Friday, April 01, 2005

The Big Business of Climate Change Research

Just how big of a business is climate change research? That is a rather interesting question. In order to keep the money flowing it would seem that there has to be doom and gloom predictions which will "require" more study, hence more money. Then of course, there is the influence of organizations such as the Pew Charitable Trusts. I have posted about their involvement in fraduently presenting campaign finance reform. Roy Spencer looks into this matter.

"But a new report released today by the Marshall Institute, a Washington-based science policy group, looks at the major donors to environmental groups for climate-related activities. It finds that the vast majority of those donors represent and promote left-leaning causes.

Historically, those causes often involve lobbying Congress to promote a specific agenda. A startling example of this is the recent
report of a former officer of the Pew Charitable Trusts admitting that Pew heavily funded a number of private interests to make it look like there was a grassroots movement in favor of campaign finance reform, which was later passed by Congress.

A wide variety of charitable foundations fund organizations whose very existence depends upon environmental crises. Does anyone really believe that organizations such as Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, and World Resources Institute would breathe a collective sigh of relief if the balance of evidence were to show that global warming was going to be relatively small, benign, and even beneficial?

I know at least two climate scientists that have received MacArthur Fellowship "genius grants", large no-strings-attached monetary awards, for their work on raising awareness of the threat posed by climate change. I wonder if there will ever be a MacArthur Fellowship for any researcher that finds evidence for a much reduced threat to humanity from human-induced climate change? "
Since any beneficial impact from global climate change would not be part of the world view of those organizations funding this research, you can bet that money for researchers finding beneficial effects would dry up in a hurry.
The article concludes with:"While the distribution of these funds to universities and private companies might be expected to be policy-neutral, the real situation isn't quite so simple. Government agencies that disperse research funds have an infrastructure that depends upon congressional support for their existence. Their level of continued support depends upon the level of the threat perceived by the public, which then justifies the expenditure of tax dollars.

I'm not questioning the potential threat that climate change presents -- it is indeed an issue worthy of the investment. I am questioning, however, the perception that environmental organizations, and federal funding, are policy- and politically-neutral.

Someone once said, it's not a matter of who is biased (because everyone is) the real question is, which bias is the best bias to be biased with? I'm thankful that we have the freedom which allows the open exchange of ideas, and the competition between alternative philosophies and worldviews. The more money we spend on specific environmental threats, the less there is to devote to other issues. Therefore funding decisions must be based upon well informed citizens and policymakers. But let's not be naïve about unbiased motives. They simply do not exist."
The question now becomes, which bias wins out and how accurately does that bias reflect the factual data. - Sailor

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