2011-03-22 04:59:02A post looking at claim "climate scientists seduced by power.fear for their jobs.toe the line"?


I interviewed George Mason Univ. "climate literacy" public figure James Trefil the other day, & he put forth this view - that climate scientists bias what they say&publish because they're seduced by being close to power, so rank&file climate scientists fear for their jobs/funding & so toe the line.

I looked at SkS and didn't see a post or rebuttal directly addressing this assertion (I did see subparts, e.g. "The IPCC consensus is phoney" and "Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy").  I also didn't see it directly addressed at Coby Beck's site.

But I am skilled at overlooking things that are right under my nose, so:

Is there already a post or page directly addressing this argument, that I've overlooked? (If not, and there's a perceived need, I'll write one.)

2011-03-22 09:30:26Nothing on this yet
John Cook


Scott Mandia did a series of posts tangentially related to this, addressing the more common version of this argument "scientists endorse AGW for the money":



Part 2 is especially interesting pointing out that in the US, the laws set it up so scientists cannot get rich from grants.

Anyway, what I'm saying is no, there's no SkS page addressing this.

2011-03-22 12:15:51Excellent. There will be soon.


Thanks John. I'll use:

  • Mandia's "for the money" rebuttal #2 (against "Scientists holding an anti-AGW viewpoint cannot get funding" - a) the contrarians do have funding, b) Exxon et al. would happily step up. )
  • ClimateScienceWatch (or ?)'s "Govt (Bush admin) tried to muzzle/play down its scientists speech/writings"
  • NYTimes's "industry ignored its own experts on climate"
  • BBC's Richard Black's 2007 "I asked for hard evidence of papers not published, expected a deluge, got only crumbs" (and re the one case (M&M Commentary) RB didn't address, it didn't meet the conditions for publication ("central conclusion of the earlier paper is brought into question" (link) since  its central conclusion still holds. (reference for this? and was this known at the time? )
  • "if there's good evidence, why aren't people bringing it up online? aka Ian Enting's "[if there's good evidence] why is so much of what passes for public debate based on fabrication?" (and why don't the arguers dissociate themselves from the fabricators) (via Lambert)
  • "See recent stuff published on Sun's role, that raises Qs about prevailing wisdom" (Richard Black, or a blogpost URL for this?)
  • And finally, as a heuristic weighing against it, the nature of the culture of science - "science is rugby" (P. Watts) & "you make a name by doing something different, not sameole sameole"; distinction between science and potemkin science (found in "thinktanks", nat'l labs,  industry)

Does anyone have other suggestions for relevant references/arguments/distinctions?


2011-03-22 13:17:02Links we have in our database
John Cook


Looks like you've got a lot of material there to work with - good luck bringing it all together! :-)

Here are the proAGW links in our database that address "people are making money from GW" (hmm, not that many):

2011-03-23 04:31:38
Mark Richardson

This is one accusation that frustrates me no end. But I can't think of a way to communicate it that would persuade bystanders.



I look at the car park outside my department and thenrealise that their accusation is basically that the people working here, with first class physical science degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Durham etc couldn't earn a lot of money elsewhere if that's what they wanted. It's a malicious, disgusting accusation; but how to explain that to people?! Perhaps one way of doing it is comparing incomes of people with the same level of qualifications, I'd be surprised if scientists came out above engineers, programmers etc.


Ofc, some scientists might be doing it for ideological, political or media coverage reasons. Which is wrong, but that shouldn't taint the majority.

2011-03-23 04:38:17



You could look at civil-service salary scales. Last time I checked, a GS-15 (top-level position, like chief scientist of Nasa) would make something like $145,000 per year. A think a lot of 2nd-line software managers make that much.

2011-03-23 07:03:55Wrangl looks like a great display tool for this kind of multiple-counterargument post, but is not yet ready for prime (or any) time


Wrangl is cleaner looking than DebateGraph; but I tried just now and can't make it work with MSIE or with Firefox (on XP)

Here's a post about Wrangl - fantastic tool for presenting debates

2011-03-24 08:21:10On Wrangl: the 2 (venal,cowed scientists) climate debate args, plus counters


At http://wrangl.com/isclimatescienceusable  (Arguments "they're in it for the gold" and "they're cowed by political correctness")

Take a look, see what you think; the Wrangl website itself is still a work in progress, but IMO very promising. (I've been overloading its poor proprietor with feature requests, on the "feedback" forum.)

Plan: I want to wait a few days & see what Wrangl features evolve/improve/get implemented, then do a SkepSci post pointing to it, & emphasizing these 2 arguments since they're new.  Meanwhile, feel free to add counterarguments, but it's probably best not to add any existing SkepSci arguments just yet, since that'd be unneeded effort if the Wrangl comes to implement  Import and Export functionality.

2011-04-09 02:25:28


What irks me most about claims of conspiracy and 'only in it for the money' is this:

It is only a valid argument if the science has only been around within living memory: dead dudes collect no pay for conspiring to push up daisies.


Climate science is based on a solid foundation traceable back to George Best c.1535 - 1584.

His writings cover these topics:

There are 5 climate zones, as noted by the Ancient Greeks, but the Greek notion that two of these zones are uninhabitable is wrong.

The amount of heat accumulated in a climate zone depends on the angle of the sun's rays and the number of hours of daylight.

It is not the atmosphere that heats up, but the land surfaces.

The atmosphere traps heat: heat rays are reflected back down by the atmosphere.


To anyone who says: "only in it for the money", I would ask:

How is George Best supposed to collect his share of those billions in research grants?