NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Climate Change Science Is Biased

June 5, 2013

The majority of developed nations fund research scientists and rely on them for policy guidance. It is in the best interest of these government-funded scientists to ensure their fields, and therefore their jobs, are deemed of great importance, says Patrick J. Michaels, the director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute.

This is a problem, however, when it comes to environmental science.

  • In the United States, government-funded scientists are required to produce a National Climate Assessment every four years.
  • The assessment is produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a 13-agency behemoth with multibillion-dollar annual funding.
  • Under its empowering legislation, the assessments are "for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in the formulation of a coordinated national policy on global climate change."

The research program and the individuals who write such reports are the largest consumers of federal largesse on climate science. Would they ever produce a report saying that their issue is of diminishing importance, so that EPA regulations of greenhouse gases are simply not needed? No, not unless they are tired of first-class travel and the praise of their universities, which are hopelessly addicted to the 50 percent "overhead" they charge on science grants.

The perils of science-by-government-funded-committee became apparent in the first assessment in 2000. The models they used were worse than no forecast at all.

  • The U.S. Global Change Research Program's computer models were given a multiple-choice test with 100 questions and four possible answers each. Simply spitting out random numbers would, within statistical limits, get around 1 out of 4 (25 percent) correct.
  • The initial assessment, however, would get only 1 out of 8 answers correct (12.5 percent), essentially performing twice as badly as a random series of numbers.
  • The research program was aware of this problem but published its report anyway.
  • The reigning assessment is the 2009 version, which has been considered authoritative and is largely the basis for the EPA's greenhouse gas regulations.

Later this year, government science goes international with the release of the next Scientific Assessment of Climate Change by the United Nations body that tracks the issue. It suffers from the same problem as the draft research program document, because the same people produced both reports. It, too, will serve as the basis for policy, and it, too, will be obsolete the day it is published.

Source: Patrick J. Michaels, "'My Scientists Made Me Shrink Your Car': How Government Scientists Plunder the Till in the Name of Science," Washington Times, May 28, 2013.


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