Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Heresy! I disagree with Realclimate.org

Actually, it's just a single comment by Realclimate blogger Gavin Schmidt, but I'll play it up. He contrasts environmental group funding of research to industry funding, and says "environmental groups do not have a vested interest in the exsitence of global warming - there are of course many other environmental problems they could be (and are) dealing with - but they do not stand to gain personally if global warming is more serious."

Well, I think enviros like myself do have a strong interest in emphasizing global warming and other environmental ills - it helps promote related causes we espouse and promotes the general importance of the work we're doing. OTOH, I do agree with his follow-on that "Making an equal-and-opposite comparison [between industry and enviros] is not valid."

The two differences are first, the benefits of exaggeration our position are less to enviros than industry - for us, the environmental importance is just helpful to other stuff we do, while to (some in) industry, global warming concerns threaten their core business model. Second, the costs of exaggeration are higher to us - our credibility is what we sell to our customer/supporters, while coal and oil is what industry sells - damaging their own credibility on environmental issues will not harm them much overall.

Finally, it's easier for us to walk away from an unimportant environmental issue than it is for industry to abandon coal power. I think concerns about global warming and concerns about electromagnetic fields started about the same time. The former has had much more verification in subsequent research, and that's the one that gets much more research.

So there are differences between the quality of what we and industry say, but people still have to be careful about what the "angels" are saying, and why they say it.

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