- JoNova - https://www.joannenova.com.au -

We need a free market in climate science

This weekend, I’ve got another article in The Weekend Australian. It’s a credit to the Murdoch News team that they are willing to print both points of view. This point is one that resonates with many people — a consensus can be bought with monopolistic science funding. It explains¬† why research could run off the rails. We paid to find a crisis.

The Weekend Australian, Joanne Nova, Climate Monopoly


Climate change suspect must be given a fair trial

GOVERNMENTS across the world have paid billions to find links between carbon dioxide and the climate, but very little to find the opposite, and that’s a problem.

Teams of professionals have searched high and low for any possible hint that CO2 poses a threat, and that is all very well, but no one has been paid to find otherwise. CO2 has been convicted without a defence lawyer.

It is self-evident that any expert in a field will reap more rewards, fame and fortune if their field is critically important. Why would anyone expect such experts to go out of their way to hunt down evidence that might suggest their field ought not be the centre of a global economic transformation?

Would people with the right training choose to forgo Sunday golf in order to download Hadley radiosonde data and shoot holes in the national temperature record? Actually, they would and they have, but it’s taken years to build, and it’s a silly way to run the country.

When results come in that conflict with catastrophic model predictions, hordes of researchers scour every nook and cranny to find early warm biases, or recent cold biases, and they may legitimately find some. But no one is paid to hunt down the errors or biases leading the other way. The vacuum sucks.

Did anyone really expect that teams of volunteers without offices, budgets, access to data or PR writers would spontaneously arise and point out any flaws? Would people with the right training choose to forgo Sunday golf in order to download Hadley radiosonde data and shoot holes in the national temperature record? Actually, they would and they have, but it’s taken years to build, and it’s a silly way to run the country. This was always a loophole begging to be exploited.

We wouldn’t let a company issue a prospectus without being audited. But we’ll transform the national economy based on a report issued by a foreign committee that no one has been paid to criticise. There are no audits on the science from institutions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA or the CSIRO. No due diligence study has been done. Hallowed peer review amounts to unpaid anonymous reviewers, often picked from a pool of people who agree.

Where is the Institute of Natural Climate Forces, or the International Bureau of Solar Science? Where are the researchers whose reputations and grants rise in value if they find holes in the theory of man-made global warming?

If, hypothetically, there are scientific gaps in the theory of man-made global warming, for the most part we are leaving it up to volunteers to find them. It’s as if the government has funded a team of QCs for the prosecution, but spent nothing on legal aid for the defence.

In law, if there is no defence, it’s a sham.

In business, if there is no competition, it’s a monopoly.

In science, if there is no debate, it’s propaganda.

Between 1989 and 2009, the US government paid over $30 billion towards “climate change”. And don’t be fooled by the meaning of “climate change”, which ought to encompass all the factors that change the climate. The inherent bias in the system is so strong that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change actually defines “climate change” as being “man-made”. I kid you not.

“Climate change” means 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.

The IPCC was originally established to investigate things “relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change”. That was their mandate. They would have no reason to exist if there’s no disaster, and they were never going to announce that they studied it all and golly, but it’s all OK Chipper, and we’re headed home. Thanks for the funding!

What committee ever voted for its own extinction?

When the very term “climate change” means man-made, the mindset is biased. It’s a one-way road to an endless circle of confirmation bias.

When the very term “climate change” means man-made, the mindset is biased. It’s a one-way road to an endless circle of confirmation bias. The Orwellian overtones are extreme: How do you ask “what causes climate change?” and get any answer other than “man-made”?

Where are the programs to find out if man-made emissions didn’t cause global warming?

Exxon was a rare funder of climate skeptics but with a contribution of $23 million over a decade, it barely paid 1 part in 3500 of what the US government did.

When people ask “how can thousands of scientists be wrong?” they forget that a consensus on a highly complex, immature subject can be purchased, or unwittingly created. If a government spent $30bn to find better uses for carrots, there would be carrot appreciation societies, carrot conventions, 400 patents on carrot-based wing-nuts, tents, and textiles, and 4000 peer-reviewed references on worrying declines in carrot hue, nutrients, fertility and genetic diversity, not to mention gender inequality in dietary carrot content.

That’s not to say that excessive one-sided funding proves anything about the climate, but nor does the existence of a consensus of government-paid climate scientists.

We’ve paid to find a crisis, and what-do-you-know, we “found” one.

We’ve paid to find a crisis, and what-do-you-know, we “found” one. (Yes. It’s true, we got what we paid for.) Hundreds of scientists have been doing their jobs, most diligently, turning over every stone labelled “CO2”. But no one has been paid to turn over the other stones.

When politicians and journalists say they can’t find a credible voice of dissent, it’s only because they define “credible” as someone holding a government-funded position — and by definition, there are no government-funded sceptics.

US president Dwight Eisenhower warned against government domination of science in his farewell speech in 1961:

“In this [technological] revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalised, complex and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the federal government.”

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present.

The so-called “free market” leaders of the world missed the need for healthy competition in science. Their big mistake on climate policy was failing to see the effect of monopoly science. They could have set up institutes and research centres whose aim was to find non-man-made causes of climate change.

These alternate institutes and conventions would compete with the usual grant applicants for research, and it would be in their interest to find reasons the climate was changed by the sun, or geomagnetic effects or orbital changes, or who knows? Through natural competition (and may the best argument win) we’d have learned more about our climate, and we’d prevent a climate monopoly from potentially skewing the research.

As with all unbalanced systems, people are rushing to fill the vacuum. The volunteers are coming. Never before in science have so many unpaid people used their expertise to become whistleblowers.

As Eisenhower feared, government has come to dominate science. We need organisations that are timeless centres of excellence, rather than crisis-response teams. Groups of scientists need to compete to make the best, most accurate predictions, not the most alarming ones.

One thing is for sure, the mess of climate science needs to be cleaned up and we need to find ways to fund science that don’t pre-empt the answers, or stifle competition.

Joanne Nova is a freelance science presenter, writer, professional speaker and former television host, and is author of The Skeptic’s Handbook.

Other articles published by Jo Nova in mainstream media.
Related Articles: How the monopolistic funding ratchet slows scientific progress.


UPDATE: Prof Peter Ridd, wrote to let me know he’s had similar thoughts, published in January through OnlineOpinion.

“How to fix the broken scientific system”

“The process of argument is as essential to the scientific system as it is to the legal system. A big difference is that argument is guaranteed in the legal system with the two sides of the argument formally recognised in the legal system itself, but because of the structures of the present systems in science, a robust argument cannot be guaranteed. Because of this there cannot be a sufficiently high level of faith that some of the big scientific issues of our time such as Anthropogenic Global Warming, the fate of the Murray-Darling, or the imminent demise of the Great Barrier Reef, have been properly tested in the scientific equivalent of a court of law.”

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