Richard North has picked up the ABC Drum article “The Money Trail”, and wonders about the total value of financial contributions towards carbon related research or PR from the UK and EU. I’ve wondered the same thing. Indeed, I tried to find answers for other nations and to add to the USA figures I put into Climate Money, but rapidly discovered, as he has, that it’s a hideously complex task. It’s a Ph.D size project, and there are no grants available to fund this kind of Ph.D.
Spending is hugely fragmented, between several departments of state, including DEFRA and DECC, with contributions from government agencies and quangos, including the Carbon Trust.
Then there are the devolved governments, the regional development agencies and local authorities, plus a very considerable input from the European Union, through the Framework research programme and also via direct contacts issued by the various Commission DGs.
Among the big spenders, though, are the seven UK research councils, which collectively dispense billions into the research community each year. You might think that each of these would be able to pinpoint the amount dispensed on climate research, but that it very far from the case.
The thing that made my analysis of the US climate funding possible was that there were bragging rights in spending big on climate research. Naming a department and printing annual reports made it possible. North is dedicatedly going through individual reports:
“That said, I have been trawling through some of the more obvious funding agencies. We already have a figure of £243 million for the Met Office Hadley Centre and recently I looked at the Engineering and Physical Science Council (EPSRC). Its database records 114 university projects, dispensing a grand sum of £63,245,372. And then there are the 912 grants from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on climate change, at £166,500,521.
Another big spender is the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), but to describe its database as shambolic is to pay it a huge compliment. There is no mechanism for extracting themes, global costs or even refining searches. Entries are duplicated, with different headings, and many “climate change” entries are falsely labelled, completely unrelated to the subject. Furthermore, details can only be obtained by opening each project file, individually.
Thus, I have been reduced, laboriously, to reviewing those individual files and so far have been through about 200 of over 5,000 files, finding details of 50 projects and research centre funding.”
And for all his work, the total he found is about £500 million.
Along with Richard, I’m not sure a meaningful definitive number can ever be found. How do you define climate research? Do you include all the alternative energy research, or only some of it? There are no borders on a map defining science topics.
When I looked at projects funded under the CCSP or CCTP banners or the Australian climate science programs, there were several that didn’t seem very related at all. Back when these things were worth boasting about, governments might rope all sorts of marginal projects under the one banner to pump up the total–We Are So Green We’ve Spent More Than The Other Guy (I can’t see that happening anymore). Arguably, someone could go in and diligently excise all these marginal projects, but this ignores the marketing impact of “branded” funding in creating a larger team. How much effect does it have on a researcher to know that his money comes from the Department of Climate Change or the Climate Change Science Project, when climate change is synonymous with “the role of carbon”? It’s impossible to know. But, there is a whole branch of scientific research into the effect that “gifts” and indebtedness have.
How much impact would it have on a researcher to know his work is supported by a theory? More than just a “warm glow”?
This soft marketing is one of the factors that helped create a passive consensus. No, the payments didn’t “find” fake results (not in most cases), but their influence spread through institute cafeteria’s, school p&c’s, university administrations, and, importantly, into countless press releases issued from marginal projects that all paid lip service to the assumption that carbon was a pollutant.
The bottom line: It’s a travesty that accounting for taxpayer dollars is so UNtransparent (pun intended).
*No Ph.D Funding, at least not yet. I hope this changes, and expect it will one day as courses start up in The History, Promotion and Politics of The Big Global Warming Scare.