We have all heard the following argument: in order to get funding for research, the scientific community is forced to produce alarmist predictions of climate change.

There’s a lot wrong with this argument. But it recently occurred to me that it doesn’t even make sense. In the latest IPCC reports, what the scientific community said is that our understanding of climate change is quite good (although not “settled“). This does nothing to build up research funding.

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The scientific community could generate much higher levels of funding if scientists argued that our understanding of climate change was poor, and that the governments of the world should be funding lots and lots of research.

So why don’t scientists play up uncertainty in order to increase funding? Because science does not work that way. While you and I might both increase our funding by, say, 20 percent if we work together and pretend that there is great uncertainty in the science of climate, I could increase my funding by 100 percent if I show that your work is crap and I take all your funding.

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In other words, competing interests in science are so strong that it essentially precludes the kind of large-scale conspiracy advocated in this skeptical argument.