Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

AGW 101: We call it riding the gravy train

You want to talk feedback loops? Have a government industry that rewards you for reinforcing one conclusion to the exclusion of all others and watch what happens.

The problem of research
Research scientists have a problem. We need to do research, it's part of our job title. Research costs money and time. As few research scientists are independently wealthy and none of us are immortal, we need to obtain funding to conduct research in a timely manner. This funding can come from four primary places.

  • Philanthropy. There are individuals/couples/families who support research science. Andrew Carnegie used to do this for paleontology a century ago, that's why he has his own species of sauropod dinosaur.
  • Corporations/Non-government organizations (NGOs). Corporate investment into research science is vast and has resulted in amazing technology; without work by Bell Laboratories there might not be radio astronomy, transistors, lasers, UNIX, C++, etc.
  • Academic institutions. Schools, museums, and research institutions do provide salaries, and these salaries can be used for research purposes. Generally this doesn't result in that much research, because salaries in academia, for people who aren't running departments, are not high, and because people in academia aren't generally on salary to do research.
  • The government. I'm using that as shorthand for all potential government, at (to use the US parlance) local, state, and federal levels. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the US Department of Energy (DoE) invest billions of dollars a year into scientific research, which helps us have things like, as a totally random example, the Internet.

Any of these four possible funding sources have to have criteria for deciding whether the research is worth funding. The primary criterion is like any other investment scheme: return. Corporations who are trying to turn a profit will fund research which helps them turn a profit. Philanthropists will fund research which reaches conclusions that they find suitable: the Templeton Prize does not, oddly enough, go to secular humanists who think that religion is useless. The government...

What kind of research does the government want to fund?
So you're a government funding agency. What are you going to be interested in funding? Generally, patriotic things: you are going to be interested in funding scientific research which preserves your country, which helps out your country, and which helps out your citizens.

That's why NIH grants go to help out cancer research; Americans suffer from cancer, billions of dollars a year of potential American revenue are lost because of the health effects of cancer, so let's do what we can to make cancer more survivable and less expensive. That's why NSF grants go to help teach evolution in public schools; evolution is a valid scientific theory and fact, American school children need to know basic science in order to compete on a global level, so let's do what we can to make American kids more employable.


But what about the controversy?!?
Cancer research in America "reinforces one conclusion to the exclusion of all others": it promotes the conclusion that a combination of environmental and genetic factors lead to cancer. This conclusion has been enormously economically destructive to the tobacco industry, which, unknowingly for centuries (and knowingly for decades), marketed and sold a product which contains environmental factors which lead to cancer. The best attempts of the tobacco industry to support research which promotes alternate conclusions have been met with skepticism, if not outright derision, by scientists who claim that there is a consensus about this. The nerve of them to claim the "science is settled"!

Similarly, evolution funding in America "reinforces one conclusion to the exclusion of all others". So does any funding of medical research which promotes germ theory, so does any funding of space science which promotes gravity theory, so does any funding of geography which promotes a round Earth... All of this leads to a problem.


Science does not support the idea of multiple truths
Obviously, in any scientific field, there are areas where active debate is going on, and where multiple possible interpretations of evidence all could be correct. But for the really basic things, science does not support multiple truths. Science supports one best-supported position, with the leeway that another, better interpretation of the data could supplant the current best-supported position.

The reason why science supports anthropogenic global warming theory (AGW) is because lots of evidence supports such an interpretation. Scientific research funding agencies don't actually care whether or not AGW is correct: they primarily care about funding research which have a return in the sense of actual, verifiable, testable, results. That just happens to be, for all funding agencies besides some corporations and NGOs, research which assumes that AGW is an actual real thing. Unsurprisingly, the corporations who are marketing and selling a product that is contributing to AGW tend to not want to fund research which provides different returns. That's their choice; it's their money.


Bonus question: Where does government funding of climate science actually go?
no one talks about the money government spends on the AGW research/promotion/legislation

Governments are going to invest in science research which helps them stay in existence; end of sentence. The reason why governments spend money on AGW research is because governments are interested in staying around and not letting their citizens die. AGW is a thing that is happening and which humans are going to have to adapt to. The more research that can be done in investigating the how and when of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the better prepared governments are going to be for the world that we have accidentally built for ourselves.

That's primarily where government funding of climate science goes: into monitoring the situation as it stands, through the usage of monitoring equipment such as satellites. In the graph above, actual US federal government funding of climate science research is labelled 'climate science'. It's been, for all intents and purposes, flat from the mid 1990s to the late 2000s. Large chunks of that (roughly) $2B a year from the world's largest government is being placed directly into NASA satellites. Some of it is being placed into DARPA funding to help the Navy adapt to rising sea levels. Some of it is being placed into DoE funding to help the US figure out how to use its fossil fuel resources in a way that might not cause as much AGW. And little, itty bitty, pieces of it is going into climatological research science: finding sea and ice cores to figure out what climate and climate change in the past was like, investigating how wild and domesticated animals and plants in the US react to increased atmospheric CO2 levels, investigating how humans react to warmer conditions, and investigating how prepared modern settings are for climate change (in the sense of changing rainfall and rising sea levels. And an even smaller chunk is being invested into actual temperature collection and climate forecasting.

So people don't get rich studying climate?
Looking at lists of academics who have acquired millions, they generally don't contain climatologists. Apparently, in spite of years of being told they're getting rich, they don't know how to cash in on the gravy train of climate scientific research.

Artiofab thanks Charles Shell for the italicized text. Artiofab acknowledges no NASA, DARPA, or NIH funding was used in the composition of this article, although he does acknowledge that such funding is helping make all of our lives better right this very instant, in spite of what his Representative in Congress might think. Artiofab edited this slightly to add in some links to funding agencies and their full names.

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