Garth Paltridge is an Australian atmospheric physicist with 45 years experience. He worked with CSIRO, the WMO, NOAA, and as Professor and Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Oceans Studies. He has explained why he’s skeptical of the theory of man-made global warming in his book – The Climate Caper: Facts and Fallacies of Global Warming. Here he explains how a scientific “consensus” can be bought. There’s more than one good reason why argument-from-authority is a fallacy. — Jo
A less-than-nobel consensus
Guest Post by Garth Paltridge
We hear that Julia Gillard is happy to have the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Academy of Science on her side while making her arguments for a carbon tax. Well of course she is. She and her predecessor bought them. And bought them but good. Over the last couple of years her Department of Climate Change (the DCC) gave them 27 million dollars in the form of research grants. That pays a fair swag of the salaries of the CSIRO and Bureau climate scientists who make up the majority of all employed climate scientists in Australia.
University climate researchers, while relatively few in number, are vocal enough to be heard in many public forums. Julia has bought them too with another 5.5 million dollars from the same source. That sort of money is handy in the university environment, since it is mostly on top of already assured salaries. Moreover, it is fairly easy to get. Certainly it is much easier than normal university research funds which come mainly from the Australian Research Council – this after a soul-destroying application and peer-review procedure that wipes out 80% of the applications and reduces the individual grant moneys to sub-optimal levels. Julia’s climate money is very different. Among other things it can be put towards such niceties as business-class travel to the many international workshops and conferences that are part of the climate-change industry.
The bottom line is that virtually all climate research in Australia is funded from one source – namely, the government department which has the specific task of selling to the public the idea that something drastic and expensive has to be done to the structure of society in the name of mitigating climate change. And if you think that government agencies shouldn’t be in the game of social engineering, then you are way behind the times. Over the last two years more than 100 million dollars was distributed by the DCC for exactly that purpose.
So there can be no doubt that climate-research grant recipients know perfectly well that scepticism concerning the climate-change story does very little for their careers. One therefore wonders a bit about the much-vaunted consensus of the global warming establishment regarding climatic doom.
Surely there is no way a whole scientific discipline can be subverted, either consciously or subconsciously, by crass materialism? Well, maybe not in the long term. But if past experience is any guide, the sorting out of a problem of vested scientific interest can take many decades. At the moment, climate scientists are trapped in the coils of a disaster theory sold prematurely to the world at large. They are supporting the theory with long-term forecasts about an atmosphere-ocean system whose behaviour in many respects is inherently unpredictable. On the one hand, public discussion of the uncertainties associated with the ‘main conclusions of the science’ must be discouraged, and on the other there is a need for sufficient uncertainty to justify a continued flow of research funding. In short, they are in a right-royal mess of political correctness.
Scientists are human too!
The average climate scientist is extremely reluctant to go against the tide of official opinion set by the research activists of his field, whatever might be his private thoughts on the matter. Loyalty to colleagues gets in the way, and perhaps also the seductive attraction of a ‘noble cause’. With those sorts of justification, it is much easier for an idealistic scientist to be mindful of the fact that, when Julia buys people, they have to stay bought if they want to continue in the game.
Where is the independent advice?
Surely there are independent scientific establishments whose advice can be trusted by both government and public? Well yes there are – most of the time. The Australian Academy of Science is a prime example. But one has to mumble a bit when talking about the independence of such bodies in the context of climate change. They generally don’t have much in-house expertise on the subject, and when asked for advice, are obliged to put together committees of advisors from the relevant research establishments. It is not too difficult to imagine where the advisors come from. Moreover, it costs money to service a committee. Guess where that comes from.
Would ‘big-oil’ funded research be any less reliable than this?
Other posts tagged: Garth Paltridge.
Garth Paltridge is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University and Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Oceans Studies (IASOS), University of Tasmania. In his career, he worked as an atmospheric physicist, predominantly with CSIRO and briefly with NOAA , and has published more than 100 books and scientific papers. He published “The Climate Caper: Facts and Fallacies of Global Warming“ in 2009.