John Tierney writes about the money paid to the man-man global warming crowd in his new article for the New York Times. In it he notes the criticism he received for speaking at a event that was funded by the Heartland Institute. The environazi’s were all aghast because they believed the institute to be funded by fossil fuel companies. Nevermind that the money from fossil fuel companies have never been over 5% of their budget, in their minds thats enough to be a tool for big oil. John notes similiarites with this kind of stuff and the “fat is bad” studies done in the 70’s:
These criticisms remind me of what happened to scientists who dissented from the “consensus” on the dangers of dietary fat in the 1970s, which I wrote about in this column about Gary Taubes’ book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” The skeptics were eventually vindicated by studies casting doubt on the link between fat and heart disease and cancer, but not before some of them were marginalized by accusations that they’d been corrupted by research grants from food companies.
What made these smears especially unfair, Mr. Taubes writes, is that the money from food companies was trivial compared with the money being doled out by government agencies. One of the researchers who’d supposedly been bought off noted that he’d received $250,000 from the food industry in his career versus $10 million from government agencies — and wondered why this didn’t make him a “tool of government.”
Now, you may trust the government agencies more than you do private companies because the agencies are supposed to be serving the public, not increasing profits for shareholders. But the officials running the agencies have their own agendas — like increasing their budgets and power and prestige, which can be done by supporting research demonstrating that there’s a terrible problem for the agency to solve. These officials are also subject to pressure from politicians and from the research establishment, which by definition tends to be more interested in work that conforms with the prevailing wisdom.
Once the fat-is-bad theory became the consensus — and was being formally promoted in federal agencies’ recommendations to the public — the officials handing out money were much more interested in finding evidence about the evils of fat than in looking at alternative hypotheses (like the carbs-are-bad theory discussed by Mr. Taubes). And research that jibed with the majority opinion was more likely to appeal to the editors and reviewers at journals as well as to journalists covering the debate. Scientists and journalists try to be open-minded, but they’re not immune to the confirmation bias that has been documented in so many experiments.
Moreover, it’s naive to think that money from industry is a monolith supporting one side of a debate. There were plenty of food companies eager to support the fat-is-bad consensus and profit by selling new low-fat products, just as there are companies — whole industries, in fact — eagerly promoting research and policies that jibe with the prevailing view on the dangers of global warming. Granted, there are companies lobbying against emission cuts because it could cost them money, but there’s plenty of potential for profit in the campaign against global warming, and energy companies are already angling for their cut.
A cap-and-trade systems for curbing carbon emissions (the kind criticized at this week’s conference) is popular in Washington in no small part because of corporate lobbyists who see a chance to make money from the carbon credits. There’s money to be made in developing alternative energy — even when it’s not so green, like the ethanol industry that has been collecting subsidies for decades. There’s money to be made by cultivating a green image. And there’s lots of money to be doled out to researchers studying climate change and new energy technologies.
John ends his piece asking to see figures comparing how much money from corporations, foundations and the government have been given to the skeptics of man-made global warming as compared to the true believers. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess there will be a disparity there.
The skeptics in the minority start off with a disadvantage in getting their message heard simply because of the media’s bias for bad news and horror stories. When there’s a well-financed majority dominating the public debate, I find it odd to hear its members objecting to anyone else receiving money or attention.
Its an excellent article in which John doesn’t attack one side or the other, he just brings up some questions. The sad part is that the left can’t be as open minded. They furiously attack anyone who dares to disagree with the “consensus.” You don’t see conservatives storming the stage of speakers to shut them up. You don’t see conservatives throwing pies at speakers they disagree with. But we do see the left tell us to just shut up on global warming….the debate is over.
John McLean studied this whole “debate is over,” “there is a consensus,” hogwash and wrote a 7 page paper outlining what he found. The summary reads:
At the end of the day it is a struggle to determine exactly what the supposed consensus refers to. If it applies to a significant human influence on climate then it seems impossible to find any credible evidence of an overwhelming consensus from experts in the relevant fields. The authors of any section of the IPCC’s Assessment Reports are too few in number and there was little explicit support shown by the expert reviewers. The IPCC’s only evident consensus is from government representatives approving the text of documents.
The 2003 survey by Bray and von Storch showed majority, but hardly overwhelming, support for the claim. The work by Oreskes was significantly biased from the outset and based on false assumptions of equal opportunity for all researchers.
The then chairman of the IPCC Robert T Watson produced no support for his claim of an “overwhelming majority of experts” who believed that human influence was altering climate to some unspecified degree. The various media reports about a consensus that about half the warming was due to a human influence are devoid of evidence to support such claims. Back even further Gore claimed a consensus about an unspecified level of human influence but again there is no evidence for that statement.
The lack of clear evidence for a precisely stated consensus means that there’s not a lot on which to hang a much-repeated claim.
At the end of the day, and most disturbing is the near fanatical views of some in the man-made global warming community that treat anyone who disagrees with them as heretics. As if their science is the new religion.