Accusations that climate science is controlled by money are mistaken - Accusations that climate science is controlled by money are mistaken -

Friday, May 25, 2012

Accusations that climate science is controlled by money are mistaken -

Accusations that climate science is controlled by money are mistaken -

Ars Technica

One of the unfortunate memes that has made repeated appearances in the climate debate is that money isn't just influencing the public debate about science, but it's also influencing the science itself. The government, the argument goes, is paying scientists specifically to demonstrate that carbon dioxide is the major culprit in recent climate change, and the money available to do so is exploding.

Although the argument displays a profound misunderstanding of how science and science funding work, it's just not going away. Just this week, one of the sites where people congregate to criticise mainstream climate science once again repeated it, with the graph accompanying this story. That graph originated in a 2009 report from a think tank called the Science & Public Policy Institute (notable for using the serially confused Christopher Monckton as a policy advisor).

The report, called " Climate Money: The climate industry: $79 billion (£50.4 billion) so far -- trillions to come" (PDF) and prepared by Australian journalist Joanne Nova for the Science & Public Policy Institute, claims to show how money has distorted climate science. There are several aspects to this argument, but we'll start with the money itself.

Who's got the money?
Many discussions have focused on the fact that businesses with a large carbon output (like fossil fuels extractors) have funded PR and lobbying efforts that, in part, have attempted to undercut the scientific case for human-driven climate change. It notes that there is now significant money being made by companies that build carbon-neutral energy sources and energy efficient technology, some coming from tax incentives and subsidies. In addition, carbon-trading markets are predicted to grow rapidly over the coming decades. Combined, the report asserts, this money provides an incentive to keep the spotlight focused on carbon.

In short, some of the green industries are now in the same position as their fossil fuel counterparts, in that they have an incentive to shape policy and the public support for it. There's a definite element of truth to this, although there are clearly reasons other than climate change -- ocean acidification, energy security, extending the lifetime of finite resources -- for promoting efficiency and green energy.

But the key thing here is that, at best, these companies can influence things like public perception and policy responses. They don't influence the underlying science because almost none of them are paying any scientists to gather data. So, although a focus on the income of various companies might tell us something about public opinion, it doesn't really say much about the science.

The false assertion that money is distorting the science comes, in part, from a spectacular misreading of the graph that accompanies this article.

The graph ostensibly shows how the US has gone from essentially funding nothing in the way of climate research to spending over $7 billion (£4.47 billion) a year. But the vast majority of that money is in the form of "Climate Technology," and a careful reading of the report indicates that this goes to things like wind and solar power, biofuel production, and things of that nature. None of that money goes to the researchers who are actually generating the results that point to anthropogenic warming, so it can't possibly provide an incentive to them.

The money that is actually going to climate science is on the bottom of the graph, in purple. And, as that shows, funding has been essentially flat since the early 1990s. (Funding has gone up slightly in recent years, but is still in the neighbourhood of $2 billion (£1.2billion) annually.) A lot of that money doesn't actually go to scientists, either, as it pays to support everything from some of NASA's Earth-monitoring satellites to land and ocean temperature monitoring.

The other issue with this graph is that it gives the false impression that funding shot up from nowhere around 1990. The truth of the matter is that the US has been funding climate science for decades. It's why we have things like a record of CO2 levels that goes back to the 1950s, temperature records that span over a century, and a detailed history of periods like the ice ages. People didn't just suddenly start studying this stuff in 1990 -- and much of the work from before that date was funded by the government. What changed was the accounting. There are over a dozen different branches of the government that fund some sort of science, but it wasn't until 1990 that the government formed the Climate Change Science Program, which started aggregating the expenditures across agencies.

There has never been any sudden boom in government funding for climate research that is luring people onto the research track, much less inducing them to support the consensus view. If anything, many years of flat funding would provide an incentive for people to look to getting out of the field. The graph, held up as evidence that climate scientists are being led around by money, actually shows the exact opposite.

Where's that money going?
But maybe that money is somehow being directed in a biased manner, distributed in a way that ensures the current consensus is supported. "Where is the Department of Solar Influence or the Institute of Natural Climate Change?" Nova asks, elsewhere claiming, "Thousands of scientists have been funded to find a connection between human carbon emissions and the climate. Hardly any have been funded to find the opposite."

This displays an almost incomprehensible misunderstanding of how science research works. Thereare institutes that are dedicated to studying the Sun -- the Naval Research Laboratory has one, as does NASA. But those institutes are focused on learning about what the Sun actually does, not squeezing what we learn into some preconceived agenda. For decades, solar activity has been trending downwards, even as temperatures have continued to rise. It's not that the researchers are being induced or compelled to some sort of biased interpretation of the data. Reality just happens to have a bias.

The same thing works in other areas as well. A number of countries have spent large sums of research dollars to put Earth-monitoring satellites in orbit, not with the intent of finding anything in particular, but because monitoring the Earth can tell us important things. This hardware has imaged the Greenland ice sheet -- again, not because of some sort of bias, but because the sheet is very big and very significant. Most of these studies have suggested that ice loss is accelerating, but a recent one concluded, "sea level rise from Greenland may fall well below proposed upper bounds."

The researchers weren't from some sort of "Institute to discover a stable sea level." They were from departments focused on polar research and Earth sciences. What Nova doesn't seem to get is that the people who study the planet actually pay attention to what the planet tells them, not to what their institute may be titled.

(Incidentally, this paper is also a clear indication that research that indicates things aren't as bad as they could be not only gets published, but makes it into very prestigious journals.)

Like many other self-proclaimed skeptics, Nova also has the bizarre idea that research normally proceeds by "auditing" existing studies. "Auditing AGW research," she writes "is so underfunded that for the most part it is left to unpaid bloggers who collect donations from concerned citizens online." But nobody audits the JPL to see if it's handling the Cassini probe properly; geneticists aren't being asked to open their books so that other scientists can see if they're fudging the numbers.

Science simply doesn't proceed through audits. The Greenland paper linked above provides a much more typical picture of how things work. The researchers behind it didn't simply reanalyse what others had done; they got new (and, in many ways, better) data that addressed the same issue and provided a more comprehensive picture of what was going on at the ice sheet's glaciers.

In short, you generally don't make an impression on science by auditing past data; you do it by coming up with better data.

It's pretty strange that people find in the graph (which shows research stuck in neutral for decades) evidence of a flood of money into climate science that distorts its conclusions. But it's unfortunately typical that an argument focused on climate science leaves the facts behind from the start.

Source: Ars Technica

Business incentives transparency bill goes to Gov. Quinn -
A bill that would add transparency to the state's main economic development program was approved by the General Assembly on Friday.

The program, known as Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, offers tax breaks to companies that create or retain jobs and make an investments in the state. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which administers the program, releases annually the name of companies receiving the credits, but details of the agreements, such as the dollar value of the incentives, are often kept secret.

If the bill is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, the department of commerce would post on its web site the terms of each agreement after it is reached.

"This is an incremental start. It's not where I wanted it to be but it's a start," said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, the chief sponsor of the bill.

When Franks first introduced the bill in December, it called for the creation a five-member committee to review proposed tax incentives contracts with companies before they are finalized. Franks said he couldn't get support for the committee.

As an example, the state has yet to announce details of an incentives package for Ford Motor Co. The company has promised to create 2,000 jobs by 2015 at its Chicago assembly plant and its stamping plant in Chicago Heights. It would mark the second time the automaker has received a tax incentive package since 2007. Ford has yet to claim any of the earlier credits.

Franks said his bill is a response to a series of Tribune stories last year on the program. The newspaper reported that since taking office Gov. Pat Quinn shifted the program's focus from job creation to retention. Through October, Quinn has pledged more than $600 million in EDGE tax credits to create 7,146 jobs and retain 26,613 workers. Those credits are often bundled with training funds, grants and loans, which add $36.5 million to the cost of the incentives. In return for the incentives, the companies have pledged to invest at least $3.7 billion in the state.

Despite requests by the Tribune, the value of incentives issued since October has not been released by the commerce department.

Twitter @WriterAlejandra

NASB Financial Announces Consent Order - RTT News

5/25/2012 4:18 PM ET
(RTTNews) - NASB Financial, Inc. (NASB: News ) said Friday that its subsidiary institution, North American Savings Bank, F.S.B. has agreed to a Consent Order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Bank's primary regulator.

The Consent Order replaces and terminates the previous Supervisory Agreement the Bank had entered with the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Bank's previous federal regulator.

The Consent Order requires that the Bank establish various plans and programs to improve the asset quality of the Bank and to ensure the adequacy of allowances for loan and lease losses. The Consent Order also requires the Bank to obtain an independent assessment of its allowance for loan and lease losses methodology, to conduct independent third-party reviews of its commercial and construction loan portfolios and to enhance its credit administration systems.

Among other items, it also requires that the Bank's written capital maintenance plan will contain objectives that ensure the Bank's Tier 1 leverage capital remains equal to or greater than 10% of adjusted total assets and that the Bank's risk-based capital remains equal to or greater than 13% of risk-weighted assets. As of March 31, 2012, the most recent quarter-end, the Bank's actual Tier 1 leverage ratio and risk-based capital ratio were well above these levels at 13.5% and 16.5%, respectively.

The Consent Order does not direct the Bank to raise capital, make management or board changes, or restrict lending.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: contact

No comments: