The cost of climate research

One of the many absurd arguments against global warming is that scientists are only in it for the money. From the comments of a recent post on RC:

Scientists are people too. The money and perks available to IPCC people are extensive. If oil company scientists are unenthusiastic about GW, then it can be argued that IPCC scientists might be enthusiastic from the same kind of incentives.

[Response: The idea that there are vast wealth and perks to be made from climate science is wrong, and would raise a laugh (albeit a rather bitter one) from anyone "inside" - William]

[Response: Money and perks! Hahahaha. How in the world did I miss out on those when I was a lead author for the Third Assessment report? Working on IPCC is a major drain on ones' time, and probably detracts from getting out papers that would help to get grants (not that we make money off of grants either, since those of us at national labs and universities are not paid salary out of grants for the most part.) We do it because it's work that has to be done. It's grueling and demanding, and not that much fun, and I can assure everybody that there is no remuneration involved... RayPierre]

But… how much does climate research cost? Apparently Chris Rapley said at AAAS this year that globally, roughly $2 billion is spent on climate research, half of that is in the US, and a quarter each in the EU and the rest of world. And I’ve heard similar numbers elsewhere. I’m going to accept it, because it fits rather nicely with another number I’ve just found, from the Economist, wot sez: Monitoring local government currently costs £2.5 billion a year, and that does not include the cost to councils of being inspected (this is in the context of the emasculation of local govt in the UK: since they cannot raise much in taxes, but are paid from central taxation, the central govt insists on minutely monitoring what goes on).

So… assuming that figure is accurate: the costs of simply *monitoring* local govt (not actually doing anything) in one small country exceeds the global climate spend. Do we look forward to skeptics now pronouncing that local govt inspectors are only in it for the money?

However… there is more. The $2 billion annual spend is not all on salaries. Whenever this gets discussed, people usually say that this includes a large chunk spent on satellites, which are expensive. I presume that the costs of the newly approved Cryosat II will get included in the annual climate spend. Its a bit like including the costs of CERN hardware when working out whether particle physics is lucrative or not.

Part of the reason for this post is to invite anyone with better figures to post them. What does Dr Google say?

Bush’s proposed budget for … 2004 … U.S. spending on climate change this year to $4.3 billion…. Ah yes, but that includes “Tax Incentives for Renewable Energy and Hybrid and Fuel-Cell Vehicles…”, about $1b/y. Further down, “Federal Climate Change Science Program (CCSP): Includes $1.7 billion in FY ’04 budget request to fund Federal, multi-agency research program, with $185 million requested for the Climate Change Research Initiative in FY ’04.” And this accuses Bush of cooking the books, anyway.

Although the United States spends $1.8 billion a year on climate research, only 6 percent goes to modeling… England, on the other hand, has focused its spending, with $50 million for the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting and another $25 million for Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

Um. So, anyone got any bettter numbers?


  1. #1 William Connolley

    This was originally on my old blog; maybe I’ll move the comments across sometime – some were useful. I’ll put RPs into the post, perhaps. In the meantime, before I forget, according to RP’s space policy FAQ each space shuttle launch costs $1b. And the Economist says Harvards yearly expenses are $2.6b.

  2. #2 Dano

    …do you want numbers on the dollar value spent on potato chips (crisps) in the US each year? :o)



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