Global Warming: How to Refute Claim that Scientists Get Paid to Believe in Global Warming

Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman reiterated his claims while on CNN that scientists who claim that there is global warming do so only because that is the only way to get government funding to support their research (their research on something they don’t actually believe). This argument against global warming is making the rounds on the streets. Note that he’s referring specifically to American scientists and the US government.

Here are some counter-arguments:

  • There is no all-powerful force in government pushing a belief in global warming. If there was, then our government would have taken more action on the issue.
  • If this is true, then are you saying that Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II were all forcing scientists to promote a global warming scam? Their administrations funded lots of this research.
  • As Dana Nuccitelli points out, Coleman himself claims that 3% of climate scientists argue against global warming – or at least man-made warming – but those 3% got funding too! How?
  • I did my first two degrees in geology and was working on a PhD when I shifted to the history of science. In my experience, I met only one geologist who rejected anthropogenic global warming, but even he believed warming was happening. That’s a pretty strong consensus, despite the fact that geology departments are full of coal and oil money. If scientists’ claims depend on who is paying them, then how could these geologists possibly believe in global warming?
  • Even if government funding forces scientists to conclude that global warming is real, global warming could still be true.

But here’s the bigger issue for me: If we’re going to question people’s financial or other motives for believing things, then we have to apply that question to all sides. I think it’s right and useful to examine such motives. But now Coleman forces us to ask what his financial motive might be. Or might oil and coal companies and the politicians they lobby possibly have some financial motive to deny that global warming is happening? I suppose it’s possible.

Now here’s the problem: If we focus on motivations, then all knowledge becomes about mere power and interest; the truth is lost. So, yes, we should examine interests, but, in the end, we must struggle towards truth.

But I’d still like to pose one more question about motivations: Does it serve the interests of just one side to focus on motivations? Yes, it does. If we raise the spectre of unassailable uncertainty that comes from a view of knowledge as mere power or interest, then opponents of any action on global warming win through paralysis of policy. Hmmm…. interesting.

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2 Responses to Global Warming: How to Refute Claim that Scientists Get Paid to Believe in Global Warming

  1. Amen, I’ve been in quite the discussion about this recently.
    The rebuttal I’ve had most success with is as follows:
    The 800 multi-national authors of the IPCC report are selected for impartiality and have a strict conflict of interest policy.
    More importantly, their data speaks for itself. If you go through the data and find errors, they have an alleged error procedure for any mistakes that are caught.
    To simply dismiss the IPCC because they are professionals doing their job is closed minded.


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