The cost of climate research

One of the many absurd arguments against global warming is that scientists are only in it for the money. From the comments of a recent post on RC:

Scientists are people too. The money and perks available to IPCC people are extensive. If oil company scientists are unenthusiastic about GW, then it can be argued that IPCC scientists might be enthusiastic from the same kind of incentives.

[Response: The idea that there are vast wealth and perks to be made from climate science is wrong, and would raise a laugh (albeit a rather bitter one) from anyone "inside" - William]

[Response: Money and perks! Hahahaha. How in the world did I miss out on those when I was a lead author for the Third Assessment report? Working on IPCC is a major drain on ones' time, and probably detracts from getting out papers that would help to get grants (not that we make money off of grants either, since those of us at national labs and universities are not paid salary out of grants for the most part.) We do it because it's work that has to be done. It's grueling and demanding, and not that much fun, and I can assure everybody that there is no remuneration involved... RayPierre]

But... how much does climate research cost? Apparently someone said at AAAS this year that globally, roughly $2 billion is spent on climate research, half of that is in the US, and a quarter each in the EU and the rest of world. And I've heard similar numbers elsewhere. I'm going to accept it, because it fits rather nicely with another number I've just found, from the Economist, wot sez: Monitoring local government currently costs £2.5 billion a year, and that does not include the cost to councils of being inspected (this is in the context of the emasculation of local govt in the UK: since they cannot raise much in taxes, but are paid from central taxation, the central govt insists on minutely monitoring what goes on).

So... assuming that figure is accurate: the costs of simply *monitoring* local govt (not actually doing anything) in one small country exceeds the global climate spend. Do we look forward to skeptics now pronouncing that local govt inspectors are only in it for the money?

However... there is more. The $2 billion annual spend is not all on salaries. Whenever this gets discussed, people usually say that this includes a large chunk spent on satellites, which are expensive. I presume that the costs of the newly approved Cryosat II will get included in the annual climate spend. Its a bit like including the costs of CERN hardware when working out whether particle physics is lucrative or not.

Part of the reason for this post is to invite anyone with better figures to post them. What does Dr Google say?

Bush's proposed budget for ... 2004 ... U.S. spending on climate change this year to $4.3 billion.... Ah yes, but that includes "Tax Incentives for Renewable Energy and Hybrid and Fuel-Cell Vehicles...", about $1b/y. Further down, "Federal Climate Change Science Program (CCSP): Includes $1.7 billion in FY '04 budget request to fund Federal, multi-agency research program, with $185 million requested for the Climate Change Research Initiative in FY '04." And this accuses Bush of cooking the books, anyway.

Although the United States spends $1.8 billion a year on climate research, only 6 percent goes to modeling... England, on the other hand, has focused its spending, with $50 million for the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting and another $25 million for Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

Um. So, anyone got any bettter numbers?


Anonymous said...


US GAO report:






William M. Connolley said...

Thanks Roger. Gosh this is getting confusing. Perhaps just looking at the US is a good idea. The problem (I think) is distinguishing things that could be called "climate research" - ie, what everyone things of as (err, do I mean say IPCC WG I stuff?) from, say, technology programs. So... the USGCRP report has what looks like a nice table: table 1. This appears to show that some identical stuff gets shown as USGCRP and CCSP funded, so I presume shouldn't be counted twice. It also shows NASA space-based as somewhat larger than "sci research".

Ah... but table 2 is better. That appears to confirm that total-science is about $800m. But would that include universities?

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Anonymous said...

The amount of spending on climate research is irrelevant to the point in question. What is important is the fraction of current funding that is driven by concerns about global warming. Suppose if there were no concern about global warming climate reasearch would be funded at half of current levels. Then it is obvious that this gives climatologists an institutional interest in promoting concern about global warming. This is in fact a likely source of bias which policy makers should take into account. This dynamic is hardly unique to climatologists, for example people working on tokamak fusion have an obvious incentive to overstate the prospects (which are in fact nil) for practical tokamak fusion power plants. And yes local government monitors have an institutional interest in promoting the benefits and minimizing the costs of extensive local government monitoring. Denying this interest indicates a lack of objectivity or worse.

William M. Connolley said...

JBS: you have a valid point, I suspect, but it isn't the one the skeptics are making and the one I was trying to take apart: they are saying, woo-hoo, look, $2b, a huge sum of money, scientists are onto a gravy train.

I'm trying to point out that (a) $2b is pretty small by many standards; and (b) there is no gravy train. Scientists don't get huge salaries or perks.

OTOH we do have an interest in our jobs and continued govt funding of the same. But you cannot automatically assume that translates into alarmism. Consider, to the contrary, the scenario that govts all accept GW; that climate sensitivity turns out to be about 3 oC as James A says; and so all the climate modellers have done themselves out of a job :-)

Anonymous said...

I am not an environmental skeptic, but I am suspicious of any person, scientist or layman who proclaims that their work/research/belief is the ultimate, unquestionable truth. It ceases to be a search for answers and turns into plain old dogma. A certain amount of doubt and skepticism never did science any harm, in fact doubt and skepticism has been the flux for most of the great scientific breakthroughs in history, just ask Galilleo.

"The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant."
Richard Cecil

Wyn Richards
Melbourne, Australia

Anonymous said...

1. I'm glad to see this billion dollar number clarified. Thanks.

2. Just because climate scientists aren't raking it in, don't get the ideat that they aren't incentivized. College professors don't make that much, but try taking it away...ooh la la! I've done the academic gig. Read a great book on the history of ONR who said that the scientists were as bad as the farmers for trying to get handouts. Finally, if Steve M. using a stapler from down the hall at a mining company compromises him, what about young Turks like Mann who's whole job and career success is being paid for by government funds.

Anonymous said...

I am sure you are aware of the very good and thorough Marshall Institute reports on this, but I also suspect you will deny them and say they are oil company stooges, so what's the point of posting the link.

Anonymous said...

In line with this global warming hoax ex-vice president Al Gore is
fostering that pseudo-scientific film on catastrophies. I would like to copy a few lines from

" In connection with the map of Brazil which showed half of the country taken over by the US. I asked WAISers to check the statement attributed to Al Gore: "Contrary to what Brazilians think, Amazonia does not belong to them. It belongs to all of us", Randy Black comments: Al Gore and his fatyher have been beneficiaries of Occidental Petroleum/Armand Hammer for decades. It was Gore Jr. who refused to comment or object to the billion dollar oil development by Occidental in the Amazon region. The same projects not only damaged the region but damaged the habitat of local indigenous tribes. Gore continues to own millions in Occidental stock."

Gore just forgot to ask 180 million Brazilians what they think about his plans. He would be surprised if he asked.

The same way these gray people
tried to impose the Irak hoax
to millions they are now trying
to sell the global warming story around.

Just think about it, did the weather r-e-a-l-l-y change in your town? What scientists (pro-con) are you going to believe in?

You don´t have to be a scientist to smell a rat.

Anonymous said...

Bush an Blair say "yes" to the global warming hysteria? Beware.
We have seen this film before.

Anonymous said...

It is remarkable that the "skeptics" accuse scientists of promoting some kind of climate change myth for the purposes of financial gain when it is clear from the most cursory examination that most of the (few) "scientists" who claim that global warming/climate change concerns are overblown can be linked directly to petroleum interests, often through "think" tanks with ties to the oil industry. Why the accusations against academic climate scientists when the real money comes from the petroleum industry? The money spent on climate research through the government pales in comparison to the financial resources of the oil companies. Who really has more at stake, federal science funding agencies (and the university scientists who depend on them) or Exxon, BP and the like?

Sully said...

"Do we look forward to skeptics now pronouncing that local govt inspectors are only in it for the money?"

Uh, yes. Most of them, to at least some extent. That's why the tendency of bureaucracies to expand is an old saw.

Government employed scientists are probably on average about as honest as oil company ones when their own self interest is involved. Perhaps both sides should refrain from and condemn ad hominem attacks and concentrate on facts and evidence. But neither will.

SBVOR said...

"The idea that there are vast wealth and perks to be made from climate science is wrong, and would raise a laugh"

Really? Where did the $2.4 million go?

How about the $100 billion?

To say that climate science has not been corrupted by a government gravy train is -- on it's face -- just laughably silly.

crandles said...

But just think, if all these clever people devoted their efforts to making manufacturing more efficient and marketing more effective. Think of all the tat we could own :P