What Motivates the Center for the Study of
Carbon Dioxide and Global Change?
"Where do you get your funding?" This is a common inquiry we frequently receive. Our typical response is that we never discuss our funding. Why? Because we believe that ideas about the way the world of nature operates should stand or fall on their own merits, irrespective of the source of support for the person or organization that produces them.
Unfortunately, we know that this view is contrary to what often occurs in today's world, where the souls of many are bought and sold daily - some for a proverbial king's ransom and others for but a pauper's penny - to promulgate ideas to which they have not the slightest personal allegiance. I want to state once and for all, therefore, that we at the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change do not participate in such commerce, while acknowledging there are likely many scientists on the opposite side of the climate change debate that are equally true to themselves in this regard.
But why should you believe me? Lying and fabrication are equally rampant throughout today's world, making almost anyone's declaration, however adamantly and eloquently delivered, more suspect than believable; and maybe that's what I'm doing here - lying to you.
Clearly, one should not believe what we at CO2 Science or anyone else says about carbon dioxide and global change without carefully examining the reasoning behind, and the evidence for, our and their declarations, which makes questions about funding rather moot. It is self-evident, for example, that one need not know from whence a person's or organization's funding comes in order to evaluate the reasonableness of what they say, if - and this is a very important qualification - one carefully studies the writings of people on both sides of the issue.
Nevertheless, questions about funding persist, and they are clearly of great interest to many people, as evidenced by the spate of publicity aroused by the 4 Sep 2006 letter of Bob Ward (Senior Manager for Policy Communication of the UK's Royal Society) to Nick Thomas (Esso UK Limited's Director of Corporate Affairs), as well his criticism of us in his BBC Today Programe interview of 21 Sep 2006 with Sarah Montague, where he pointedly described our Center as being one of the organizations funded by ExxonMobil that "misrepresent the science of climate change."
That we tell a far different story from the one espoused by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is true; and that may be why ExxonMobil made some donations to us a few times in the past; they probably liked what we typically had to say about the issue. But what we had to say then, and what we have to say now, came not, and comes not, from them or any other organization or person. Rather, it was and is derived from our individual scrutinizing of the pertinent scientific literature and our analyses of what we find there, which we have been doing and subsequently writing about on our website on a weekly basis without a single break since 15 Jul 2000, and twice-monthly before that since 15 Sep 1998 ... and no one could pay my sons and me enough money to do that.
So what do we generally find in this never-ending endeavor? We find enough good material to produce weekly reviews of five different peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that do not follow the multiple doom-and-gloom storylines of the IPCC. In addition, we often review articles that do follow the IPCC's lead; and in these cases we take issue with them for what we feel are valid defensible reasons. Why do we do this? We do it because we feel that many people on the other side of the debate - but by no means all or even the majority of them - are the ones that "misrepresent the science of climate change."
Just as beauty resides in the eye of the beholder, however, so too does the misrepresentation of climate change science live there; and with people on both sides of the debate often saying the same negative things about those on the other side, it behooves the rational person seeking to know the truth to carefully evaluate the things each side says about more substantial matters. Are they based on real-world data? Do the analyses employed seem appropriate? Do the researchers rely more on data and logic to make their points, or do they rely more on appeals to authority and claims of consensus? Funding also enters the picture; but one must determine if it is given to influence how scientists interpret their findings or to encourage them to maintain their intellectual integrity and report only what they believe to be the truth.
In this regard, as I mentioned earlier, there are many scientists on both sides of the climate change debate who receive funds from people that admire their work and who continue to maintain their intellectual and moral integrity. Likewise, there are probably some on both sides of the controversy who do otherwise. So how does one differentiate between them?
Clearly, each researcher's case is unique. In my case, I feel that a significant indication of what motivates me to do what I do can be gleaned from my publication record, which demonstrates that I studied and wrote about many of the topics we currently address on our website a full quarter-century ago in a host of different peer-reviewed scientific journals - as well as in a couple of books (Idso, 1982, 1989) that I self-published and for which I personally paid the publication costs - all of which happened well before I, or probably anyone else, had ever even contemplated doing what we now do and actually receiving funds to sustain the effort. What is more, many of these things occurred well before there was any significant controversy over the climate change issue, which largely began with the publication of one of my early contributions to the topic (Idso, 1980). Hence, it should be readily evident that my views about the potential impacts of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 concentration from that time until now have never been influenced in even the slightest degree by anything other than what has appeared in the scientific literature. And my sons are in their father's image.
So, it is indeed true that we have our point of view, just as the other side of the debate has its point of view; and those views are radically different from of each other. Please study carefully, therefore, the materials that each side produces and decide for yourself which seems to be the more correct, based upon real-world data and logical reasoning; but be very careful about appeals to authority, claims of consensus, and contentions of funding leading to misrepresentation of climate-change science. Although there likely is some of the latter occurring on both sides of the debate, the mere existence of funding, whether from private or public sources, does not, in and of itself, prove malfeasance on the part of the funds' recipients.
Sherwood B. Idso, President
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
Idso, S.B. 1980. The climatological significance of a doubling of earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Science 207: 1462-1463.
Idso, S.B. 1982. Carbon Dioxide: Friend or Foe? IBR Press, Tempe, Arizona, USA.
Idso, S.B. 1989. Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Earth in Transition. IBR Press, Tempe, Arizona, USA