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Dec 10, 2009

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Josh Rowley

Here's a story reporting that over 1700 UK scientists have signed a statement affirming their belief that global warming is caused largely by humans: "On Thursday, more than 1,700 British scientists released a statement saying they continue to have 'the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities'" (see:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-climate-hacked-e-mails,0,4500568.story?track=rss ).

Are UK scientists being funded by the US government?

The irony of the argument that money is motivating climate scientists is that many global warming deniers are fueled (pun intended) by oil companies--it's no coincidence that Senator Inhofe is a Republican from oil-rich Oklahoma. It seems to me that a more balanced and less naive argument would suggest that money is a factor to both sides in this debate. That said, I have some difficulty believing that scientists want money for bogus research. Why would they want to continue doing research that they know is bogus? Why not instead seek money for more worthwhile research pursuits?

Rick McGinniss

"Why would they want to continue doing research that they know is bogus? Why not instead seek money for more worthwhile research pursuits?"

Ego, maybe? http://tinyurl.com/yl4damr

Michael W. Kruse

It ain't just about the money. It is about the intersection of a several mutually reinforcing interests that leads to groupthink. I think there are some calculating manipulative types involved but I'm not suggesting a tightly orchestrated conspiracy.

I'm swamped tonight. Hopefully I can elaborate on my points in the morning.

Michael W. Kruse

I’ll try to be brief but this is multifaceted.

Scientific matters are not settled by straw polls. (I could direct you to some sites where just as many international scientists object to the cataclysmic AGW scenario.) Science is settled by developing theory that accounts for the facts and has predictive value. For the theory to have merit it must have emerged through rigorous testing through and open process where competing ideas do battle until a theory emerges as king of the hill. We have had such a process over the years on theories like relativity and evolution. These are well established scientific theories.

There is no theory of climate change. There are dozens of them, many with directly competing assumptions. The models are heavily dependent on computer models with thousands of assumptions of how the atmosphere, the oceans, the sun, the flora and fauna, and a host of other factors all relate to each other. It is massively complex. The IPCC has dozens and dozens of groups that examine aspects of the big picture but there is ultimately a writing team that pulls this together into a scenario. Then there is a political arm that goes about making policy recommendations. There are some notable scientists who will not have anything to do with the IPCC because of this political aspect of things. Thus, what we are getting with the IPCC is not a scientific theory but an attempt at synthesis by a cadre of scientists who have conviction that there is a link between human behavior and warming.

It is the complexity that makes the issue so powerful. There is not simple straightforward way you can definitively prove or falsify it. I’ve read a bunch of books and articles on this subject from differing perspectives and it is bewildering. There is no way a layman can get his head around it all. I don’t’ think scientists can either. (Prov 18:17 comes to mind, “The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines.”) So the layman looks to other indicators for direction on what positions to take on the topic. Personal ideology, not science, becomes the driving factor. Narratives are manufactured that solidify the veracity of one’s ideology while creating evil opponents to rally against.

So let me try to highlight the pieces that I think feed into the global warming debate.

One, scientists are not objective truth discerning machines. They are human beings with egos. They desire purpose in their lives. They like praise and recognition. It’s pretty heady stuff to know that you are in the lead of saving the planet. Thousands of young scientists have been inspired to enter their fields for just such noble goals. But what if it turns out the threat you thought was there is falsified? We are not just dealing with impersonal discernment of scientific facts. We are talking about undermining the paradigm to which some people have given their entire lives.

Two, being a leading specialist in the science most in demand to save the planet is a major power rush. Power corrupts. If can it can be shown that the threat you are supposedly saving the planet from is false, what happens to that power and position? Scientists do fudge and lie in their studies. A recent extreme case was the South Korean doctor who published fabricated studies in peer reviewed journals about cloning about embryonic cell cloning. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwang_Woo-Suk”>See here.) This guy was clearly craving recognition. More typically, I don’t think most scientists are deceitful in their studies. Rather the paradigm they operate from draws their attention to certain things and causes them to minimize or ignore others. (Think of those pictures where if you look at it one way it looks like a vase but look at it another and you see the profiles of two people looking at each other.) There is an unconscious tendency to fudge things toward the embraced paradigm. (This is why the wide open competition with complete access to data and formulas by critics is so essential. Only with this type of competition will weaknesses be exposed are paradigms verified.)

Three, politicians need to justify their work on behalf of the people. Thus, the frequent efforts to “declare wars” on any number of issues or conversely to portray oneself as “going rogue” against prevailing destructive forces. Saving the planet from impending doom is a great resume enhancement. Thus, if enough people are convinced that the planet is going to fry, politicians have a mission (and ready made villains in the form of dissenters.) Politicians need to be seen as protecting their constituents and scientists need money fund research. Scientist band together to create the public perception of pending doom and that gets them money and positions. (James Hansen exaggerated his testimony to Congress in the late ‘80s, tripling the amount of projected warming the literature suggested would happen over the next century. His rationale was that he needed to get people alarmed to get their attention.) Government and science now have vested interest in the global warming paradigm.

Four, as the paradigm becomes more firmly established, and as government becomes more activist, businesses get into the act. Some like Exxon try to fight the tide. Others try to accelerate it. Defunct Enron was a major backer of carbon limits and of cap and trade in the ‘90s. Why? Because they dominated the natural gas market and if other forms of energy could be made more expensive relative to minimal carbon producing natural gas they stood to make a big profit. Eventually large corporations embrace the paradigm out of pragmatic business sense rather than any conviction of the paradigms validity. They now have a vested interest in perpetuating the global warming paradigm because they have refocused their business to keep in step with customers and threatening government regulators.

Fifth, those with politically ideologies that disparage markets and human freedom in favor of command and control economies see an opportunity in the global warming paradigm. The alleged impending cataclysm serves as justification for bringing economies under the management of government. Those who may less collectivist tendencies still have animus toward the markets and the people who work in them and view the proposed “solutions” to global warming as great was to “stick it to the man.”

All of these factors (and there are more) intersect and interact to create a formidable narrative in which any dissent is greeted with the most vitriolic hatemongering, comparing dissenters to deniers of the Holocaust. Yet the science is far far from anything resembling an established theory.

You are missing my point in pointing to Britain’s scientists who do not receive American funding. The issue is not American funding but government funding. What proves to be successful in one venue in getting government funding is going to be replicated elsewhere. In fact, some suggest that the global warming paradigm as means for funding originated in Britain and spread to the U. S. Arch conservative Margaret Thatcher in the early ‘80s wanted to advance the construction of nuclear power plants over the objection of environmentalist. She encouraged and funded scientists to study the possible impact that fossil fuel technologies were contributing to warming so as to make nuclear power look more feasible.

Please understand that I’m not positing some tightly run conspiracy by a secret committee. It is rather people operating within what Peter Berger and Leslie Newbigin called a “plausibility structure.” Enough of the pieces all seem to hang together for the folks that are caught up in all this that they reinforce back to each other the plausibility of their paradigm.

The Eisenhower speech I quoted in the post is the same one where he warned against the emergence of the military-industrial complex, where the military, industry, and government would develop interlocking relationships that would perpetuate wars and divert from resources from more useful pursuits. Ironically it is those who most took to heart his warnings about the military industrial complex (and rightfully so) who are accepting with out question, reflection, or hesitation this scientific elite that he also warned against. They are willing to restructure the entire economy of the planet toward collectivist modes of governance, placing us perilously close to totalitarian scenarios in an age of nuclear weapons.

Yes, dissenters have agendas and vested interests. They should not be listened to without scrutiny. But where is this same level of scrutiny for the participants in this interlocking plausibility structure built around climate change? The best disinfectant in the climate change debate is for the climate scientists to open up. They need to make all their data and models open for complete wide-open scrutiny to the rest of the world. Momentous decisions are resting on the validity of what is being portrayed by these people. Instead, we get the paranoid and manipulative behavior we see evidenced in the information that was made public last month. Other less dramatic examples of this stuff have been in evidence for years.

My point is not that global warming is not happening. My point is that we are in a risk management mode in a context of considerable uncertainty. What we need is openness and Big Science is has a vested interest, along with others, in thwarting the openness.

Josh Rowley

Michael:

This comment is helpful, especially the last paragraph--a couple of your recent posts made me wonder if you had joined the conspiracy theorists camp.

For the most part, I agree with points 1, 2, 3, and 4; 5 still sounds too much like a conspiracy theory to me.

ZZMike

"Are UK scientists being funded by the US government?"

Absolutely not. They're simply people responding to their boss saying "You'd like to sign this, wouldn't you? After all next year's funding is right around the corner".

And many of those "signatories" are not scientists (or even climatologists) - they're just workers at the various facilities.

"One scientist said that he felt under pressure to sign the circular or risk losing work. The Met Office admitted that many of the signatories did not work on climate change."

"One scientist told The Times he felt under pressure to sign. “The Met Office is a major employer of scientists and has long had a policy of only appointing and working with those who subscribe to their views on man-made global warming,” he said. "

Back in the 50s, our own Senator Joe McCarthy had people sign "loyalty oaths" under pain of getting fired. This is just the same sort of thing.

" Why would they want to continue doing research that they know is bogus? Why not instead seek money for more worthwhile research pursuits? "

Because tenure depends on it. More than that, if your whole career up to now has been based on climate change and AGW, do you really think very many scientists would be willing to chuck all that research and start over?

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