Whose conspiracy is it?

One argument I’ve heard in the climate change debate is that scientists around the globe are in on some kind of conspiracy, the purpose of which is to gather research funding for themselves. As the wife of a University academic, I find this argument quite amusing. Here’s why.

My husband, Ben, has applied for and been awarded research funding over the years. He is currently the recipient of a three-year research grant. The amount of this grant is something around $300,000 spread over 3 years. He and I have a joint bank account and I can tell you quite sincerely that none of this money has ever gone into our personal bank account. He has never spent any of this money on personal items or on any of his family. He’s not buying diamond rings for me or overseas travel for the family or kitchen renovations with it. The grant money gets used for things like conferences, PhD students, work-related travel and so on. When he wants to use it for one of these things, he has to walk up Rangitoto Island backwards and blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back. Furthermore, his job is not dependent on him receiving this research funding. His gets his salary regardless. The research grant does benefit him a little in that it looks good on his CV. But he would still continue to do all the same research even if he didn’t get it. It would just happen at a slower pace.

I acknowledge that for young scientists without a permanent job as yet, research funding may mean a little more than just looking good on a CV, but who stands to lose the most if their position is wrong? If I were an independent observer to the climate change debate, I would say the most likely conspiracy theorist in all this, is the party emitting the most greenhouse gas. They are the people who get the most benefit from freedom to pollute and so stand to lose the most should a tax on carbon emissions (or something simliar) come into effect. Just as big Tobaco stood to lose the most from incontrovertible evidence that cigarettes cause cancer. Not the humble, university academic, who earns a modest wage and will gain nothing from global warming, other than a warmer planet. And I’m not sure this is something they want.