Causes and Consequences of the Climate Science Boom

Causes and Consequences of the Climate Science Boom
William N. Butos
Professor of Economics, Trinity College, Hartford, CT, USA +1-860-297-2448
Thomas J. McQuade
Independent Scholar, San Diego, CA, USA +1-347-274-9903

Forthcoming in The Independent Review


Scientific disciplines, like economies, can and do experience booms and busts.  We document a boom in climate science, sustained by massive levels of funding by government entities, whose scientific direction is set by an extra-scientific organization, the IPCC, which has emerged as a “big player” in the scientific arena, championing the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming.  We note the difficulties in obtaining definitive empirical clarity due to the complex nature of climate, the feedback between the effects of the IPCC’s advocacy and the government’s willingness to fund the science, the ideological and political agendas at play, the dangers to the integrity of scientific procedure in the context of ideological bias, and the poor performance of the “crony capitalist” enterprises that have grown on the back of politicized science.

Keywords; Climate science, global warming, science funding, big players, crony capitalism, crony science

Acknowledgements; We are indebted to Laurence I. Gould (Professor of Physics at the University of Hartford) for directing us to an extensive literature on all sides of the anthropogenic global warming controversy, and to John B. DeYoe for supplying additional references.  We are also grateful to the following for providing information and statistics relevant to climate science funding by government entities: Anne Hung, NSF (Operations Specialist, GEO/AGS); Clinton Overrider, NSF (Program Manager, Budget Division); Matthew Horihan, AAAS (Director, R&D Budget and Policy Program); and Julie Morris, USGCRP (Program Director Strategic Programming).  We thank J. Huston McCulloch, Carine Krecké, Elisabeth Krecké, Brian Gladish, Larry Gould, Donna McQuade, Roger Garrison, Leland Yeager, Richard Lindzen, and James Pierre Louis for helpful comments and corrections.  We have had the benefit of detailed comments and suggestions from three referees.

  1. Introduction; Recent science booms (and ensuing busts) in the US include the boom in space science and some related disciplines in the aftermath of the 1957 Sputnik launch and the boom in computer science prompted by the Japanese “Fifth Generation” project in 1984. These were relatively short-lived phenomena, and the busts came when political interest (and funding) waned, due to the purported crisis no longer being seen as a pressing concern. More comparable to the situation in climate science would be the long-lasting scientific booms in eugenics and in nutrition science.[2] The eugenics boom, although very adequately funded, came to an end with the exposure of the eugenics-inspired atrocities of the Nazis, and the nutrition science boom has slowly (and quietly) given way to the gradual accumulation of empirical evidence difficult to fit within the government-favored hypothesis. In both of these cases, the object of scientific study was, like the climate (and the economy), a complex system which is not susceptible to the precision of empirical testing possible on simpler physical systems.    Our exposition of the causes and consequences of the climate science boom proceeds as follows:
  2. FIGURE 1: New Climate Science Papers, 1979-2013                    FIGURE 2: Federal funding for climate science, 1979-2013
  3. Evidence for an ongoing climate science boom can be seen in the following graphs showing the trend in published climate science papers (Figure 1)[3] and the trend in the level of US Federal Government funding of climate science R&D, initially via the National Climate Program Office and later via the US Global Change Research Program (Figure 2).[4] Whether or not this boom is sustainable is another matter; we argue here that there are strong indications that it is artificial and unsustainable, but we offer no predictions of the nature or the timing of the bust.
  4. The market economy is not the only arena of human interaction to experience booms and busts. Science is another. We claim that government policies and funding, and the emergence of a scientific “big player” in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) aggressively championing the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming (AGW),[1] have together fomented a boom in climate science which began in the early 1990s and has grown markedly over the past decade.
  1. We invoke the economic theory of the Big Player and indicate how this can be applied not only to market interactions but also to science. We identify two Big Player types in the climate science saga, with separate but intertwined effects: the government funding agencies who dominate the financing of research, and the IPCC whose pronouncements about the state of the science carry enormous clout. We describe how the herding in the scientific arena induced by the IPCC interacts with the government funding activities in mutually reinforcing ways.
  2. We provide data on the recent levels of funding for both basic climate science research and for other government-sponsored activities that presume the accuracy of the IPCC climate projections. Our findings indicate that government funded climate science and technology has massively increased over the past 20 years.
  3. The operations of the IPCC are found to entail “crony science”. We highlight the political nature of the organization, its unscientific procedures for generating “consensus”, and the editing of its summaries by political appointees, and we document the alleged violations of scientific procedure by some of the more ideologically committed scientists.
  4. In assessing the sustainability of the boom, we note the complex and unpredictable nature of the climate and the inconclusive nature of the evidence amassed so far in establishing a case for any of the hypotheses put forward to account for the warming trend observed over the past century.
  5. With policy preceding the science, there has emerged a host of crony capitalist enterprises that have seized on government support of the AGW hypothesis to obtain loans, tax breaks, and other financial backing from public sources, and we document the overall performance to date of these entities.
  6. Our overall conclusion is that a confluence of scientific uncertainty, political opportunism, and ideological predisposition in an area of scientific study of phenomena of great practical interest has fomented an artificial boom in that scientific discipline. The boom is driven and sustained by the actions of Big Players, the IPCC and various government entities, in funding the boom and singularly promoting one among a number of plausible hypotheses describing the relevant phenomena. Given the scientific uncertainties inherent in the system under study[5] and the incentives for continued political involvement (even in the face of widespread failures in government-supported businesses whose activities were premised on the reliability of the AGW hypothesis), it is possible, even likely, that the boom will persist for a considerable time, not unlike previous booms in eugenics and nutrition science. The likelihood of a continuation of generous funding to maintain the boom is bolstered by, on the one hand, a widespread faith (among both scientists and the general public) in government’s ability to solve problems through legislation and control, and on the other, the political attractiveness of a putative crisis apparently calling for a large expansion of state power.[6]
  1. Big Players in Markets and Science

“Big Players”, as described by Koppl (2002, pp. 120-123)[7] in an economic context, are “privileged actors who disrupt markets” in the sense that, though they are not subject to market constraints and to the discipline of market competition, their discretionary actions have widespread impacts on the expectations and actions of market participants.

Their effects are felt in two ways: in the diversion of entrepreneurial concern away from the assessment of fundamental economic data and toward the attempted prediction of the activities of the Big Player, and in blunting the weeding-out effects of the normal market mechanisms on participants less adept at appraising economic data, especially in the cases of those actively favored by the Big Player.  In markets, prototypical Big Players are central banks and government agencies empowered with discretionary policymaking.  As Koppl (pp. 129-130) argues,[8] markets dominated by Big Players are prone to herding, where market participants, with little reliable information as to the Big Player’s next move, look to what others are thinking and doing.

That the phenomenon of the Big Player has relevance in science as well as in markets can be appreciated if it is understood that markets and science, as systems of social interaction, though differing vastly in the particular transactional forms employed, are similar in their structural form.[9]

Scientists interact with each other in ways that are every bit as complex and structured as the interactions between market participants.[10]  As scientists, they don’t produce or buy and sell marketable goods, speculate on future asset prices, or seek financial gain and risk financial loss, but they do participate in interactions that have analogous feedback effects.  They publish hypotheses and report experimental findings, use or criticize (and cite) the work of their peers, choose areas of research to pursue often based at least in part on anticipated reputational returns, and face the risk of loss of scientific credibility and funding.  In both cases, market and science, the repeated interactions between the participants feed back recursively to generate emergent effects: in markets, a spectrum of goods, prices and brand names, that reflect the realities of resource availabilities, production technologies, and consumer tastes; in science, a body of knowledge and attendant scientific reputations that reflect the realities of the world under observation, experimental techniques, and the dictates of good practice.[11]

In markets, money is the essential component in all exchanges, and the manipulation of money by a discretionary central bank (a prototypical Big Player) can have unintended effects, including the promotion of unsustainable booms.[12]  In science, the essential ingredient needed by most scientists in order to continue their participation is funding, and as science itself is not self-funding this must come from an outside source – an employer (often a university), a private donor, or a government entity.

Sources of large amounts of funding directed to a specific area of scientific study can, in their (perhaps unintended) ability to affect the direction and content of research, generate an unsustainable boom of activity in that area.  However, generous funding of a scientific discipline does not necessarily give rise to an unsustainable boom, and large increases in scientific activity in a particular area are not necessarily unsustainable.[13]  So, funding by itself, even if directed to favor one hypothesis over another, is not the problem; the problem arises when the provision of funding allows for or even encourages the continuation of research and publication activities which undermine the operation of the feedback inherent in the standard procedures of science – feedback which performs the scientific analog of profit and loss in assessing the scientific value of publications and in furthering the scientific reputations of their authors.

Science, in rare cases, is also susceptible to another sort of Big Player: one with the ability to portray a favored hypothesis as settled, consensus scientific knowledge even in the absence of a substantial body of confirming evidence.  This is difficult, or impossible, to carry off in the hard sciences.  But where the object of study is a complex adaptive system, where the internal feedbacks are poorly understood and even incompletely identified, and where the sharp and detailed prediction possible in the hard sciences is not feasible, the scope for extra-scientific factors to enter into the assessment of hypotheses, and therefore the scope for Big Player involvement, is much higher.

The role of scientific arbitrator can be pursued through application of force and intimidation, as was the case of the Soviet government acting as a Big Player in the Lysenko episode in biology,[14] or, more subtly, by any organization which, for political or ideological reasons, has been able to set itself up as a respected voice qualified to assess the state of science in a particular discipline.  The IPCC has taken on that Big Player role in climate science.

  1. The IPCC and the Emergence of Consensus; The UN took up the issue in 1988, forming the IPCC as an independent body of scientists charged with assessing current climate science research (specifically emphasizing the effects of human activity on climate) and producing summary and detailed reports geared to public consumption[22] – on the face of it, a very useful service. But the way in which the IPCC is organized[23] and its methods for eliciting agreement on the conclusions given in its reports[24] have opened it up to be the conduit of pervasive bias. Scientists are appointed to the panel by government officials, the panel’s summary reports are edited by politicians and environmental activists without further scientific review, lax oversight allows scientists to assess their own work, relevant peer-reviewed literature is often ignored, and the much quoted percentage assessments of confidence in particular conclusions are arrived at by a process of discussion and compromise which is hardly a scientific method of characterizing uncertainty.The IPCC qualifies as a Big Player in science in that it possesses all of the attributes characteristic of Big Players in markets: bigness in terms of influence, insensitivity to the usual constraints, and discretion in its ability to promote a favored direction of research. Its influence in climate science is pervasive, and the complex nature of the climate system and the lack of understanding of the feedbacks at play enable it to champion the most politically attractive of the several plausible hypotheses and to largely ignore uncertainties and potential disconfirmations which are the usual scientific constraints on the acceptance of hypotheses. Professional success in climate science has become more tied to the acceptance of the IPCC’s pronouncements than with the exploration of contrary possibilities; in fact, scientists who profess competing hypotheses are routinely castigated as “deniers” and some have reported unusual difficulties in negotiating the publishing process.[26]
  2. Nonetheless, the IPCC has emerged as the purveyor of definitive conclusions deduced from climate science research. And there are very good reasons as to why its pronouncements would be taken as authoritative. If one does not inquire closely as to the details of the process by which it produces its reports, it has the appearance of a thorough, competent, and disinterested body. It engages the unpaid services of hundreds of scientists and expert reviewers from all over the world in order to produce, every six years or so, an exhaustive summary of findings in many climate-related fields. Through a process of discussion and negotiation intended to resolve differences in interpretation, it purports to present, as one voice, a definitive assessment of the current state of the science. It enjoys the backing of governments around the world, and as a UN organization it has special status. Its receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 has cemented its reputation generally as a climate science oracle.[25]
  3. Climate science has grown from a scientific backwater to an active, well-funded, and important area of research over a period of about 30 years.[15] In the 1980s, after a decade of generally rising global temperature measurements (which followed about 30 years of generally falling temperatures and some speculation about an impending ice age[16]), the hypothesis that the rise was driven by a greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide emitted as a result of human activity was debated and, although there was dissent, the hypothesis was widely seen by climate scientists to be plausible.[17] But an extreme inference from the hypothesis – a human-induced global catastrophe – was publicized by environmental pressure groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund[18] and the Union of Concerned Scientists,[19] and the tentative scientific hypothesis began to be transformed, without anything close to rigorous scientific confirmation, into almost-certain knowledge of an impending crisis of worldwide proportions in the face of which no reasonable person could remain unconcerned.[20] Funding in generous quantity began to be directed, initially by philanthropic organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation[21] but increasingly by various government agencies both in the US and overseas, toward research projects in climate science, a significant part of which was explicitly aimed at documenting a real and present man-made danger.

While a large majority of climate scientists are reported as being in general agreement with the AGW hypothesis and with the IPCC’s pronouncements, the accuracy and extent of this consensus has been questioned.[27]  But, despite the objections to vaguely worded questionnaires, selectivity in sampling, subjectivity in the analysis of paper abstracts, and disputes as to who actually qualifies as a “climate scientist”, the results of several surveys are consistent in depicting an overwhelming acceptance, by scientists associated in some way with climate science, of the IPCC line.[28]  The oft-quoted 97% number may be unrealistic and unsupportable, but the general acceptance by the majority of scientists having any connection to climate science seems real enough.  This herding is a predictable result of the IPCC’s Big Player presence.

In science, when the “common wisdom” favors a particular hypothesis, there is an incentive, particularly for younger, not-yet-established researchers, to follow it.  If the hypothesis turns out to be correct, you are seen to have the good sense to have espoused it; if it turns out to be incorrect, you have plenty of company.  Either way, your scientific reputation will not be materially damaged.  But if you flout the common wisdom but it turns out to be correct, your reputation will suffer greatly.  This raises the following question: is the contrarian stance, with a potentially large reputational gain if the hypothesis turn out to be false, worth the risk?  As Koppl (2002, pp. 129-130) points out, in the context of markets, that depends on the reliability of the evidence.[29]

Incentives influence the choice between idiosyncrasy and herding.  If the penalty for a bad idiosyncratic decision is high compared with the penalty for the same bad decision made along with everyone else, then one has an incentive to concentrate less on evaluating reports about the empirical evidence and more on noting what other scientists believe.  If the available reports about the empirical evidence are reliable, then they provide a powerful counterweight to this incentive, namely, the large gains to be expected from taking a correct but idiosyncratic position.  When most of the available reports have been rendered unreliable by a Big Player’s discretionary interventions, this counterweight no longer exists.  The expected gain from taking a dissenting position then becomes too small to discourage herd behavior.  Herd behavior is encouraged by discretionary interventions because of the role of reputation in the furtherance of scientific careers.  The process is self-reinforcing – if herding begins, the fact that increasing numbers of scientists seem to espouse the common wisdom serves only to cement the appearance of consensus.  The less reliable are the available empirical assessments, the longer such self-reinforcing movements can go unchecked.

The very nature of the IPCC’s organization, from its politically motivated appointments of senior staff, to its process of producing allegedly scientific summaries by negotiated compromise, to its toleration of the intervention of political operatives into the production of the most publicized reports of the state of the science, has served to make it the purveyor of tainted science.[30]  The introduction of political considerations has rendered the reported science unreliable and has obscured the uncertainties inherent in the studies of a very complex and poorly understood system.  And as a herding-inducing Big Player in science, the IPCC has provided synergy for the interventions of Big Players of a different sort, the government entities who have seized on the IPCC-generated consensus to fund the climate science boom thereby justify increasing economic interventions citing the threat implied in the AGW hypothesis.

  1. The Government’s Role in Climate Science Funding, Government funded R&D, including those activities related to the development and financing of technologies and programs characterized as mitigation of and adaptation to the presumed effects of climate change, are embedded in scores of agencies and programs scattered throughout the Executive Branch of the US government. While such agency activities related to climate science have received funding for many years as components of their mission statements, the pursuit of an integrated national agenda to study climate change and implement policy initiatives took a critical step with passage of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This Act established institutional structures operating out of the White House to develop and oversee the implementation of a National Global Change Research Plan and created the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to coordinate the climate change research activities of Executive Departments and agencies.[33]As of 2014, the coordination of climate change-related activities resides largely in the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, which houses several separate offices, including the offices of Environment and Energy, Polar Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Clean Energy and Materials R&D, Climate Adaptation and Ecosystems, National Climate Assessment, and others. The Office of the President also maintains the National Science and Technology Council, which oversees the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability and its Subcommittee on Climate Change Research. The Subcommittee is charged with the responsibility of planning and coordinating with the interagency USGCRP. Also, the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy is housed within the President’s Domestic Policy Council. While Congress authorizes Executive branch budgets, the priorities these departments and agencies follow are set by the White House. As expressed in various agency and Executive Branch strategic plans, these efforts have been recently organized around four components comprising (1) climate change research and education, (2) emissions reduction through “clean” energy technologies and investments, (3) adaptation to climate change, and (4) international climate change leadership.[36] Second, the entries for the departments and agencies in Table 2 involve varying degrees of climate-related R&D. Table 2 does not provide a detailed programmatic allocation of these funds. A more careful breakdown reveals that the listed funding amounts are exaggerated because some entries are not proximate to climate-related R&D. This is illustrated by the following examples: 2.    Within the Office of Science R&D, only about half of the sub-entry for Biological and Environmental R&D of $0.625 billion (not listed in Table 2) is climate-relevant research.4.    The aggregate entry for the DOI in 2013 includes $87 million for a program entitled “New Energy Frontier: Renewable Energy” that concerns the environmental impacts of siting for energy development on federal lands. Such monies, while related to climate research, are not directly so and perhaps warrant a separate category, such as climate-related “Sustainability and Adaptation”.Table 3 attempts to take into account these complications with the aim of estimating more accurately the magnitude and disposition of federal monies for climate science R&D and related activities.By any of these measures, the scale of climate science R&D has increased substantially since 2001. Perhaps, though, the largest funding increases have occurred in developing new technologies and tax subsidies. As can be seen from Table 1, federal dollars to develop and implement “clean energy technologies” have increased from $1.7 billion in 2001 to $5.8 billion in 2013, while energy tax subsidies have increased from zero in 2001 and 2002 to $13 billion in 2013, with the largest increases happening since 2010.The impact on scientific research of government funding is not just a matter of the amounts but also of the concentration of research monies that arises from the focus a single source can bring to bear on particular kinds of scientific research. Government is that single source and has Big Player effects because it has access to a deep pool of taxpayer (and, indeed, borrowed and created) funds combined with regulatory and enforcement powers which necessarily place it on a different footing from other players and institutions. Notwithstanding the interplay of rival interests within the government and the separation of powers among the different branches, there is an important sense in which government’s inherent need to act produces a particular set of decisions that fall within a relatively narrow corridor of ends to which it can concentrate substantial resources.
  2. By any standards, what we have documented here is a massive funding drive, highlighting the patterns of climate science R&D as funded and directed only by the Executive Branch and the various agencies that fall within its purview.[40] To put its magnitude into some context, the $9.3 billion funding requested for climate science R&D in 2013 is about one-third of the total amount appropriated for all 27 National Institutes of Health in the same year,[41] yet it is more than enough to sustain a science boom. Its directional characteristic, concentrated as it has been on R&D premised on the controversial issue of the actual sensitivity of climate to human-caused emissions, has gone hand in hand with the IPCC’s expressions of increasing confidence in the AGW hypothesis and increasingly shrill claims of impending disaster.
  3. The recent pattern of federal climate science funding, moving toward emphasis on the development of technologies and their subsidization through the tax system, suggests that climate change funding has become more tightly connected to agencies like the Department of Energy, NASA, the Department of Commerce (NOAA), EPA, and cross-cutting projects and programs involving multiple agencies under integrating and coordinating agencies, like the USGCRP, lodged within the Executive branch. The allocations of budgets within these agencies are more directly determined and implemented by Administration priorities and policies. We note that the traditional role of NSF in supporting basic science based on a system of merit awards provided (despite some clear imperfections) certain advantages with regard to generating impartial science. In contrast, even a casual perusal of current agency documents, such as The National Science and Technology Council’s The National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021, shows that those driving this movement make no pretense as to their premises and starting points.[39]
  4. To be sure, the very opaqueness of these allocations and their actual use only provides for “ball park” estimates. However, we believe that the results presented in Table 3 come closer to a useful accounting than what previously has been provided. We have combined data from Leggett et al. (2013) and the AAAS Reports for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 (the only years for which the AAAS provides detailed budgetary data for climate science R&D and climate-related funding). This constrains Table 3 to including data only from 2010 through 2013. We have adjusted budgetary data and categorized it in light of discussion points 1-5 above. Note that the estimated aggregate expenditures for climate science and climate-related funding (excluding tax subsidies) from 2010-2013 in Table 3 are about twice that of the Leggett findings.
  5. 5.    Funds administered by the Treasury Department in Table 2 are credit lines and loans channeled through the World Bank earmarked for international organizations to finance clean technologies and sustainable practices; consequently such funds would also more accurately be considered as climate-related sustainability and adaptation.
  6. 3.    Within the entry for NOAA, funding for the National Weather Service (not listed in Table 2) averaged about $0.9 billion annually from 2010-2013. Yet, this funding is not directly related to climate science.
  7. 1.    The DOE’s Office of Science R&D lists about $4.6 billion in 2013, but most of this is physics R&D having little to do, at least directly, with climate.
  8. This summary and the detail in Table 1, however, do not capture the full scale of federal funding for climate science R&D. Two complications must be considered to capture a more accurate estimate. First, the entries in the first row of Table 1 for climate science only refer to monies administered by the Executive branch via the office of the USGCRP and does not include all climate-related R&D in the federal budget. For example, the entry in Table 1 for the USGCRP in 2011 is just under $2.5 billion; yet the actual budget expenditures for climate science-related R&D as calculated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) total about $16.1 billion.[38] In addition, since USGCRP funding is comprised of monies contributed from the authorized budgets of the 13 participating departments and agencies, a more accurate estimate of climate-related R&D requires deducting USGCRP funding from the aggregated budgets of those 13, most of which are included in Table 2.
  9. Leggett et al. (2013) of the Congressional Research Service provides a recent account of climate change funding based on data provided by the White House Office of Management and Budget (see Table 1, below). Total expenditures for federal funded climate change programs from 2001-2013 were $110.9 billion in current dollars and $120.2 billion in 2012 dollars. “Total budgetary impact” includes various tax provisions and subsidies related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (which are treated as “tax expenditures”) and shows total climate change expenditures from 2001-2013 to be $145.3 billion in current dollars and $155.4 billion in 2012 dollars.[37]
  10. The USGCRP operates as a confederacy of the research components of thirteen participating government agencies, each of which independently designates funds in accordance with the objectives of the USGCRP; these monies comprise the program budget of the USGCRP to fund agency cross-cutting climate science R&D.[34] The departments and agencies whose activities comprise the bulk of such funding include independent agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, US Agency for International Development, the quasi-official Smithsonian Institute, and Executive Departments that include Agriculture, Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology), Energy, Interior (the US Geological Survey and conservation initiatives), State, and Treasury.[35]
  11. The past 15 years have seen a sustained program of funding, largely from government or quasi-government entities.[31] The funding efforts are spread across a bewildering array of sources and buried in a labyrinth of programs, agency initiatives, interagency activities, and Presidential Offices, but what they seem to have in common is an adherence to the assumption that human activity is primarily responsible for the warming observed in the latter part of the 20th century. Funding appears to be driving the science rather than the other way around. And the extent of this funding appears not to have been heretofore fully documented.[32]
  12. Ideological Bias and the Undermining of Scientific NormsThe scientific process for the generation of reliable knowledge relies heavily on general adherence to the norms of publication and citation, with feedback effects on the reputations and credibility of contributing scientists. Were these norms to be systematically violated within a scientific discipline, knowledge and reputations would still be generated, but the knowledge would be counterfeit and unreliable, and the reputations would be similarly tainted.[42] In climate science, the presence of Big Players – the IPCC in its ability to direct the science and the government in its supporting role of ensuring that IPCC-compatible science is funded – has engendered a growing politicization of the discipline, showing up in attempts to restrict publication of dissenting views and to attack the reputations of scientists who question the IPCC “consensus”.These claims find some substantiation in the collection of emails and other data hacked from the Climate Research Center of the University of East Anglia in 2009.[44] In these emails, leading IPCC-affiliated scientists such as Michael Mann and colleagues in the US and Phil Jones and colleagues in the UK[45] vent their distaste for researchers who dispute aspects of the AGW hypothesis, discuss their frustrations with requests for supporting data and their strategies for not complying with such requests, attempt to influence the reviewing process for papers they consider “dangerous”, berate journal editors and reviewers for allowing dissenting papers to be published, and discuss boycotting journals thought to be open to such papers. In one email[46] Jones, then an IPCC chapter lead author, referring to two papers not supportive of AGW published in a peer-reviewed journal, wrote: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin[47] and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
  13. While this quote reflects poorly on the IPCC’s process of summarizing the extant peer-reviewed literature and the steadfast refusal to provide data to researchers attempting to reproduce published results is a clear violation of scientific norms, the extent of successful scientific distortion involved is hard to assess. It is not clear that the emails reveal more than a fairly extreme version of the egoism, competitiveness, sensitivity to criticism, and disdain for those not in agreement that is not particularly uncommon in science circles. What does stand out rather clearly and consistently is a pervasive ideological bias in the scientists involved. As might be expected, there is a lot of discussion, expressed doubts, and disagreements among these scientists as to the reliability of their data, their assumptions, and the statistical methods being employed,[48] but none of this shows up in their public presentations.[49] It is not prominent either in the IPCC reports to which these scientists are major contributors, and to the extent it appears at all it is buried in the jargon of the supporting scientific chapters but absent from the widely read summaries. There are excursions into political activism, with discussions about circulating alarmist statements for endorsement by other scientists (in furtherance of “the cause”), letters to the US Senate, and encouragement of environmental agendas.[50] The line between science and politics in climate science does appear to be rather blurred.
  14. There have been a number of allegations of scientific misbehavior within climate science, ranging from extreme bias in the publishing process to removing so-called “deniers” from academic positions.[43] But these are anecdotal, subject to claim and counter-claim, and cannot be held up as definitive evidence. Lindzen (2012, section 4), however, does attempt to document some serious instances of violations of scientific norms. These include pressure placed on some editors and reviewers to reject papers even mildly criticizing the AGW hypothesis, collaboration between some editors and reviewers with a view to suppressing papers critical of AGW, pressures on authors during the review process to remove findings that could be construed as disputing AGW, and instances of ostracization and vilification of some researchers for their publication of papers criticizing AGW. In addition, Lindzen claims that journals have solicited “attack papers” (published as independent papers rather than, as is conventional, critical comments) in the wake of publication elsewhere of papers considered to question AGW. If rebuttals of the attack by the original authors do get published, it is with a delay, and as comments only. The result is to make the original papers appear to have been discredited.
  15. Scientists are no less likely than anyone else to be swayed by a fear of crisis, and this is especially the case for those who see that they, with their relevant expertise, may be able to contribute to doing something about it. It is surprisingly easy for scientists to overstate the certainty of their results and to ignore or attempt to explain away conflicting data, but this is not unusual and it does no lasting damage provided that the basic procedures of science (review, publication, criticism, citation, and the feedbacks to reputation) are functioning normally. But when a particular set of conclusions is widely held not only to fit one’s preconceptions but also to have serious social implications, the harsh and critical judgments necessary for weeding out shaky science can be significantly toned down. The ideologically primed sense of impending global warming catastrophe, transformed into near-certainty by the influential publications of the IPCC, has endangered the integrity of the processes of science.
  16. Intimations of Scientific UnsustainabilityThe IPCC reports detail what they call a “human fingerprint” in both greenhouse gas concentrations and global temperature changes[51] and, having estimated the parameters in various computer models on past observations of some, but not by any means all, known influences on climate, run these models to project future trends. That there is a human contribution to the rising concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is not in dispute; neither is the basic mechanism of a greenhouse effect. Where there is uncertainty and dissent is in the estimates of climate sensitivity – the global temperature response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2. The IPCC models produce a climate sensitivity “best estimate” of roughly 3°C (with a “likely” range of 1.5-4.5°C), whereas some instrumental observations suggest a much lower sensitivity.[52] In addition, the CO2 response is modified by various (not all well-understood) feedbacks, both positive and negative, and whether or not the actual net effects of increasing CO2 are discernable from the natural background variability is debated. Global temperature trends (both atmospheric and oceanic) in the last 15 years (no significant warming and perhaps even a slight atmospheric cooling) have not adhered to the model predictions, which looked for an atmospheric warming of at least 0.3°C and oceanic warming of about 0.2°C over that period. Much effort is being expended to account for this “hiatus” in the upward temperature trend and, while some recent work suggests deep ocean heating, it is clear that there are significant natural processes not being accounted for in current climate models. [53]In assessing the significance of such empirical problems it should be kept in mind that the climate is a complex system which is subject to a myriad of influences many of which are still incompletely understood, so that any modeling of the system as a whole must of necessity simplify potentially important factors and leave out others. It is not surprising that the predictive efficacy of such models should be limited; what is surprising is that the results of such modeling could be taken as a firm basis for consensus among supposedly inherently skeptical scientists. This is particularly the case when the science relevant for the understanding of many of the climate forcing factors is still in its infancy. The extent, direction, and longevity of several potentially crucial temperature feedbacks is not currently known, and this lack of understanding of climate feedback amplification, at the very least, calls into question the predictive ability of climate models and makes the IPCC’s “very likely” identification of man-made warming little more than a guess.A different type of methodological issue involves the “levels of confidence” and “likelihoods” assigned in IPCC reports to particular scientific hypotheses and to the reliability of model projections.[61] A confidence assessment “synthesizes the author teams’ judgments about the validity of findings as determined through evaluation of evidence and agreement”. Being a qualitative assessment, obtained by polling opinions, it does not (as the IPCC does make clear, at least to its authors) have any relationship to statistical confidence, although that may be unclear to readers. A likelihood assessment, which “may be based on statistical or modeling analyses, elicitation of expert views, or other quantitative analyses”, is associated with a numeric quantity (with “very likely”, for example, being code for “90-100% probability”). But despite the authoratitive-sounding numbers, these likelihoods are no more a scientific assessment of probabilistic uncertainty than are the levels of confidence, as the inclusion of “elicitation of expert views” should make clear. This conflation of a level of scientific consensus with a negotiated compromise between the judgments of selected participants in a panel is highly misleading. Consensus of the IPCC’s sort is certainly no substitute for the normal scientific process of criticism, testing, and use, out of which real consensus is emergent.
  17. The point of detailing these issues is not simply to illustrate that there are competing hypotheses active in climate science,[62] but that significant elements of what is being publicized as the “settled consensus” is in fact continuing to be disputed in scientific terms. Ever since the AGW hypothesis has been put forward, there have been individual scientists and statisticians who have seriously questioned the circumstantial evidence presented, the methodologies employed in work supporting the hypothesis, and the reliance on tuned climate model projections as major clinching arguments.[63] But, more recently, the level of scientific dissent has grown markedly, and organizations such as NIPCC (which includes a broad cross-section of scientific expertise) and The Right Climate Stuff Group (a group of retired NASA engineers and scientists) have arisen to publicly dispute the conclusions of the IPCC.[64] Rather than settling down, the scientific controversy is continuing unabated, with the stubborn lack of any direct empirical evidence for the IPCC’s projections fueling increasing doubt and suggesting that the boom could be in trouble.
  18. On the methodological front, a major source of continuing controversy has been the so-called “hockey stick” graph, a product of the statistical analysis of data sets of both temperature proxy measurements and (where possible) instrumental temperature readings, the combination covering about the last 1000 years.[55] The study purported to show northern hemisphere temperature as reasonably constant except for a dramatic upturn in the last 100 years, so that the last decade of the 1900s appeared to be the hottest of the entire millennium. While, on the surface, the results might have been looked at with some skepticism in view of the graph’s virtual elimination of the well-documented medieval warm period[56] and the succeeding “little ice age”, the study was prominently featured in the IPCC’s third report.[57] It has since been argued that the hockey-stick shape was an artefact of the manner in which some basic statistical procedures were employed.[58] Rebuttals and rebuttals of rebuttals have continued since, and the question of whether or not the temperatures of the late 20th century are anomalous is still a matter of controversy.[59] But the very quick and prominent endorsement of what has turned out to be a highly contestable result casts doubt on the efficacy of the IPCC’s review and assessment procedures.[60]
  19. Not only are the outputs of the models in question; the inputs are, too. There is controversy over the accuracy and the potential contamination of temperature measurements (especially land measurements taken outside the US), and as a result even the very reliability of some temperature observations used in modeling efforts has been seriously questioned.[54]
  20. We can group the intimations of unsustainability of the climate science boom into two categories: (1) emerging problems of scientific prediction and confirmation, and (2) increasing disputation among knowledgeable researchers on the implications and relevance of particular data and growing questioning as to the methodological soundness of key investigations. Individually, these could be dismissed as unfortunate but not unusual events in the rough-and-tumble real world of scientific discovery, but taken together they indicate that all is not well in the discipline of climate science. The following are examples of empirical and methodological anomalies which are the subject of increasing controversy and whose very presence is indicative more of a scientific discipline in flux than one in which the science is settled.
  21. Crony Science Begets Crony CapitalismIn the case of the climate boom, government resources are not only directed to sustaining the boom but also to enlisting a large number of client businesses who benefit from subsidies justified in terms of their advertised potential for mitigating the effects of human activity which have been designated as responsible for excessive global warming under the AGW hypothesis. The spillover into the wider economy is manifest in the pervasive emphasis on (and subsidy of) “green energy”, including wind power, solar cells, automobile battery technology, and biofuels, and is accompanied by the demonization of more traditional and cheaper carbon-producing industries and technologies.Section 1705 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorized the DOE to provide taxpayer loan guarantees and direct investment subsidies for the development of green technologies.[65] As the program wound down in 2014, $16 billion had been allocated to 27 firms. As reported in detail in Lakatos (2014), the majority of the firms had officers or investors with close ties to political insiders at the federal and state levels, campaign bundlers, donors, and DOE agency officials. Of these firms, several have declared bankruptcy, accounting for $3 billion in taxpayer losses,[66] and several others listed by Nava & Morris (2013) as ”troubled recipients” account for an another $3.5 billion.[67] Of the 18 firms who were not listed as “troubled”, 14, representing $11.3 billion in loan guarantees, had not completed their projects as of the end of 2013, while 4 firms with loan guarantees of $352.6 million had completed projects. In summary, of the $16 billion in DOE loan guarantees, about $15.6 billion represent bankrupt, troubled, or incomplete taxpayer investments as of 2013.Beyond these considerations, Nava & Morris (2013) note that 83% and 11% of the loan guarantees went toward solar and wind technologies, respectively, violating basic precepts of investment portfolio diversification and ex ante exposing taxpayers to huge potential risks. In addition, at the outset of the loan guarantee program, 22 of the firms awarded loan guarantees were classified as “junk” grade investments or lower, and only the remainder classified above junk at BBB. As Nava and Morris point out, “the entire portfolio of [Section] 1705 projects has an average rating of BB-, a junk grade rating” (p. 23).
  22. The effects of Big Player activities in climate science have not been confined to the scientific arena, but are being felt in the wider economy. Taxpayer funds are being diverted on a large scale into government-favored businesses whose business plans are based on very uncertain science. This is hardly a recipe for economic success; indeed, the performance of such businesses to date would indicate that it is pure economic folly.
  23. Even if we assume that most of the loan guarantees in the “incomplete” category pan out, the taxpayer losses of perhaps $6.5 billion on a $16 billion “investment” are arguably unacceptable. What accounts for this flouting of conservative stewardship? The most obvious reason is that these investments cannot be ascribed to a market-driven process. Whatever the extent that cronyism played in the allocation of these loan guarantees, the entire process was driven by governmental objectives absent market-based constraints and mechanisms.
  24. As noted in Section 4 (see Table 3 and the associated discussion), the thrust of government climate change funding since 2009 has been directed at R&D expenditures for so-called “green technologies” via the Executive Branch. While the USGCRP under the White House Office of Science and Technology has become the principal agency orchestrating and coordinating climate science funding, various agencies, and especially DOE, have administered programs involving direct subsidies, loans, and tax preferences for green technologies.
  25. When a scientific discipline is subject to Big Player influences that circumvent normal scientific procedure to favor a particular hypothesis and to inject political considerations into the assessment of scientific achievement, the result can be termed “crony science” in analogy with the “crony capitalism” of an economy where particular industries and individual businesses are favored and the normal operation of profit and loss is blunted. And crony science can beget crony capitalism. When the result sought by crony science has obvious technological implications, then it is no surprise that businesses might see considerable profit opportunity in obtaining government support in pursuing such applications.
  26. Conclusion
  27. The ongoing boom in climate science and its spillover into the wider economy has been made possible by the combination of several mutually supporting factors:
  • The emergence of a scientific Big Player in the IPCC, an organization ostensibly formed to collect and appraise scientific findings about human influence on climate in climate science in a disinterested manner. The IPCC has become a dominant voice in the climate science community and its summary pronouncements on the state of the science carry significant weight among scientists. But the its structure has ensured that it has become more of a political body than a scientific one in that its controlling personnel are political appointees and that its summaries are arrived at by a process of negotiated agreement and are vetted and amended by politicians – a process which is the antithesis of science.
  • The involvement by governments as Big Players, whose activities, in lavishly funding the basic science, in enacting restrictive regulation, and in promoting and subsidizing favored “green” enterprises, are justified by the claim of scientific consensus on the AGW hypothesis promoted by the IPCC.
  • The understandable concern that if in fact the climate is warming significantly as a result of human action there might be adverse effects that may be possible to mitigate through concerted action. Although this concern rests on three assumptions that are far from certain (that human activity is having a measurable effect on the global climate, that the climate is warming at a rate that will make adaptation difficult and costly for some, and that the effects of warming will be a net negative), it is widely held, and it finds powerful (if usually unarticulated) support in the ideological bent which sees humanity as the despoiler of nature.

Scientific booms do burst, but in areas where the phenomena are complex and not well understood, the busts can be quiet and long drawn out.  When and how the bust will occur cannot be predicted in advance.  It is unlikely (except perhaps in the event of a financial catastrophe) that funding will be cut off.  It is more likely that, slowly but surely, the scientific method will do its work and the disparity between the predictions of the theory and the observations of a recalcitrant world will become too obvious to ignore.  It is also possible that, like eugenics, the political applications of the theory will have effects that will be seen as undesirable or even callously destructive – and there are indications already that, especially in Europe, “green” legislation and regulation is stifling growth and creating unnecessary hardship.[68]

Nonetheless, to end on a more hopeful note, science in general, and climate science in particular, will survive and grow.  The science of genetics has survived eugenics, and climate science will probably survive the excesses surrounding the AGW hypothesis.  The down side is that, possibly, little will be learned – there appear to be almost no scientists today who identify themselves as eugenicists and, to judge by the biographies of many of the important thinkers of the first half of the 20th century (when eugenics was considered reasonable science), there were very few serious eugenicists then!  But if anything can be learned it is that in science, as in the economy, Big Players of any sort distort the normal systemic activity and render the emergent outcomes unstable and unreliable and create an ideal breeding ground for incentives that motivate ideologically biased people to circumvent normal constraints in the name of pursuing a “greater good”.


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[1].  The AGW hypothesis holds that the overwhelming explanatory factor for the global warming observed during the past century, and particularly since 1970, is the forcing provided by the emission, as a byproduct of human activity, of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

[2].  For a description of the space science episode, see Dow (1991); for the computer science episode, see McCorduck (2004, pp. 426-429); for eugenics, see Crichton (2004), Selden (2005), and Bashford & Levine (2010); and for nutrition science see Taubes (2007) and Butos & McQuade (2012).

[3].  Similar searches within Google Scholar, employing keywords such as “climate global warming” give results of similar magnitude and shape so, although some significant words have seen their meanings change over time (like “change”, which once referred to “cooling” and now refers to “warming”), the general result is robust.  Analogous exponential growth is seen in more focused surveys of peer-reviewed papers reported in Cook (2011) and Cook et al. (2013).

[4].  The data shown here are funding disbursements by the White House US Global Change Research Program and its predecessor, the National Climate Program, available at NCP (1988, p. 43), Climate Science Watch (2007), and Leggett et al. (2013); these data, however, do not represent Congressional climate science funding appropriations to other government agencies.  As we show below in a more detailed assessment of US government climate science funding, the numbers here, especially those for more recent years, greatly underestimate the actual level of funding.

[5].  For quick summaries of the uncertainties at issue, see Curry (2014) and Koonin (2014).  There is the further complicating factor that, in the midst of booms, the participants usually are unaware of any problem with the boom activity, and this serves as a self-reinforcing mechanism that perpetuates the boom.  This characteristic blindness was in full display during the real estate boom, when investment seemed riskless and not participating was a sure way of being left behind, when talk was rife of a “new economy”, and when the majority of economists could see in their models only perfectly justifiable good times and ascribed warnings of unsustainability to the faulty analysis of a fringe.

[6].  See White House (2013).  While we do not address here the “public choice” considerations attendant to the motives for government involvement in science funding, see Butos & McQuade (2006) for a relevant discussion.

[7].  See also Butos & Koppl (1993), Koppl & Langlois (1994), and Koppl & Yeager (1996).

[8].  See also Butos & Koppl (1999).

[9].  For a full exposition of this point, see McQuade (2007) and McQuade & Butos (2009).

[10].  See Hull (1988, pp. 277-321) and McQuade & Butos (2003).  And no discussion of the social structure of science, including this one, should fail to note its dependence on the path-breaking work of Robert K. Merton.  See Merton (1973; 1996).

[11].  On science as a self-regulating emergent order without a central locus of control, see the seminal work of Michael Polanyi (1962).  Tullock (1966), influenced by Polanyi, also sees science as a “functioning social mechanism which coordinates the activity of its members” (p. 5) and whose “organization … cannot be the result of conscious planning” (p. 6).

[12].  The claim that the monetary manipulations of central banks are a fundamental factor in the promotion of major economic booms is fully accepted within Austrian economic theory, but controversial in the profession at large.  For a full development of the Austrian “business cycle” theory, see Garrison (2001).  Also, see Salerno (2012) for an application of this theory to the recent financial crisis.

[13].  Molecular biology has been well funded in recent years, and the confirmed results have, if anything, exceeded expectations.  Quantum mechanics saw extraordinary growth from the 1920s onward which, far from being unsustainable, has changed the world and continues to do so.

[14].  The Lysenko affair lasted from the late 1920s to the early 1960s in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries and was not only a serious setback for biological science in those countries but also its applications to agriculture exacerbated the effects of the disincentives inherent in communist management.  See Soyfer (2001) and Graham (2002).

[15].  For a comprehensive history of developments in climate science, see Weart (2008).

[16].  While there was no consensus (of any sort) in the scientific community regarding an imminent ice age, some peer-reviewed work did in fact raise the possibility of such a scenario – for example, Rasool & Schneider (1971).  For some interesting documentation of the change in scientific opinion from likely cooling to likely warming, see Holcombe (2006).

[17].  While the hypothesis was certainly not original with them, a seminal paper was Hansen et al. (1981).  For a prominent example of dissent, see Idso (1980).

[18].  See Oppenheimer & Boyle (1990).

[19].  See Union of Concerned Scientists (1997).

[20].  The rush to scientific judgment has been helped along by the active endorsement of the AGW hypothesis by some very prestigious scientific organizations, including the Royal Society in the UK (see Montford 2012) and the National Academy of Science in the US (see Lindzen 2012, p. 7).  The fact that scientific societies would take a strong public position on a matter of scientific controversy is unusual in itself, and not in keeping with the charters of such societies.

[21].  See MacArthur Foundation (2008).

[22].  For an insightful exposition of the political and cultural currents surrounding the formation of the IPCC, see Gilland (2007).

[23].  The IPCC operates under protocols formalized at the 1992 framework convention on climate change, in Article 1.2 of which “climate change” is defined as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.  This definition builds in a bias toward looking for the effects of human contributions to greenhouse gas concentrations and downplaying natural causes.  See United Nations (1994).

[24].  For a general critique of the IPCC’s “consensus-building” process, see Curry & Webster (2013).

[25].  This is despite the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize is political and not scientific in nature.

[26].  It has been noted that many climate science papers whose findings do not provide obvious support for IPCC-endorsed conclusions and may indeed contradict them still include gratuitous endorsements of those conclusions.  Lindzen (2012) gives specific examples of papers which feature “the inclusion of an irrelevant comment supporting global warming accepted wisdom”.  This phenomenon may be indicative of extra-scientific pressures faced by authors in getting work published that does not endorse the AGW hypothesis.

[27].  For a comprehensive survey and assessment of peer-reviewed papers which documents a strong AGW consensus, see Cook et al. (2013).  Note, however, that Cook et al.’s assessment criteria have been contested by some authors of papers assessed – see Popular (2013).  For a detailed critique of studies claiming to document consensus, see Guenier (2013).  For a critique of “consensus polls”, see Singer (2014).

[28].  See Doran & Zimmerman (2009), Anderegg et al. (2010), Cook (2010b), and Cook et al. (2013).  But see also comment #12 in Cook (2010b) by Spencer Weart, a respected physicist and historian of climate science, who says of the Anderegg paper: “this paper should not have been published in the present form … the defects are obvious on a quick reading”.  For a comprehensive rebuttal of Cook et al. (2013), see Montford (2014).

[29].  In the following paragraph, we paraphrase Koppl directly, only substituting science terminology for his market terminology.

[30].  See Curry (2013).  Her assessment of the IPCC’s process is worth quoting: “Diagnosis: paradigm paralysis, caused by motivated reasoning, oversimplification, and consensus seeking; worsened and made permanent by a vicious positive feedback effect at the climate science-policy interface”.

[31].  Here we concentrate exclusively on funding from US government sources.  Other governments, particularly in Europe, have also provided significant funding for climate science research.

[32].  A good effort in this regard has been made by Nova (2009), and here we extend her findings to probe deeper into the programs and agencies involved and their funding.  Compared to our results, Nova’s numbers are uniformly low, but we have had access to more recent and more detailed analyses of government spending, especially Leggett et al. (2013).  In addition, Nova does not include climate-science-related funding that does not go through the Global Change Research Program, the climate technology programs, and tax subsidies — i.e., additional monies that Congress authorizes to the various agencies that are seen in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Reports referenced below.

[33].  The motto of the USGCRP is “Thirteen Agencies, One Vision: Empower the Nation with Global Change Science”.  For a full setting out of the 1990 Act, see USGCRP (2014).

[34].  It is important to note that the USGCRP coordinates interagency climate science programs.  This carries the implication that USGCRP funding does not capture the entirety of climate science R&D funding of the government.  This point is relevant later in estimating the total funding by government of climate science R&D.

[35].  International climate change assistance is channeled through the Departments of State and Treasury and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and totals approximately $2.5 billion from 2012 to 2014.

[36].  See Leggett et al. (2013, pp.2-3).  These four components were articulated in President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” in June 2013.  See Leggett (2013) and USGCRP (2012).

[37].  As seen from Table 1, including the President’s FY 2014 Budget Request adds $11.6 billion in current dollars and $11.1 billion in 2012 dollars and increases the total budgetary impact in 2001-2014 to $156.9 billion in current dollars and $166.5 billion in 2012 dollars.  For detailed data on climate change funding in the President’s FY 2014 Budget Request, see AAAS (2013, ch.15).

[38].  See AAAS (2012, p.180).

[39].  See USGCRP (2012).  While it is no surprise that the plan is a masterpiece of “man of system” prose, its certainty as to the deleterious effects of human-induced climate change is quite notable.  It begins (p. 1) with: “The rate of global change today … far exceeds anything observed and documented in human history.”  It appears to be completely oblivious to the controversies which surround such a conclusion.  The new phrase “global change”, if it means anything, is a more accommodating substitute for “global warming” and its postulated effects, and is uniformly used in the sense of “change for the worse”.

[40].  It would be remiss not to mention the increasing opaqueness of climate science funding as the scope and magnitude of government funding and the implementing funding structures and programs increases.

[41].  See Table 3 above.  The source for the NIH appropriations is NIH (2014).

[42].  For a full discussion, see Butos & McQuade (2012).

[43].  See, for example, Henderson (2014), Morano (2014), Readfearn (2012), and Douglass & Christy (2009).  A useful way of understanding the behavior of individual scientists who depart from scientific norms is contained in Tullock (1966), whose insights are revived and elaborated by Peart & Levy (2012).  In particular, bias can arise from either (or both) a quid pro quo (in funding, for example) or from ideological sympathy with a preferred result.  The sympathy motive can easily foster the formation of factions within the scientific discipline.  We thank a referee for directing us to this material.

[44].  The hacked batch of emails and data, the so-called “Climategate” materials, are available on Wikileaks (2009).

[45].  The tight coauthoring relationships between these groups of climate scientists is documented in Wegman et al. (2006).

[46].  Email 1089318616 in the Climategate collection.

[47]  Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, a fellow lead IPCC author.

[48].  See, for example, emails 0969618170, 0990119702, 1062592331, 1141398437, and 1255523796.

[49].  In fact, there appears to be a lot of concentration on maintaining a public appearance of settled science.  See, for example, emails 0843161829, 0933255789, 1105019698, and 1225026120.

[50].  See, for example, emails 0876437553 and 1058906971.  In email 0994083845, the writer expresses the opinion that, even if the science which seems to support alarmism turns out to be wrong, “we should be trying to wean ourselves off of unsustainable energy generation and use anyway”.

[51].  For a readable summary of evidence cited as pointing to a human contribution to global warming, see Cook (2010a).  For rebuttals, see NIPCC (2013).

[52].  The science here is still in flux, and a recent study by Sherwood et al. (2014) suggests “[an equilibrium] climate sensitivity of more than 3 degrees for a doubling of carbon dioxide … significantly higher than the currently accepted lower bound of 1.5 degrees”.  On the other hand, work by Lindzen & Choi (2011) suggest a mean value of equilibrium climate sensitivity as low as 0.7°C, Spencer & Braswell (2014) suggest 1.3°C, and Lewis & Curry (2014) use IPCC5 data to obtain an estimate of 1.64.

[53].  See von Storch et al. (2013), which notes that “the continued warming stagnation over fifteen years, from 1998-2012, is no longer consistent with model projections even at the 2% confidence level”.  These authors posit three possible and not mutually exclusive reasons: “the underestimation of internal natural climate variability on decadal time scales …, the influence of unaccounted external forcing factors or an overestimation of the model sensitivity to elevated greenhouse gas concentrations”.  Either of the latter two of these would present a challenge for AGW.  See Tollefson (2014) for an account of the most recent investigations.

[54]  See Pielke Sr. et al. (2007).  Some of the controversy over temperature measurements centers on the “urban heat-island effect” in which measurements taken in or near urban centers tend to be biased on the high side.  See NIPCC (2013, section 4.1.2).

[55].  See Mann et al. (1999), the conclusion of which (that late-20th century temperatures were the warmest of the last millennium) has been disputed by Soon & Baliunas (2003) in an article which itself became a focus of controversy for the refereeing procedures leading to its publication.

[56].  See, for example, Loehle and McCulloch (2008) and Wanner et al. (2008).

[57].  See figure 1, graph (b) in IPCC AR3 (2001), page 3.

[58].  For a full discussion, see McIntyre & McKitrick (2005) and Wegman et al. (2006).  Wegman’s published paper based on his report has been retracted due to plagiarism in a section of the paper (and the report) not concerned with the statistical findings.

[59].  However, work by Trouet et al. (2009) not only confirms the reality of both the medieval warm period (with temperatures comparable to those of the current period) and the little ice age, but also provides a mechanism for their occurrence in terms of large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns.

[60].  See Von Storch & Zorita (2007) and Holland (2007).  For a recent detailed assessment of the IPCC’s review procedures, see Dixon (2013).

[61].  See the definitions and instructions in the IPCC AR5 instructions to authors, IPCC (2010).

[62].  A full airing of the scientific controversy is given in NIPCC (2013), which challenges many of the assessments detailed in IPCC AR5 (2013).

[63].  See, for example, Singer (1999), Lindzen (1999), Jewson et al. (2009), Lewis (2013), and Montford (2013).

[64].  The most recent reports published by these groups are NIPCC (2013; 2014), and TRCS Research Team (2013).  The NIPCC, responding to the phenomenon we have identified as “herding” due to Big Player effects, quite reasonably points out that a completely independent assessment of results and hypotheses emphasized by the IPCC could only enhance the reliability of any common conclusions.  Ioannidis (2005) makes the general point for the desirability of independent studies of the same areas of research.

[65].  Section 1703 of Title XVII of The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58) established a Loan Guarantee Program to provide incentives for innovative energy technologies to “avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases” and “employ new or significantly improved technologies”.  Among the categories of “eligible projects” the Act lists renewable energy, fossil fuels, and nuclear energy (119 STAT. 1120).  See US Congress (2005).  ARRA’s Section 1703 broadened this program to include existing technologies while narrowing the scope of energy sources to renewable and biofuel projects and substantially loosening the eligibility criteria and financing arrangements.   See Nova & Morris (2013) for further details.

[66].  Lakatos (2014) calculates the largest amounts of losses (in millions) thus far to have been: Solyndra ($570.4), Abound Solar ($494.3), A123 Systems ($390.1), Babcock & Brown ($178), Range Fuels ($162.3), ECOtotality ($135), and Energy Conservation Devices (110.3).

[67].  According to Nava & Morris (2013), these firms (with loan guarantee amounts) are: Abengoa ($2.8 billion), Kahuku ($117 million), Nevada Geothermal Power ($98.5 million), and LS Power Associates ($343 million).

[68].  According to The Economist (2014), energy policies in Germany have resulted the average household now paying an extra $355 a year to subsidize renewable energy generation while, ironically, having the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.  See also, for example, Calzada Álvarez et al. (2010) for an analysis of job destruction by “green Jobs” policies in Spain, Hughes (2011) for a similar assessment of UK policies, and Kelly (2014) for a demonstration of how carbon mitigation policies directly harm the poor.


  1. I congratulate the authors on their efforts (though the piece needs to be re-formatted for better readability.)

    One quote that jumped out at me – literally, a money quote:

    In summary, of the $16 billion in DOE loan guarantees, about $15.6 billion represent bankrupt, troubled, or incomplete taxpayer investments as of 2013.

    That might attract the notice of an accountant or two. But otherwise, what the authors are telling us is what we already knew – science and politics don’t mix. I doubt there will be any publicly visible reaction to this paper at all, beyond perhaps a few screams of “deniers!”

  2. If was just a matter of giving scientists jobs at the expense of the taxpayer it would be a small problem. Even if it was giving a few companies billions of Dollars (out of a budget of trillions of Dollars) before they go bankrupt (yes the “Green” companies are not even competent in their corruption – they go bust, rather than looting the taxpayers over the long term) it would be disgusting, but trivial – but it is a lot more than this.

    The one advantage American manufacturing industry has left (in the nightmare of high taxes and endless regulations that is the United States) is relatively low energy costs – the “Green” campaign against this (via government regulations aimed at raising, yes raising, energy costs – for example by undermining the coal powered electricity industry) is a dagger at the throat of American manufacturing.

    This will NOT reduce C02 emissions – it will increase them.

    This is because it will (is) drive production to China and so on, and the Chinese manufactures actually produce more C02 (even per unit of production) than American ones do. There is also the little matter of the C02 emissions from the ships transporting the goods back to the United States.

    Goods bought on credit,

    Yes mercantilism is wrong – but so is trying to maintain living standards via credit (borrowing) rather than production.

    America haters will be smiling at this point – although they will not a like a world dominated by the regime of the People’s Republic of China. These days more like National Socialist Germany in the 1930s, although not the early 1940s, than a Marxist state – an unlimited desire for more lands and seas which are then declared to have “always been part of China”, a vicious dictatorship with strong Han Chinese racial ideology – no longer held back by the absurd economic of Mao.

    However, all of the above American economic problems are actually worse in Britain.

    There is actually less of a real economy here than there is in the United States – even in proportion to the population.

  3. Too many people have too much invested in AGW to let it go, for many others it’s a part of their substitute for spiritual needs formerly satisfied by religion. Science, for sure, has nothing to do with it so arguing from a rational scientific viewpoint with such people is pointless. The first group becuause they will lie, cheat, and steal to keep their livelihoods going and the latter group because their beliefs aren’t based on reason and rational though.

  4. Reblogged this on Power To The People and commented:
    The forces that drive the Climate Change Movement are a combination of two strong human emotions. Pure greed and the quest for spiritual meaning in life. The irony that the life giving gas CO2 is their number one enemy completely escapes them. So in their quest to “save the earth” from CO2 emissions from fossil fuel they blow billions of tax payer dollars on useless “renewable” energy sources like wind and solar that require the use of fossil fuel from cradle to grave and is toxic to the environment. This wasteful expenditure of money fulfills two goals. It lines the pockets of the greedy green capitalists and fulfills the delusional spiritual needs of the environmentalists to “save the earth” The fact millions of poor people are doomed to death by fuel poverty so greedy people in the West can get rich and the environmentalists can “feel good” about themselves never dawns on them and if it does they sluff it off as everyone has to die some day .

  5. The Independent Review, A Journal of Political Economy is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal covering political economy and the critical analysis of government policy. It is published by The Independent Institute, a libertarian think tank in the United States. The journal was established in 1996.” So, written by and for libertarians. The only climate scientist in the ‘thanks’ , is Richard Lindzen. Citations to blogger nutjobs like PopGen. What a surprise. Wonder who the 3 reviewers were. Wonder who funded this hatchet job.

  6. I just find it amazing that still today there are people who seriously question AGW and who imply that IPCC – and all the thousands of scientists contributing to its work – somehow are engaged in climate change issues only to obtain government funding. It is an insult to all the experts in the field. Moreover, it is totally irresponsible because it helps add to the confusion among ordinary citizens, meaning that much needed action on mitigation – much of which would be beneficial for society even if the climate threat proves to be less serious than what climate scientists think – is being delayed. Knowing that fossil fuel industries keep funding denialism – probably also this article – makes the whole situation despicable.
    Anders Wijkman, member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, Chair of Swedish Gvt Task Force on Climate Change

    • Anders Wijkman,
      You demonstrate a naive understanding of both the sociology of science and the philosophy of science. You are not unusual in the climate science community – which is precisely what is wrong with it.

      You use of the term ‘denialism’ marks you as an activist scientist, but how are the predictions of climate science doing? None predicted the pause, which suggests there is much that is wrong with climate science. What is known is that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide will result of a rise in global temperatures of about a degree. The rest depends on modelled assumptions of positive feedback through rising water vapour with warming, the observational evidence for which is poor. Given the paucity of that evidence and the pause (which lies outside the projections of all models) decent scientists would be looking for alternative hypotheses, not searching for post hoc explantations of where missing heat might be hiding.

      Irving Langmuir, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, once suggested a number of criteria to identify what he termed ‘pathological science’, a set of prudential ‘alerts’ as to when ‘science’ was weak. The first of these was when the maximum effect was observed by a process of barely detectable intensity, and the effect was largely independent of the intensity of the supposed causal agent. Second were those situations where the effect was close to the limit of detectability. Third, claims of great measurement accuracy (or of profoundness) persist in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Fourth, the theories fail the ‘Occam’s Razor’ test of being the simplest explanation of the available information. Finally, any criticisms are met by ad hoc explanations, and the proponents always have an answer.

      Sound familiar? Or you might consult Richard Feynman’s lecture on ‘cargo cult science’.

    • ” who imply that IPCC – and all the thousands of scientists contributing to its work – somehow are engaged in climate change issues only to obtain government funding.”

      Not sure where you got this mythic number from but the IPCC only have about 250 or so “scientists” depending on what you consider a “scientist”. The other thousands upon thousands of people in the mix are politicians. Add in many scientists have had to sue to get the IPCC to drop them from citation because they don’t want to be included with the cultist report .

      “Paul Reiter, a malaria expert formerly of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, participated in a past UN IPCC process and now calls the concept of consensus on global warming a “sham.” Reiter, a professor of entomology and tropical disease with the Pasteur Institute in Paris, had to threaten legal action to have his name removed from the IPCC. “That is how they make it seem that all the top scientists are agreed,” he said on March 5, 2007. “It’s not true,” he added.”

      Link includes a whole host of other quotes talking about both.

      “Moreover, it is totally irresponsible because it helps add to the confusion among ordinary citizens, meaning that much needed action on mitigation – much of which would be beneficial for society even if the climate threat proves to be less serious than what climate scientists think – is being delayed.”

      Yes yes everyone is retarded and we are delaying communism which will save the planet…

      ” Knowing that fossil fuel industries keep funding denialism – probably also this article – makes the whole situation despicable.”

      Being that the oil companies and big banks all throw millions upon billions to greenpeace, WWF, the IPCC and the tons of other places that are rabidly retarded about global warming… their is no evidence outside of conspiracy nutters that fossil fuel companies are funding scientists who believe in science…. aka not global warming.

      Please do everyone a favor and go back to middle school and learn what the scientific method is.

    • It might be sufficient for a closed mind. Any chance you might consider reason and evidence, rather than just resorting to the usual logical fallacies (genetic, in this case)? This really is pathetic.

      • Aynsley Kellow,
        The pause in warming on land has been explained in detail by numerous studies. One explanation is that much of the excess heat has gone deep down into the oceans. Measurements in fact attest that water temperatures have increased significantly as deep down as 700 meters and more. Another explanation is that the slowdown is the result of natural and decades-long variations in sea water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These swings in ocean temperatures are tied to changes in ocean currents and wind patterns and will play out for years before reversing themselves. Currently the Pacific is in a cooling state and therefore masking the effects of human-induced warming. According to a recent article in Science this is not a condition that will last. “The likelihood is that in the next decade we will see the flip side – instead of slowing global warming, this internal oscillation will likely add to global warming”.
        So if I were you I would not count on the pause as something that is here to stay. On the contrary.
        Be prepared instead for rapid warming in the decades to come, partly as a result of the positive feed-backs from planet Earth – some of which are not included in the Vth AR of IPCC. The risks are truly there and when confronted by serious risks we should do whatever we can to reduce those risks.
        The great thing today is that the costs of renewable technologies – in particular solar and wind – have been reduced significantly in recent years. There can be absolutley no excuse for not investing heavily in the alternatives and thereby making us less and less dependent on fossil fuels. Even financial markets are starting to realize the risk of “stranded assets”.
        Anders Wijkman

        • Anders:
          ‘The pause in warming on land has been explained in detail by numerous studies.’
          Did you actually read Irving Langmuir’s ‘any criticisms are met by ad hoc explanations, and the proponents always have an answer’? The whole point is that The Pause was not predicted and the explanations that have ben produced are precisely the kind of ad hoc explanations that are indicators of poor science. For example, what is the length of comprehensive data for sea water temperature at 700m or below? Ten years? That’s not even as long as The Pause!

          Read Langmuir’s other indicators. Climate science is in serious trouble on the basis of any view of the philosophy of science because its predictions have failed. As to you assurances that things will deteriorate in the future, I’m more concerned with the lack of observational evidence for the key positive feedback mechanisms (like the missing tropical hotspot). Until climate science can make predictions that are not falsified by empirical observations, excuse me if I remain a little sceptical of its assurances about what ‘could’ happen.

          • Dear Aynsley,
            It seems that whatever argument posed from my side is discarded by you. Your main argument seems to be that climate models are less than perfect and specifically that climate models did not predict the pause in warming on land. And because of that we should, as I read you, be less concerned about AGW?!
            What shall I say? The models are not perfect. But they are improved all the time. The technology to measure ocean temperature deep down only emerged some ten years ago. There are many things we don´t know for sure. But we know that most of the heat trapped by the enhahnced greehouse effect has been absorbed by the oceans. We also know that the sea level is rising, following predictions by climate models.
            What we are dealing with is risk. We don´t know exactly how large climate sensitivity is – and hence the risk – but we cannot rule out rapid warming and, if so, very serious consequences for human societies.

            • Anders,
              It is not just that the models are less than perfect — any model would be — but their record would appear to be that they have zero forecasting skill. Roy Spencer has plotted the numerous model runs agains the reality of observations and not one of them predicted observational reality, and missed it by a long way. The models predict a tropical hotspot; it is not there. The models predict rising water vapour with temperature; the evidence is at best weak (and the paper showing this by my colleague Garth Paltridge et al was rejected back in 2007 because the reviewers thought it might undermine the consensus).
              The models do not incorporate ANY of the post hoc explanations, and until they do they are not up to the task, and certainly do not provide a basis on which we should invest billions.
              The issue is certainly one of decision-making under uncertainty, but that does not mean we should act on the worst case scenario. The ‘settled science’ is for a degree or so with doubling carbon dioxide.
              The evidence for the positive feedback mechanism with water vapour is weak. I repeat, until climate science can make accurate predictions (and until it cleans up some of its questionable practices) it will remain highly dubious.

        • anders wijkman,

          “Currently the Pacific is in a cooling state.”

          No, t’s not. The PDO is positive (warm) right now, not negative. It’s why Alaska and the western states are warmer. From Wiki: “During a “warm”, or “positive”, phase, the west Pacific becomes cool and part of the eastern ocean warms.

          See for yourself. It’s warm:

  7. The Swedish gentleman insists that C02 emissions are a real problem – but he has not answered the basic question.

    If C02 emissions are a bad thing why is INCREASING them by government taxes and regulations that drive production to China (and so on) a good thing?

    The (unconstitutional – as the Senate has not consented) agreement between Barack Obama and the People’s Republic of China involved no Chinese commitment to reduce their C02 emissions at all. The establishment media cheered anyway – which makes no sense IF the intention is to reduce world C02 emissions (rather than the real objective – which appears to be to destroy Western manufacturing, for the sake of destroying Western manufacturing).

    As for the German government, the poster child of “Greenism”, their approach is to CLOSE DOWN (not increase the number – close down) the nuclear power stations. Instead relying on Mr Putin for oil and gas, and their own brown coal.

    If lignite is the solution what is the problem Dr Wijkman?

    I do not really expect rational answers to these questions – after all the Swedish elite recently cancelled a general election out of the terrible fear that the “common people” (boo-hiss) would vote the “wrong” way and not consent to the Islamification of Sweden.

    Even by the standards of the British establishment elite, the Swedish establishment elite hate their own country (their own people) with fanatical zeal. I am quite prepared to believe that they would support the transfer of manufacturing to China (and all the INCREASE in C02 emissions that means) simply because they hate their own country and hate their own people.

  8. […] Scientific disciplines, like economies, can and do experience booms and busts.  We document a boom in climate science, sustained by massive levels of funding by government entities, whose scientific direction is set by an extra-scientific organization, the IPCC, which has emerged as a “big player” in the scientific arena, championing the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming.  We note the difficulties in obtaining definitive empirical clarity due to the complex nature of climate, the feedback between the effects of the IPCC’s advocacy and the government’s willingness to fund the science, the ideological and political agendas at play, the dangers to the integrity of scientific procedure in the context of ideological bias, and the poor performance of the “crony capitalist” enterprises that have grown on the back of politicized science. (Butos, WN, McQuade, TJ. Causes and Consequences of the Climate Science Boom) […]

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