Big Government, Foundations Undermine Scientific Integrity

Published April 6, 2015

Democrats’ attempts to paralyze climate skeptics in academia, think tanks, and companies, using intimidating letters threatening a federal investigation into their funding connections, backfired. They opened a Pandora’s Box of questions concerning where climate alarmists get their money. Now Democrat Senators Barbara Boxer (CA), Ed Markey (MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Democrat Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva have egg on their faces.

Public-choice economics explains politicians and bureaucrats are as self-interested as anyone. They seek expanded authority and bigger budgets. Because the federal government and left-wing foundations provide the vast bulk of climate research funding, funding from these two sources certainly should undergo at least as much scrutiny as funding from private industry.

Nearly all university-based climate scientists are funded mainly by federal grants, and the ideological and political goals of those authorizing the grants could reasonably be expected to affect the kind of research universities and researchers undertake. The conflict between gaining research money and scientific integrity puts sound but nonconformist science at a crushing disadvantage.

Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University’s notorious ClimateGate email scandal figure, has garnered close to $6 million promoting scary scientific conclusions serving government’s goal of control over energy sources, $3.6 million of it from the National Science Foundation. Both PSU and the NSF conducted investigations absolving Mann of any wrongdoing in ClimateGate, but with the offending institutions effectively investigating one of their own, would anyone expect a different outcome?

Influence, Conflicts of Interest

Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer has written more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and testified before Congress on multiple occasions. He was the Environmental Defense Fund’s senior scientist (1981-2002) and remains as science advisor to the multimillion-dollar lobbying group (2013 assets: $208.7 million). EDF has received $2.8 million in federal grants since 2008, spent $11.3 million on lobbying, and has 55 people on 32 federal advisory committees.

Since 2008, EDF has received 3,332 grants from 600 foundations, totaling $544,487,562. EDF is deeply rooted in left-wing foundation agendas. Oppenheimer’s professorship is supported in part by private equity tycoon Carl Ferenbach’s High Meadows Foundation, which has given Princeton $6.5 million and the Environmental Defense Fund $6 million. Ferenbach is both EDF’s Chairman of the Board and a trustee of Princeton, suggesting a strong conflict of interest.

The proudly progressive Center for American Progress (CAP) has five people on federal advisory committees, spent $3.6 million on lobbying, and gave $312,400 to Democrat candidates in 2014. CAP Senior Fellow and Chief Science Advisor Joe Romm has testified before Congress on global warming and coauthored numerous peer-reviewed studies. Yet Romm failed to file conflict-of-interest disclosures for an article in Environmental Research Letters although the journal explicitly requires it.

Since 2004, CAP has been supported by left-wing foundations including Marilsa (Getty Oil fortune, $7 million), Rockefeller (Standard Oil fortune, $5 million), Sea Change (ties to Russian oil money laundering, $4.8 million), and 200 other left-wing foundations.

Government and foundation monies go only toward research advancing a pro-regulatory climate agenda. That is the greatest threat to the integrity of scientific research.