In 2006, just as global cooling was beginning to make things uncomfortable for people who believed that manmade CO2 was warming the earth, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a documentary that was meant to bring an increasingly skeptical public back on board with the idea of manmade global warming. Airing on The Fifth Estate, an influential and respected investigative journalism program, "The Denial Machine" attempted to throw mud at any scientist who dared to question the so-called 'consensus' on manmade global warming by implying all such scientists were secretly funded by oil companies.
As the recent exposure of the UK's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and its decidedly unscientific research demonstrates, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. Rather than a vast, oil company-funded conspiracy, skepticism about climate fearmongering appears to have been quite correct: the CRU's bluster was hiding the fact that even they couldn't understand their own climate models or data. However, as their internal documents show, they were being well-funded for making up scare stories about the CO2-induced end of the world. This was part of a process where public grants would routinely go to the researcher with the most dire predictions about the ravages of global warming. Call it The Alarmist Machine.
The archive of emails and documents leaked out from behind the academic Berlin wall of the highly-secretive CRU sheds light on the vast sums of money these researchers were playing with. As this hacked spreadsheet demonstrates CRU Director Phil Jones himself received a mind-boggling 22 million dollars in grants for his work over the past 20 years. Sadly, the leaked data also shows just how willing these scientists were to lie and cheat in the pursuit of those funds.
One of the most outrageous emails (1056478635) features one CRU scientist openly advising a colleague to cook the books from their last research grant in order to receive more money from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration):
NOAA want to give us more money for the El Nino work with IGCN.
How much do we have left from the last budget? I reckon most has been spent but we need to show some left to cover the costs of the trip Roger didn't make and also the fees/equipment/computer money we haven't spent otherwise NOAA will be suspicious.
Politically this money may have to go through Simon's institute but there overhead rate is high so maybe not!
The contempt shown for the taxpayers who are funding and supporting these research efforts through institutions like the NOAA is appalling. Certainly any researchers who are found to have participated in such duplicity should never receive another cent of taxpayer money again.
But the chicanery does not end there. In a well-researched article on American Thinker, Marc Sheppard points out that while the alarmists imply that the skeptics are being secretly funded, it is in fact the climate scientists who are being funded by the energy companies. The fact that CRU members received significant funding from renewable energy companies, however, and not Big Oil, presumably puts their motives beyond reproach.
Of course, this is not to say that these practices are confined to a few 'bad apples' in the scientific community. As skeptical scientists have been pointing out for years, scientific studies about doomsdays and catastrophes—no matter how unlikely the predictions or how shakey the underlying assumptions—tend to get greater funding and grant money than studies that show there is no such disaster on the horizon. This is the inherent bias toward alarmist science and the inherent danger of The Alarmist Machine: not that there is some vast, secret conspiracy funding these alarmist scientists, but that this is a natural and predictable result of the funding process itself. Even rational people can be stampeded into throwing money hand over fist at a team of scientists who are promising to save the world from disaster, especially when those rational people are blatantly misled by an unquestioning media that unproblematically reports on highly problematic science. And all the while the scientific economy is shifted until the entire process becomes one of scientists competing to come up with the most panic-inducing findings.
As someone who spent his entire scientific career fighting the alarmists—first the ones who were whipping up hysteria over the coming ice age and then the ones (sometimes the same ones) who were whipping up hysteria over global warming—Dr. Tim Ball is no stranger to the "Denial Machine" smear. In fact, he was one of the scientists singled out in the CBC documentary. He doesn't tow the global warming line, therefore he must be funded by Big Oil. It doesn't seem to bother the producers of the documentary that they offer not one shred of evidence for that assertion: the logic of the situation demands it, so it must be true.
For someone who supposedly receives secret backdoor money from the Exxon bigwigs, Dr. Ball lives a remarkably low-key life. When I met him for an interview in Victoria earlier this year, he was neither lighting cigars with Big Oil-supplied $100 bills nor driving a gas-guzzling SUV. Instead he was on foot and he took me on a walking tour of the beautiful B.C. capital, regaling me with stories about the town's history and demonstrating a genuine enthusiasm for the local tradition and culture of his adopted hometown. We passed several hours talking about the history and philosophy of science, and what strikes one about him when engaged in such a conversation is that he has read, researched, and retained a voluminous amount of material, not just on his specialty of climatology, but of scientific history generally. It is no surprise, then, that his take on the climategate scandal is one of the most thoughtful (and damning) yet:
It is still too early to say what the ultimate fallout from this scandal will be, but unless the scientists who have been implicated in this stop dismissing all criticism as out of context and start addressing the real issues raised in these documents, the backlash is likely to be massive. And as Dr. Ball points out, that backlash (rightly or wrongly) will not be merely directed at this group of researchers, but on the very scientific processes and institutions that they have so shamefully abused. From their private expressions of doubt over science that they publicly touted as unassailable to their use of data that they themselves did not seem to understand to their collusion to keep skeptics out of the peer reviewed literature, how can the public simply put blind faith in blanket statements about 'scientific consensus' and 'listening to the experts' again, especially when there are literally trillions of dollars hinging on the science skewing towards the alarmists?
"The Denial Machine" ends with the words: "Not everything in life is about politics." If only that were the case.