Funding Climate Research

Blog, Climate, Les Routledge

Carbon Brief has issued an analysis of 900 peer-reviewed scholarly articles that examines the author’s ties to Exon.  The analysis offers an alarming headline

Analysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil

The Popular Technology website took the analysis one step further and actually contacted those to 10 researchers and posed the following questions:

1. Have you ever received direct funding from ExxonMobil?

2. Do funding sources have any influence over your scientific work?

3. Has your scientific position regarding climate change ever changed due to a funding source?

4. Please include any additional comment on the article,

The results of that investigation are somewhat more informative and enlightening.  The response of Ross McKitrick, a Professor at the University of Guelph is one example of the responses received.

McKitrick: “It is noteworthy that the article omits the fact that I am a tenured full professor at the University of Guelph, and only describes me as a Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute. For an article obsessed with funding sources, they neglect to point out that my salary comes from the University, not the Institute, and my external research funding comes from SSHRCC. With regard to the Fraser Institute, to say it is “Exxon Funded” betrays the ignorance of the article authors. The Fraser Institute is the largest and most influential economic policy think tank in Canada and one of the most influential think tanks in the world. It is supported by annual donations from over 6,000 individuals, foundations and organizations, none of whom have any editorial control over research.

In the larger perspective, my view of the “alarming news” is so what?  The original analysis does not attempt to figure out what comes first, the skeptical analysis by the researcher or the funding support (if any) from oil company interests.

I wonder can we dismiss any papers published by researchers who have any connections to environmental NGO’s or commercial organizations that have a vested interest in advancing the threat of global warming?

At the end of the day, the assertion that there is a consensus that global warming is real is questionable and the related assertion that global warming (if it is occurring) is caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases is more a statement of faith than one based on evidence.

Personally, I fit into the class of people who believe that climate change is real.  However, that classification needs to be clarified by my personal belief that climate has always been variable and subject to change and that trend will continue to exist in the future.  I also acknowledge that human actions can affect local / regional climate patterns as illustrated by urban heat islands and smog or changes in weather patterns caused by agricultural or forestry practices.  I remain open to be convinced that those and other human actions result in a material trend on a global scale.