Sunday, April 6, 2014

Source of research money

A recent dialog:

Q: My point is that the money contributed to proceeding forth with the research on Global Warming does not come from the local or state community. Issues like this come from Federal Government Agencies, and they usually have OPSEC/INFOSEC Policies on the information contained in the contract or research. If politicians do not believe in Global Warming is an issue, the solicitations will cease to exist and the money allocated to that project will go somewhere else. So it is in my best interest as a research organization (or whatever) to float my information with enough research to allow my work to continue because I will not get it somewhere else. My question is, because this is an international issue and politicians are involved in it, who is responsible for the research and where does that money come from? If we can answer that question, we can shed a little light on just how much they have to gain from keeping this a debated issue. 

A: Your post is outstanding. It's similar to the notion that "the answers you get depend on the questions you ask, and the questions you ask depend on who is paying for the research."

After many years in this field, in my opinion the climate debate started out as a legitimate scientific inquiry about the climate. As I've mentioned, throughout human history, people have worried about the climate. Farmers need to plan their activities. Ancient civilizations created elaborate structures to monitor the movement of the sun and moon, partly for ceremonial purposes possibly, but mostly to track the seasons. The weather varies so much from one year to the next that you would never know when to plant crops unless you know what time of the year you are in. Hence we have Stonehenge (in England) and Woodhenge (in Illinois). Actually, there are many ancient structures right in North America, dating 2,000 years old or more, that are aligned with the sun and moon for this purpose.

So even in modern times, farmers, companies and governments want to plan for the future. Trends in temperature, especially, are worrisome. In the 1930s, temperatures in the U.S. rose rapidly, leading to the dustbowl and even widespread deaths from heat. Then temperatures dropped through the 1970s, and scientists fears we were entering another ice age. Then temperatures rose again until the late 1990s, leading to the global warming fears. For the last 17 years or so, global temperatures have not risen, so instead we're talking about climate change. 

All the way along, governments have funded scientists. As you suggest here, the more alarming the predictions, the more money will flow.

What has made all of this even more divisive, the proposed "solutions" for climate change fit into various ideologies.