I’m seeing a few articles on Government-sponsored science lately that seem particularly applicable to the climate change research:
Scientists may love government money, and politicians may love the power its expenditure confers upon them, but society is impoverished by the transaction.
Another in a similar vein on medical research reminds me of Craig Venter’s decoding of the Human Genome. I was at the San Diego Supercomputer at the time, and his use of innovative use of supercomputing to assemble pieces of DNA — called shotgun sequencing — made the Government-funded competitors look like clods. There was a prize offered, and it was decided to award the prize to both – how very droll.
A more balanced argument is presented here. Some infrastructural components, like large meteorological data sets, are better handled by government departments than others.
Professor Sinclair Davidson shows that the standard economic analysis supporting public expenditure on research is fundamentally and methodologically flawed.
The notion that throwing an infinite amount of money at public research will somehow, at some time, automatically lead to some benefit is a myth. The government spends a substantial amount on public science and innovation. It is not clear that any substantial benefit is derived from that expenditure.
He identifies the following ‘stepping stones’:
- R&D is not a public good.
- The cost of public funds is not lower than the cost of private funds.
- The returns to public science are low.
- Governments have a poor track record of picking ‘winners’.
- Publicly funded R&D has a negative impact on economic growth.
- Economists are unable to explain how spillovers occur, or how valuable these spillovers are.
The main argument against government science, that “publicly-performed R&D crowds out resources that could be alternatively used by the private sector” needs to be strengthened in the case of climate science.
The push for taxes like the ETS, and subsidising impractical renewable energy schemes shows the impact of government climate science is regressive.
Climate science seems to particularly prone to the worst aspects of government science, from the UN IPCC process, to ClimateGate and through the enquiries, it’s like an season of ‘Yes, Minister’. If global warming is eventually shown to be non-existent or harmless, no doubt the climate scientists will declare victory and say they were sceptics all along.