2011-07-04 12:07:16Responding to the 'gravy train' argument
John Cook


SkS doesn't currently have a rebuttal to the "scientists are just in it for the money" argument. Bit difficult to respond to it as it's not a scientific argument. However, I was reading this article The plausibility gap in the denial of climate change science and thought of a way SkS could respond to it and still be a science based answer.

The skeptic argument is "billions are spent on AGW". But that's a false characterisation. What actually happens is billions is spent on investigating climate. All the money is spent collecting satellite data, taking measurements all over the world and analysing them. What the empirical data tells us - what NATURE is telling us - is that humans are disrupting climate. Skeptics' beef is not with climate scientists. It's with the emphatic message we're receiving from nature.

What this argument does is take the emphasis away from climate scientists and back to evidence and reality. Anyway, I've seen a few article address this issue (we've listed a few articles under "People are making money from global warming" and "Global warming is money motivated" - two arguments which could probably be merged into one) and possibly we could borrow some ideas from existing rebuttals. But the evidence based approach seems an appropriate manner for SkS to tackle it. Just putting it out there if anyone wants to run with this theme. :-)

2011-07-04 12:30:34


The argument I've used in the past is that, in the US, scientists are generally employed by universities or the government. The highest civil-service salary grade is #15, and the top of the payscale for that is $145,000. By industrial standards, this is nice; but I personally know many software managers who make more than that. It's really nothing special.

2011-07-04 14:37:48Reframing the discussion
John Cook


The point of the gravy train argument is to try to deflect the attention away from science and onto scientists. My thinking is we should use the argument as an opportunity to point back to the evidence. Pointing out that scientists don't make much money (and that most of the funding goes into equipment like satellites) should be mentioned but my thinking is that shouldn't be the main point, otherwise we're just playing their game and going where they want us to go.

Two places they don't want us to go - back to the scientific evidence or turn the argument back on them by poining out dollars deniers make (eg - Willie Soon getting paid over $1 million from fossil fuel). But the fossil fuel angle is not appropriate for SkS.

2011-07-04 18:57:48Some testimonials
Glenn Tamblyn


One approach might be to ask a range of scientists, perhaps not just in climate science, what the basis is for how they are paid. Not what they are paid obviously. But things like- do they have to find funding to cover their salary during vacation periods when they are not teaching. If they get a research grant, does this money go into adding to their salary or is it used by their institution to offset the cost of their salary, with the scientist not recieving any more.


The point of this is definitely NOT to be defensive about spending. The point is to show how it really works so that the people who suggest otherwise can be portrayed as wing-nuts without ever having to say so.

We aren't here to rebut the wingnuts, we are here to marginalise and isolate them. And nothing isolates them more than having the lurkers see them as fruit-loops, drop-kicks and fools. Always give them rope.

2011-07-04 19:21:51


Gavin at RealClimate once wrote up a break-down of a $1 Million grant he had:

- something like 40% to overhead (= institutional support)

- bills for equipment and super-computing time

- for 2 postdocs and 3 grad students

- over 3 years

Not much left over for ship cruises iin the Mediterranean.