Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Skeptics aren't necessarily in it for the money either

A number of us like to joke about the ridiculous contention that climate scientists are in it for the money. It is worth noting that the critics of climate science are not necessarily in it for the dough either.

There appears to be this mistaken assumption that the few scientists who are skeptical of climate change science are doing so because the coal or oil industry wrote them such a big cheque (Canuck sp.) that they chose to abandon their previous understanding of climate science. It's not that simple. In most cases, the scientists who are influential climate skeptics were so well before receiving money from the fossil fuel lobby. The funding came to them because they were already making the argument for other reasons, usually political ideology and/or a horribly shortsighted faith in simple models*.

A great example is Myanna Lahsen's 2008 article on the three physicists from the George Marshall Institute that more or less founded climate change skepticism (hat tip to Eli):

By contrast to common suggestions, these scientists’ motivation is not fundamentally rooted in desires for financial gain. Being past retirement age and no longer active scientists, their fight for basic science, for instance, does not benefit them individually. And it is hard to believe that, upon retirement, these physicists would jeopardize their cherished professional images for mere financial gain.

Climate change "activists" make a huge mistake assuming that their opposition are only in it for the cash. There is real ideology at work. As I've argued before and will again, it's worth thinking about what motivates people the "other side". That may be the only way we'll ever find workable solutions to this mess.

* e.g. like arguing that since CO2 "only" changed from 0.028% to 0.038% of the lower atmosphere, it couldn't possible alter the climate, and thus ignoring all of radiative science


EliRabett said...

Sorry Simon, the money plays a big role. Seitz was getting ~ 130K$/yr from tobacco in the 1980s. Michaels gets a ton of money from fossil fuel interests. Soon and Balinas were well paid for the OISM red herrings.

Fred Singer is the best one, he had a million squirreled away part of was the wages of obfustication earned from the tobacco industry.

These guys are a seriously bad bunch, and very adept at disinformation campaigns.

Don't give them an inch.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking of writing stories and studies on how the climate change could be good for mankind, would that make me wealthier?

Simon D said...

Eli's right, being a skeptic has made a some scientists richer. That doesn't change what I'm saying. Seitz, Singer et al already hated climate science. They weren't climate scientists that decided there's better money in being a skeptic. So I'm saying it's not just about the money. There is real ideology, even with the more disreputable skeptics like Singer.

John Mashey said...

(a) a tiny number of people make serious money off this.
(b) a few make a liitle money.
(c) most make nothing.
(d) some pay to do it.

Eli's talking about (a), who are the vocal meme generators.
I see no hope of ever changing their minds.

But see
especially section 5 on demographics and section 7 on Why?

Most of the nonunderlined peopl, with excepionally of Singer and a few others , have no obvious financial connection.
If you look at page 44 and 45, the reason that I enumerated the various reasons is that different people have different combinations of reasons. In addition people may have the same combination of twain currently, but got to them in different orders. If you think of the reasons as atoms, then such combinations are a bit akin to isomers.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually with Maribo on this. For instance in the case of Lindzen I suspect he is motivated by both attachment to his iris hypothesis, and also his self-image as a 'maverick'.

John Mashey said...

so, read Section 7 in that paper I mentioned. Add to that the discussion on p.41 of Stephen Schneider's new book Science as a Contact Sport. It seems clear that Lindzen's views date to 1972 or earlier, long before he had an Iris Hypothesis. Check the catalog on p.44 of my piece.

For Lindzen [who would be B4 (field scientist, maybe K9 knowledge], I would speculate:

TEC1+TEC6+PSY2 already in 1970s

PSY3 and FIN3 later on.

and there may well be ID2/POL2 in there as well.

Anyone, his viewpoint was already clear in the 1970s, I'd suggest IRIS was an outcome of the viewpoint, not a viewpoint developed in defense of a long-held hypothesis.

Anna Haynes said...

> Seitz, Singer et al already hated climate science

ok, that's the culture wars thing; and it does motivate a lot of people.

But it doesn't account for everyone who plays in the inactivist symphony. How would you explain Dubner? How would you explain Nicholas Wade's desparation to get his "the climate has warmed and cooled before" talking point in, on Colbert's show a year ago? How do you explain Dyson-profiler Dawidoff's viewing the truth value of Dyson's views as unimportant?

Their actions don't make sense in the face of something with this much potential for devastation.

John Mashey said...

Let me offer a process.

1) Track a fair number of people.

2) Generate a list of *plausible* reasons for the beliefs espoused.

3) See if one finds people for whom there are no plausible reasons in the list, in which case try to add them in. Delete reasons that seem to add no explanation. Basically, this is generating a hypothesis about the classification of reasons.

(This is the general state of p42-45 in my long APS paper. I was working on the next steps, but that work got interrupted by the months-long effort to do that paper.)

4) Now, start building a matrix of specific people versus reasons, with latter calibrated on some scale from Certain to Not.
That is trying to validate the hypothesis or classification system to see if it is useful or not.

5) After that, see if there are simple groupings/correlations, so that there are a few related groups.

Think of this as looking for elements, then studying a whole lot of molecules to see which atoms go together. The opposite approach is to pick a few molecules, and the latter has the virtue of simplicity. John Quiggin's "Taxonomy of Delusion" is an example of that.

The other piece needed is OBR Flow, which needs some more work. It shows some relationships amongst various entities, where the left side of the chart shows where the FIN* motivations exist. I.e., this has flows of money and memes.

guthrie said...

In my experience online, amongst the general populace you have many people who oppose the realities of global warming because of ideology. They are prepated to cheeer along Watts et al and spend hours ignoring the science on blogs and newspapers, all for free.

The reasons being that firstly greenies are evil anti-human anti-capitalists. Secondly it is all a scam to get more tax from people, and thirdly because they refuse to believe anything which might make them change their ways.

Or rather, the people concerned are small c Conservatives or market worshippers of the glibertarian tendency.

EliRabett said...

The money is enabling, which is the problem.

Simon D said...

Eli, I agree with your last comment. The opinion about climate change existed beforehand, the money makes it easier and more appealing to speak out.