The Climate Money Trail

One of the most lucid recent commentaries that addresses the question of climate politics and money is by Australia’s Joanne Nova, who posted “The Money Trail” on March 4th. As we wonder again whether the consensus of scientists regarding climate change – if there ever was such a thing – is now unraveling in the wake of climategate, glaciergate, amazongate, methanegate, etc., it is important to also take another look at the money trail.

My own position on climate change has been consistent for many years. Back in 1995, when I launched, I was determined, among other things, to present both sides of the climate change debate. A post from 2008 entitled “Environmentalist Priorities and the Global Warming Scare” offers links to dozens of reports EcoWorld published on the issue of climate change. These reports provide ample references to primary sources of data, and document a growing conviction that anthropogenic CO2 emissions have little to do with any recent climate change, that predictions of impending catastrophic climate events are improbable, and that the cure is worse than the disease. But what about following the money?

A June 2009 CIV FI post entitled “The Climate Alarm Industry” lists several reasons why it is ludicrous to accuse climate skeptics of being motivated by financial incentives, when the financial incentives to be a climate alarmist are several orders of magnitude greater:

Financial incentives to promote anthropogenic CO2 as a dangerous pollutant:

- Insurance companies charge higher premiums
- Fossil fuel companies keep prices (and profits) high
- Politicians enact new taxes
- Public sector entities get new taxes to fund their pensions
- Environmental organizations get more funds
- Left wing activists get a new basis to attack private ownership
- More public sector funded jobs are created
- Lawyers have a new basis to file lawsuits
- CPA firms begin to audit carbon accounting
- Wall street gets to trade emissions credits
- Climate researchers get more grant requests funded
- United Nations bureaucrats get a guaranteed revenue stream

Before quoting some of Joanne Nova’s astute observations on this same topic, here are three articles by Dr. Richard Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT who is one of the most credible climate skeptics in the world. These articles are interesting both because they summarize and debunk many of the scientific arguments in favor of climate alarm, but also because they document in great detail the politicization of the academic community in favor of alarm. Read “Is There a Basis for Global Warming Alarm,” “Climate Science – Is it Currently Designed to Answer Questions,” and “Why Global Warming is Unlikely to be a Safe Area for Investment.”

In “The Money Trail,” Nova quantifies some of the financial incentives motivating climate alarm. Consider these points:

“The US government spent $79 billion on climate research and technology since 1989 – to be sure, this funding paid for things like satellites and studies, but it’s 3,500 times as much as anything offered to sceptics. It buys a bandwagon of support, a repetitive rain of press releases, and includes PR departments of institutions like NOAA, NASA, the Climate Change Science Program and the Climate Change Technology Program. The $79 billion figure does not include money from other western governments, private industry, and is not adjusted for inflation.”

“What the US Government has paid to one side of the scientific process pales in comparison with carbon trading. According to the World Bank, turnover of carbon trading reached $126 billion in 2008. PointCarbon estimates trading in 2009 was about $130 billion. This is turnover, not specifically profits, but each year the money market turnover eclipses the science funding over 20 years.”

“Commissioner Bart Chilton, head of the energy and environmental markets advisory committee of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), has predicted that within five years a carbon market would dwarf any of the markets his agency currently regulates: “I can see carbon trading being a $2 trillion market.” “The largest commodity market in the world.” He ought to know.”

“Unpaid skeptics are not just taking on scientists who conveniently secure grants and junkets for pursuing one theory, they also conflict with potential profits of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, and every other financial institution or corporation that stands to profit like the Chicago Climate Exchange, European Climate Exchange, PointCarbon, IdeaCarbon (and the list goes on… ) as well as against government bureaucracies like the IPCC and multiple departments of Climate Change.”

Joanne Nova, like any responsible skeptic, has done her homework. Here is her take on the actual science of climate change:

“And as far as evidence goes, surprisingly, I agree with the IPCC that carbon dioxide warms the planet. But few realize that the IPCC relies on feedback factors like humidity and clouds causing a major amplification of the minor CO2 effect and that this amplification simply isn’t there. Hundreds of thousands of radiosonde measurements failed to find the pattern of upper trophospheric heating the models predicted, (and neither Santer 2008 with his expanding “uncertainties” nor Sherwood 2008 with his wind gauges change that). Two other independent empirical observations indicate that the warming due to CO2 is halved by changes in the atmosphere, not amplified. [Spencer 2007, Lindzen 2009, see also Spencer 2008]. Without this amplification from water vapor or clouds the infamous “3.5 degrees of warming” collapses to just a half a degree — most of which has happened.”

With a citizen’s initiative entitled the “California Jobs Act” currently working its way onto the November 2010 ballot that will suspend implementation of California’s “Global Warming Act,” it will be interesting to see what arguments the opponents of suspension will muster. Will they accuse skeptics of being “flat-earthers,” or call them even worse names? They would be better advised to rejoin the scientific debate, if they value their credibility. Will they accuse the skeptics of “following the money?” Because in that regard they will be making a terrible mistake. The bigger money trail is not hard to see – and is yet another example of Wall Street collusion with big government. To wrap up, here is Joanne Nova’s take on the attacks made on climate skeptics:

“The starkly lop-sided nature of the funding means we’d be fools not to pay very close attention to the evidence. It also shows how vapid the claims are from those who try to smear skeptics and who mistakenly think ad hominem arguments are worth making.”

1 comment to The Climate Money Trail

  • Charles

    I just took a look at Issue 1 May 1995 of ECOWORLD. I wonder what they would have thought about the Kelo decision.