Pielke Jr – J. Bowers said so in his comment. -Kate

    For proper science to work, systematic measurements must be made. To do this, sometimes public monies have to be invested in hard and software. It is not cheap, but because all of the information generated can be made public, ( and should be done for free). Much can be learned and theories can be verified or not. Learning and verification is what science is. No more, and no less.

  21. winnipegman:

    To do this, sometimes public monies have to be invested in hard and software. It is not cheap, but because all of the information generated can be made public, ( and should be done for free).

    Yet you see no problem with Hal Lewis whining that public money has been spent on (horrors!) doing research.

    frank

    When did winnipegman say that he supported Hal Lewis? -Kate

  22. Good morning all. A quick question Kate, J Bowers quoted Robert Pielke Jr. as using the figure 500 billion dollars in subsidies. I would love to read the full quote, where is it published and how can I find it. I objected to it because it didnot pass the old sniff test. A quote that inflamatory regarding that much money I am sure I would have run across it before. If J can elaborate I would appreciate it.

    Hey Frank, No prob. My skin is usually pretty thick. If Hall Lewis wishes to whine about public monies and research, he can fill his boots. The fact that he would be wrong, in my opinion, has nothing to do with it. It is his opinion. That is what matters. By the way Frank, I am in this for the thinking. I am learning and having fun. What could be better.
    We sometimes loose sight of the relationship of scientific research to public betterment. Research is expensive. Government and private monies are needed. We have in place a system of checks and balances that work reasonably well in seeing thast the monies spent go where the greatest good can be found. The internal competition for these monies is fierce. The old adage of “publish or die”is very true. and the research money will almost always go to the most visible current topic of the day, and into those projects whos proponents have the biggest reputations (comes from publishing). Its a human political thing. Aint much going to change it.
    If some commitee has approved money to be spend researching the width of the knee caps on left handed females in East Armpit N.Y., they had their reasons. That will be public money. Private money will always be more focused. Lets all remember that the next time we take pain meds or have an innoculation. That research is private. And hey, it is important that we know about those kneecaps, cause you just never know. Those published results may help someone else with something that seems to be unrelated.

    One of the fun things I have noted through all this warming debate, is the number of experienced people who are devoting their private time and experience to “nit pick” at the portions of the published research. And then publish their findings. Sort of modern day alchemists. What I like is that they are doing it.
    What is alarming (to me) is the amount of little things that they “seem”to find, that cast doubt on the quality of the information that some theories are based. Alot of these “little things”dont pass my sniff test. But, enough do. Not enough to change the theory/theories, but enough to question the total accuracy.

  23. winnipegman:

    If Hall Lewis wishes to whine about public monies and research, he can fill his boots. The fact that he would be wrong, in my opinion, has nothing to do with it. It is his opinion. That is what matters.

    So you think the freedom to spout garbage is more important than the freedom to find the truth?

    I think that flunks the ‘sniif test’ pretty hard.

    We have in place a system of checks and balances that work reasonably well in seeing that the monies spent go where the greatest good can be found. The internal competition for these monies is fierce. The old adage of “publish or die”is very true. and the research money will almost always go to the most visible current topic of the day, and into those projects whos proponents have the biggest reputations (comes from publishing).

    So one moment you say that public funds for research are channeled for good causes, and the next moment you say that public funds for research are channeled towards eye-catching projects.

    A lot of these “little things” dont pass my sniff test. But, enough do. Not enough to change the theory/theories, but enough to question the total accuracy.

    So now you think that science is best decided with your nose? When someone asks, “is (x + 1)² = x² + 2x + 1?” do you say things like ‘this smells right’ or ‘this doesn’t smell right’, or do you actually work out the sums? Seriously, are you actually learning anything, or do you merely feel that you’re learning something?

    frank

  24. You don’t believe that climate science is engaged in conspiracy, good, neither do I. However, replace climate science with pharmaceutical, chemical, construction, banking, or any other business and ask yourself if they should be given a free license to do things their way. Scrap health, safety and other regulations. Don’t bother auditing, accounting or any other form of standards vetting. Would they conspire to cut corners, cheat the public, fail to publish results, present only one view when there were others to be considered?

    When have climate scientists ever done this? These are very serious accusations that require evidence, not speculation. -Kate

    Businesses usually don’t intend to harm people, they don’t intend to make mistakes, they don’t plan to mess up their tax payments, but they do. So why do we need to keep an eye on them and not climate scientists? What makes climate scientists better than any other field? And if they’re just like everyone else, why aren’t there similar bodies set up to audit their work?

    The IPCC is certainly not set up to vet the work they present. Peer review isn’t designed to ensure that calculations and data are accurate (Phil Jones admitted he’d never been asked for his data as part of peer review). Apart from individual integrity and ability, what stops them from cheating or making mistakes? You can’t even say that having similar results coming from multiple areas is proof they’re getting the right answers. The banks all agreed with each other before the recent crash but don’t we wish the regulatory bodies had taken a bit more care to spot what the banks were too close to see?

    It doesn’t have to be about conspiracy, there’s more than enough to worry about where mistakes could be involved.

  25. “When have climate scientists ever done this? These are very serious accusations that require evidence, not speculation. –Kate”

    I was talking about business but if you want to make the link I’ll return it – can you prove that they haven’t? When it comes to trust there’s no such thing as innocent until proven guilty. Climate scientists are telling the public they have to radically change their lives. How much should we take on trust?

    Do we have to wait until someone does something wrong before we put regulation into place? Surely you’re not suggesting that climate scientists are infallible? That they never have or will make mistakes? That they are incapable of doing things for the wrong reasons. All of them, ever? That must mean that the sceptic scientists are 100% right too…

    Regulatory bodies aren’t put into place because people always act like crooks, they’re put into place because there are serious implications if things go wrong and sometimes there are bad apples. Surely you can accept that the issue is important enough to deserve the same level of monitoring as say the drugs industry, if only to ensure that claims of bad conduct are allayed?

    The bad mistake made about the Himalayan glaciers wasn’t the wrong number in the IPCC report, it was how the issue was dealt with. Amazongate was a bad conjunction of two known issues that created a falsehood when they were united which was backed up by dodgy literature. Phil Jones wasn’t a good record keeper. These and other things are minor on their own but when added together they create a picture of lackadaisical management. I’m sure that what we have now was good enough 10 years ago but not now.

    No, climate scientists are not infallible – as nobody is – but that is precisely the point. Why should they be expected to be infallible? Why should referencing errors that have nothing to do with the science cast doubt on the science? I believe it was Bill McKibben that said, “The larger the haystack, the greater the probability of finding a needle inside.”

    It is a question of risk management – is the public willing to wait until climate science is 100% certain (a futile task) before they agree to take action to avoid a significant risk that has the potential to completely destroy our way of life?

    Finally, climate scientists are not the ones telling us that we have to change our lifestyles. They’re just the ones studying the problem – they don’t have the same kind of power as policymakers. Reminds me of yet another quote, this one by Jeremy Jackson: “I was labeled as an advocate because I measured something.” -Kate

  26. TinyCO2:

    However, replace climate science with pharmaceutical, chemical, construction, banking, or any other business and ask yourself if they should be given a free license to do things their way.

    Did you just compare climate science, which is largely funded by the public, with a bunch of privately-funded businesses? So what you’re arguing is essentially this:

    Do you agree that robbers do bad things? Therefore, we should enforce stringent regulations on the cops who catch the robbers, while robbers should enjoy the freedom to rob whoever they want!

    The real analogue to privately-funded businesses is actually the bunch of climate ‘skeptic’ think-tanks out there such as the Heartland Institute, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, etc. which have been constantly pumping out nothing but misinformation.

  27. I’m saying that scientists are human. Just because they are publicly funded doesn’t make them any more honest than anyone else. You seem to be suggesting that businesses are robbers. Nice. That’s why communism was such a squeaky clean success compared to the nasty capitalist western democracies.

  28. Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

    Seriously, there are alternatives between John Galt selfish capitalist utopias and Karl Marx state-controlled collectivist utopias. By trying to paint that kind of image, you’re committing False Dilemma writ large.

    Frank’s analogy was imperfect, certainly – if for no other reason than publicly-funded science is not the regulatory mechanism for private business (that’d be public officials, ideally informed by transparent and publicly-accountable science… but we’ve already discussed how that’s subverted by lobbying, i.e. Data Quality Act). But analogies are little more than A:B::C:D (“A is to B as C is to D”), which does not equate to A=C;B=D (“A and C are the same, B and D are the same”). The important element of analogies are not their constituent components, but rather the relationships between them.

    Furthermore, your “public funding != increased honesty” complaint is only valid in the narrowest sense of “honest”. Public funding includes public accountability, meaning it can be audited by anyone and is transparent as possible. Thus, it can be held accountable with greater ease – just try to get access to, say, Exxon, AIG, Pfizer, or Koch Industries’ books, records, or research and you’ll see it’s orders of magnitude harder (if possible at all) than the same task at publicly-funded (and thus publicly-accountable) universities. If you don’t see how this translates into increased honesty, then I posit your view of human nature is about as clouded as Rand’s.

    Finally, if all you can understand is the desire to increase personal wealth, look at it this way – the only way a research scientist can qualify for funding is by proposing and conducting research. This is contingent somewhat on the scientist’s reputation – no university or granting agency will give money to a fraud. There are cases of scientific fraud in public research, certainly – but they are all career-ending incidents. Even something like plagiarism is a career-ending incident. Penalties for such dishonesty are extreme in the public sphere, even before you look into funding options.
    However, consider working as an independent scientist for a think tank, where your funding comes from (often anonymous) donors and your goal is to advance the ideological perspective of the think tank (instead of furthering human understanding). You have incredible incentive to suppress information contrary to that goal (and with the lack of public accountability, who will know?), and your job is stable unless you are publicly disgraced.
    (Citation: See above on Matthew Crawford and the George C. Marshall Institute.)

    I know which of these two I’d put my trust in. See also Kate’s sidebar-linked credibility spectrum; I share her reasoning on the relative ranking between open, public, peer-reviewed science, and business interests.

  29. I don’t trust any of them, that’s why I want to see climate scientists subjected to some credible forms of regulation and inspection. Regulation isn’t a foolproof method but it’s the minimum that should be done.

    [citations needed – Phil Jones lost data]

    A scientist’s career is dependent on continued success. Publish or die, I think is the phrase. Already, mistakes have been made but nobody within the University system call it fraud, they refer to it as a mistake. Nothing wrong with coming to an incorrect conclusion, eh? Well yes there is if they make no attempt to impress upon others how much their work is subject to uncertainty. If the media overstate the case the scientists should demand a retraction.

    [citations needed re: a particular Hansen projection that did not come to pass]

    People make mistakes, fine, but we live in a World where we try to ensure that serious decisions are built on as much double checking as possible. Peer review doesn’t fulfil that requirement on any level.

    Kate says “climate scientists are not the ones telling us that we have to change our lifestyles”. On the contrary, if the prediction they make are true then we all have to cut back. Industry can’t do it alone. Have you tried to cut your CO2 back to pre industrial levels? Or do you think a serious contender for replacing oil, gas and coal is just round the corner?

  30. TinyCO2 commented:

    “Have you tried to cut your CO2 back to pre industrial levels? Or do you think a serious contender for replacing oil, gas and coal is just round the corner?”

    The point is that serious contenders exist.

    While it is an ultimate goal which is both achievable and desirable, no one that I take seriously, and indeed no one that I know of is advocating that we cut back to preindustrial emmision levels on a time scale of less than one hundred years. What is more, it is not being contemplated that we should return to a pre-modern life style, that would be without cooling, refrigeration, heating, or transportation. Robert Socolow and his colleauges have thought at length on this subject and they have published. For a discusion see:

    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/003861.html

    The point is that there is not one solution to our problems. There are a variety of solutions, and in order to ultimately meet the goal of having a modern technological civilization which is sustainable they are going to have to be deployed. Ultimately they will be. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. They will be exhausted if we continue to use them. The question is will we make a reasonable transition to the full set of technologies that are available, or not.

    The objection of people like myself, is that here in the United States the Republican policy has been to do nothing. The Republican policy has seemed to be the following:

    Deny that the very possibility of a problem. Deny the possibility that we are having a pernicious influence on the worlds climate system. Ignore the fact that every prestigious scientific organization has issued a call for action on climate change. Label efforts to encourage the adoption of more efficient technologies as being impractical. Defame the good name scientists who are acting in good faith. When all else fails, lie, and do so often and with passion.

    In this context it needs to be pointed out that while no technolgy is without flaw, it remains the case that energy technologies exist that in the aggregate could be used to completely replace the existing fossil fuel technology, and allow the maintenance of a modern life style.

    These include, but are not limited to, the following: nuclear, hydro-electric, a variety of solar technologies, and wind.

    It should be further noted that the are also a variety of measures which can be used during the transition. The most important of which is increased efficiency in our energy use.

  31. Noted that there has been some changes in the realities facing the Solar, Wind and Tidal power industries since the cited paper was written (2004) and posted (2005). Here near the end of 2010 We know that wind power is very inefficient in temps below freezing. There has yet to be a breakthrough in solar power generation that would put it into competition with traditional generating methods. And to rub salt into their wounds, only massive infusions of tax dollars appear to make these viable. Remove the subsidies and these industries die (see Spain). And as far as carbon cap and trade is concerned, my broker says it is dead. Dead as Al Gores presidential hopes.
    So Patrick, when I contemplate reducing my carbon footprint, and doing it in an affordible way, I keep the above in mind. Old information is not useless, just not always relible.

  32. David Greenwood
    “… rural Manitoba is quite conservative in many ways, including a high number of people who are bible literalists.”

    My brother is a teacher in LA public schools. He has tried talking about climate change with a science teacher in the school, who says he’s unconvinced. Come to find out he also doesn’t believe in evolution. LA is anything but rural.
    And we wonder why America is falling behind in science education.

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