Climate propaganda not profitable

Paul Raven @ 01-03-2011

Ars Technica takes on a climate change denial shibboleth which I’ve always felt was more than adequately dealt with by Occam’s Razor. You know, the one that goes “of course the climate scientists are going to say things are getting worse; how else are they going to ride the government-money gravy train?” Perhaps I’m just lucky to have known enough scientists to make me aware of the fact that climate science – or indeed any science career – isn’t a route to fame, fortune and power (you’d be better off looking in the corridor labelled “politics” for those fringe benefits, AMIRITEZ?), but for everyone else, here’s the skinny:

Since it doesn’t have a lot of commercial appeal, most of the people working in the area, and the vast majority of those publishing the scientific literature, work in academic departments or at government agencies. Penn State, home of noted climatologists Richard Alley and Michael Mann, has a strong geosciences department and, conveniently, makes the department’s salary information available. It’s easy to check, and find that the average tenured professor earned about $120,000 last year, and a new hire a bit less than $70,000.

That’s a pretty healthy salary by many standards, but it’s hardly a racket. Penn State appears to be on the low end of similar institutions, and is outdone by two other institutions in its own state (based on this report). But, more significantly for the question at hand, we can see that Earth Sciences faculty aren’t paid especially well. Sure, they do much better than the Arts faculty, but they’re somewhere in the middle of the pack, and get stomped on by professors in the Business and IT departments.

This is all, of course, ignoring what someone who can do the sort of data analysis or modeling of complex systems that climatologists perform might make if they went to Wall Street.

“Ah, but what about the grant money, huh?”

Funding has gone up a bit over the last couple of years, and some stimulus money went into related programs. But, in general, the trend has been a downward one for 15 years; it’s not an area you’d want to go into if you were looking for a rich source of grant money. If you were, you would target medical research, for which the NIH had a $31 billion budget plus another $10 billion in stimulus money.

There’s more details there for them as wants ’em. Of course, if you’re already convinced that climate science is a liberal plot to make oil barons feel bad, you’ll probably not struggle to conclude that someone slipped Ars an envelope full of grubby grant dollars for their part in propping up the conspiracy… in which case I can only hope that believing so makes it easier for you to sleep at night, because that’s about the greatest utility that such a belief could possibly have.

Speaking of propaganda, here’s a site all about analysing and understanding the messages with which we are bombarded by governments, corporations and special interest groups [via BoingBoing]. Watch for the fnords, folks.