Denier Canard of the Day: Untold Trillions

I’ve posted on this before but today I want to explore one of the most oft-repeated canards of the denialist crowd — “Climate science has been corrupted by all the untold trillions in money flowing its way” and that they are only studying global warming because that’s where the money is or “They study global warming so they can get huge science grants” or they’re only “in it for the gold” after the title of Michael Tobis’s blog.

Just as one example of the meme that scientists are living high off the public purse is the recent resignation letter of Harold Lewis from the APS. Here is an excerpt:

The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison dêtre of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society. It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.

Here is the APS response to his accusations:


There is no truth to Dr. Lewis’ assertion that APS policy statements are driven by financial gain. To the contrary, as a membership organization of more than 48,000 physicists, APS adheres to rigorous ethical standards in developing its statements. The Society is open to review of its statements if members petition the APS Council – the Society’s democratically elected governing body – to do so.

Dr. Lewis’ specific charge that APS as an organization is benefitting financially from climate change funding is equally false. Neither the operating officers nor the elected leaders of the Society have a monetary stake in such funding. Moreover, relatively few APS members conduct climate change research, and therefore the vast majority of the Society’s members derive no personal benefit from such research support.

Here’s Patrick Michaels’ response to the resignation letter. Michaels is the man who makes no bones about taking industry funds, BTW:

Climate science has painted itself into a corner, seriously damaging the public’s faith in the field — as precious a commodity as there is in civil society. Like lab rats that will do anything to keep the cocaine flowing, climate scientists, universities, and federal laboratories are addicted to the public’s money.

The latest illustration of this sad new reality is the letter of resignation from the American Physical Society (APS) of one of the lions of science, Harold Lewis, emeritus professor at University of California–Santa Barbara.

In his letter, Lewis rightly states that it is the global-warming-research industry, “with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS with it like a rogue wave.” Specifically, Lewis objects to the heavy-handed way in which APS quashed and impeded any attempt to modify its outrageous 2007 “national policy” statement on climate change. [my emphasis]

Here’s Watts, in a semi-hysterical post comparing the letter to Martin Luther’s theses:

This is an important moment in science history. I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.

David UK has this to say in the comments:

Reading this made me very sad – not so much sad for this fine, honest scientist and gentleman who leaves the Society with his integrity firmly intact (although that is of course a very sad fact). I am more sad to have yet another reaffirmation of the politically- and money-driven state of today’s “science.” And sad to be reminded that there are millions of brainwashed sheep out there who will happily label this man a “denier,” and a “lunatic on the fringe,” doubtless accompanied by accusations of being in the pay of Big Oil. There will be more still who simply close their eyes to this, deep in denial (yes, the word is more aptly applied to YOU), and carry on spreading alarm, business-as-usual.

Ulick Stafford laments, condemning all major scientific professional societies:

The APS is not unique. It seems that all major scientific professional societies have trooped uncritically into the warmist lobby. I have decided to resign my membership of the American Chemical Society this year because of dogmatic warmist editorials in its weekly magazaine, C&EN. The editor Rudy Baum is perfectly able to see through the bisphenol A and other chemical scares, but at the same time trots out all the usual warmist scare stuff and has used the temperature reconstructions of Michael Mann uncritically to back up this case.

Theo Goodwin opines:

I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Lewis. To me, the most frustrating aspect of the Grand Climate Gate Fraud is that the proponents have offered nothing that passes muster as serious science. Some computer models and the characteristics of the CO2 molecule are all they offered. Even if perfect, the study behind Mann’s Hockey Stick was profoundly trivial. I am so very pleased to learn that Professor Lewis managed to gather 200 members of the APS who wanted to discuss these matters. I am not surprised that bureaucrats shut them down. And I agree with Professor that money seems to be the only explanation. So let us formulate Lewis’ rule: floods of money to scientists corrupt science and do great harm to science.

Let’s look at that claim in detail. Earlier, I posted about funding in the US, which I reprise here:

Overall, the Federal Governmentspent $147B on R&D, spread out over its agencies, including Defense ($81.6B = 55.5%), Health and Human Services ($30.4B = 20.7%), DOE ($10.6B = 7.2%), NASA ($10.4B = 7.0%) and the NSF ($4.8B = 3.3%), EPA ($0.5B = 0.3%). Most of the federal goverment’s funding of R&D went to defense and health / social services. Approximately 11% of all federal R&D $$ went to agencies where climate change might be studied, such as NASA, NOAA, etc. Most federal R&D dollars go to defense and health and human services.

In FY 2009, funding for R&D at universities and collegeswas $54.9B. Of that, federal and state share was $36.2B or 66%. Industry was responsible for $3.2B or less than 10% of the federal and state’s share of R&D funding. Industry funds very little R&D at universities and colleges.

In 2008, the federal government gave industry more money for R&D than it gave to colleges and universities.Damn corporate welfare bums!

Of the funding for R&D at Colleges and Universities, 59% went to the life sciences, including 34% of the total to medical research, 16% went to research in engineering, and 6% went to research on the environment. 6%!

Industryspent $276B on R&D or almost twice as much as the federal government.

What about the UK?

Here’s a lovely graphic produced by The Guardian on public spending in the UK. I found it while watching Dr. Brian Cox’s 2010 Voltaire Lecture titled “The Value of Big Science”. Now, it would seem contrary of me to write about the value of  “big science” in a blog post about the denialist canard about big science, but let me develop this thought a bit more.

Just how big is “big”?

According to Cox’s lecture and the Guardian chart for 2008/09, it’s not very big, all things considered. Maybe it’s big compared to my annual budget, but not in the greater scheme of budgets. You can’t see it on the chart below clearly, but if you click on my link, you can (if you have a Mac or other tech) enlarge it to see the details.

In 2007/08, for example: Public Expenditures were £586.4B. Of that amount, public funding for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (see, Environment isn’t even important enough to have its own Department) was £3.9B. Of that, a paltry £1.7B went to environmental protection. In terms of science funding overall, the amount that went to Research Councils was £3.0B. That includes all science funding. Everything. That’s 0.5% of the total. More money went to a nebulous category of “Other Spending” in the Department for Communities and Local Government that went to the research councils or to environmental protection.

In Canada, in 2010, the Federal Government spent $1.7B on the Department of the Environment, approximately o.6% of the total budget of $274B. It also spent a total of $1.9B on Natural Science and Engineering Research Council and the National Research Council, representing 0.7% of the total ministerial budget expenditures.

In 2002,  the Canadian Government subsidized the oil and gas industry by a total of $1,400M. I don’t have data for 2010.

Here’s an excerpt from the Pembina Institute Study:

Government expenditure on the oil and gas sector including tax, program and direct expenditure totalled $1,085 million (2000$) in 1996 and $1,446 (2000$) million in 2002. The increase in expenditure over this time period was 33%. Total expenditure from 1996 to 2002, inclusive, was equal to $8,324 million (2000$). The vast majority of the expenditure is associated with tax initiatives and in particular the Canadian Development Expense, the Canadian Exploration Expense, the Resource Allowance and the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for oil sands.

I’m sick of the BS spouted at denialist websites about all those dollars going to fund global warming research.

[edited to correct and update data]

About Policy Lass

Exploring skeptic tales.

6 Responses to “Denier Canard of the Day: Untold Trillions”

  1. Hal Lewis was one of the 6 main organizers of last year’s Anti-science Petition to APS from folks with SEPP, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland, CATO”. After much huffing and puffing, letters, emails, the got ~200 APS members to sign a letter that basically nullified much well-known physics.
    that’s less than 0.5%. I think Lewis is still mad.

    As seen on p.12 there, the demographics of the first 119 signers were heavily-skewed towards old guys, and least somewhat skewed towards conservative politics. Most of the signers have fairly obvious connections with earlier signers who (most likely) recruited them.

    Lewis is discussed on p.24. His ~1990 book was fairly reasonable. I asked a physicist who knew him well what had happened, and he didn’t know what had gone wrong.

    The social network aspect was interesting with many strange connections that emerge. People collect in small self-reinforcing groups including the {Rapp, Kunc, Gruntman} group at USC (Kunc was Willie Soon’s dissertation advisor), and for a sample of the thinking, see SIGMU2, here or here, section 3, pp.11-15. I have no evidence that Lewis interacted with them, but I have other reasons to believe that the general worldview is shared amongst Rapp/Kunc and the organizers, although Rapp is better at inventive language.

    • Holy cow, John — I remember seeing that when it first came out but I spent a bit more time on it and is it complex. Seems like a lot of the signatories were a bunch of old codgers with right wing leanings disgruntled with these young whipper snappers and their environmentalism BS… 🙂

      • See p.100 regarding Howard Hayden.

        “”From the long-haired hippie carrying No Nukes placards to the tweedy philosophy professor writing
        learned antinuclear articles for the Sunday supplements; from the ‘concerned homemaker’ worried about
        her children’s health to the Harvard economist expounding about the real and putative hidden costs of
        nuclear power — nuclear power is maligned by all but the cognoscenti,”
        – Howard Hayden, “The global warming trap: A contrarian view,” Nuclear News, August 2000″

        I conjecture that for a small nubmer of nuclear physicists:

        a) environmentalists didn’t like nukes
        b) environmentalists accept AGW
        c) therefore AGW is wrong.

        This of course makes as much sense as “AGW is real, but no nukes, anywhere, ever, not even Gen4 ones that burn existing waste). if I were a nuclear power guy (I almost was), I’d be all for AGW, since in some places it seesm the only way to get rid of coal.

        I conjecture that something else is involved, at least among the nuclear physicists (like Hayden) born say 1940-1955. Nuclear physics was a red-hot discipline. Suppose you’d done a PhD or were heavily into it. Then TMI happened (1979). Instead of a growing field, you’re facing a shrinking one.

        However, in studies like this, if people A & B sign such a petition, and share factor X (nuclear physicists), that does not mean X causes the beliefs, because many members of X did not sign, despite likelihood of having exposure to some who did.

        X is more of a hint of connection, i.e., if there was no moper direct connection, A and B may well know each other through X.

        Again, only 0.5% signed,

  2. One interesting comparison is the amount of R&D in the Aerospace, Defense, National Security industry — $6.5B by Boeing alone. Add in another $4.2B by 9 other main players for a total of $10.7B in 2009. This is paltry when compared to the $234B spent on by American pharmaceuticals in 2008.

    I would think that if a greedy scientist was in it for the gold, they’d at least choose a far richer discipline than climatology…

  3. Clicking on the image does not enlarge it.

  4. The extreme (or do I mean extremist?) gullibility exhibited by the ‘sceptic’ crowd is brought sharply into focus by that phrase ‘literally untold trillions’. I don’t recall any of them challenging that boldly if ludicrously asserted amount when the entire global economy is an estimated $60 trillion.

    A minor point, but a valid indicator of why ‘denier’ is the more suitable description for most of those pressing for inaction to AGW.

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