A global warming conspiracy theorist has won 4 states, should we be worried?

The states in Green have gone for Rick Santorum, who besides having a a Google problem also believes in one of the wackiest conspiracy theories there is - the climate change hoax. That is, the belief that there is a shady group of Illuminati that have power over thousands of climate scientists from all over the world, and in their greed for sweet sweet grant money scientists uniformly falsify all their data to serve this power-hungry cabal. Is that an exaggeration? Nope, that's what people who believe in the "hoax" ascribe to (see skeptical science's thorough debunking of Evans here). This is a more severe form of the denial by Newt or Romney, who claim "insufficient evidence", the more basic goalpost moving of half-hearted global warming denialism.

But now we have a full-blown global warming hoax-promoting conspiracy theorist picking up momentum to become a candidate for president. Should we be worried?

My favorite part of the "hoax" myth is that scientists are making up data so they can keep receiving grant money. You really have to wonder what people think grant money is when they accuse scientists of compromising their morals to fabricate for grants. What do grants give a PhD scientist in earth science or climatology? An assistant professor's salary? It's not like we can take grant money and go out and buy a Porsche. It is clear PhD training is not the easy path to wealth and success. Most working scientists are usually paid little more than school teachers, and if you are one of the 60% of students who enroll in a PhD program who successfully graduate with their PhD in the US you then have about a 1 in 3 chance for job in academia, with about a 1 in 7 chance of obtaining a tenure track job that may one day advance to full professor. A full professor of science (not medicine or law who get paid lots more) might get paid as high as 80-90k a year after decades of costly training and post-doc or assistant professor salaries (think school teacher). There are a lot easier ways of getting rich. And perhaps the most obvious flaw that is often pointed out, you get better pay for consulting for think tanks and oil companies when you deny the science. Is this a sign that those that believe in the hoax are the type of people that would lie, cheat, and steal for a scientists salary? That they think such behavior would be reasonable for compensation on such a puny scale? It's scary for what that says about them.

If anything, this is yet another sign Santorum is so far out of the mainstream that every vote he picks ups increases the likelihood of a Republican failure in the general election. This guy has so many ideas offensive to so many people, I think every state he picks up should be a celebration for those of us interested in a science-legitimate candidate this election cycle.

It's like the recent upset over Obama's plan to force religious-owned health providers to pay for birth control just like their secular counterparts. You hear a lot of noise from the contraception extremists like the Catholic bishops, and candidates like Santorum who opposes giving plan B to rape victims (he says they should make the best out of a bad situation), then you of learn in their congregations 98% of Catholic women have used contraception, and 68% use it routinely, at rates no different from the general population or other religious groups including evangelicals. Catholics (and Christians in general) are at odds with their leaders on contraception, a majority (58%) want it. Interestingly there's a 12% gap there between those who want contraception and those use it or their partner uses it. Maybe they're conflicted or they don't know their wife is on the pill, but it's curious.

It's really only the extreme right wing we're seeing behind Santorum's popularity. This is a guy that thinks there is no right to privacy, and that states should have the right to ban birth control. If you think that's not a likely scenario look at these "personhood" bills and the current make-up of the Supreme Court; a scary combination.

When it comes to the general election, in which women often are a decisive factor, do you think a candidate that opposes birth control is going to go over well with the 70% of women who routinely use it and the 98% that ever have? Given a majority of people now support gay marriage and Santorum considers gay marriage to be bigotry against straight people and homosexuality equivalent to pedophilia, who is going to vote for this guy? I think a lot of women will have a serious problem with a Santorum presidency based on issues of personal privacy, and the majority 64%) of us that have come around to accept homosexuals will be turned off by his bigotry. Those are bad demographics for the general election.

Santorum gets the tinfoil hat:

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It's not like we can take grant money and go out and buy a Porsche.

Here in the real world, we can't, but there was a Bloom County strip from about 1985 in which Opus tells Milo, "Research physicists need Porsches, too!" And as I'm sure you're aware, there are too many people out there who have trouble recognizing fiction/satire as such.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Feb 2012 #permalink

I remember that cartoon. Of course, the context was the massive waste of the "Star Wars" SDI instead of research funding in general. You're right that the point probably gets garbled.

By LeftWingFox (not verified) on 10 Feb 2012 #permalink

It is interesting that the religious right believe every word from a book written 2,000 years ago that has no factual evidence but completely deny the writing of today's scientists that is totally based on factual evidence. Does that describe delusion or just your basic brainwashing? In any case, why does everyone have to suffer the consequences of the delusional because they refuse to believe in science and won't do anything to address what is certain to be catastrophic global warming. How do you penetrate the closed minds of these people?

"And perhaps the most obvious flaw that is often pointed out, you get better pay for consulting for think tanks and oil companies when you deny the science. Is this a sign that those that believe in the hoax are the type of people that would lie, cheat, and steal ..."

I think this is the scary bit - how much are the powerful lobbyists or corporations prepared to encourage lying, cheating and stealing votes to get their candidate elected. If they are, yes, we should be worried because logic would say it's not possible for a country to elect someone with such depressive, regressive beliefs.

I know this is a science blog so feel free to delete this comment for being off-topic, but his position on Global Warming and science is the least of reasons to be worried about a Rick Santorum Presidency. As pointed out in this article his religious fervor and him all but declaring war on Iran on 'Meet the Press'. That's what's scary.

By Antonio Lorusso (not verified) on 10 Feb 2012 #permalink

I understand the concern about the rise of science skeptics in politics, but this business of crying poor by somebody who should and probably does know better is a bit much, Mark. Salaries for full professors in scientific fields such as environmental science at Virgina are typically in six figures, with top salaries in the quarter million range. Many state institutions (including those in VA) are required by law to publish salaries of professors and department heads, so those numbers are not exactly a state secret. Check it out. There ARE professors who buy Porsches.

Just like the scientists who supported the church against Copernicus, you ignore the scientific critiques of AGW and support the ruling bodies agenda. You ignore the poor scientific process used by AGW scientists. You ignore the fact that western governments have spent billions with scientists who support AGW and essentially nothing on research trying to determine the truth. You support the ridiculous notion that, "the science is settled" all the while knowing that nothing in science is ever settled. You accept that we are in for a catastrophe when the UN's facts don't even support this. And finally, you believe a media that makes its money by hyping bad news. You should be ashamed of yourselves.


You ignore...you ignore...

Yes, yes, we ignore all the strawmen and counterfactual statements made by people paid handsomely by very wealthy people and corporations but that seem to have suckered low-information types like you.

We're quite ashamed...that our educational system has turned out folks like you.

Regarding the 68 % users vs. 58 % "want contraception" I would guess it has to do with differences in the questions used in each survey, and nuances in the beliefs of individual Catholics. For example, there is a subset of Catholics who disagree with the official position on contraception as such, but believe that some forms of hormonal contraception are abortive, and would want those forms made unavailable. They might use forms of contraceptives they consider more acceptable (barriers or spermacides).

But I think I'm just being statistically nerdy.

"Brad Fregger is the President/CEO of Groundbreaking Press and a sought after speaker by organizations looking for a person who has something to say, and says it in an entertaining and compelling way. His focus tends to be on the concepts discussed in his books."

Very entertaining! Brad doesn't even claim to know anything about climate science. Maybe that's what his next book will be about?

Climate "science" is mere conjecture, no better than a pub debate. The "evidence" is unreliable and scientific papers contradict themselves on what the "evidence" is. No explanation is provided for the fact that there has been no warming for the majority of the earth-based temperature record and the last warming period ended in 1998. The latest has been dismissed as too short to even need an explanation. That makes this "science" a joke. The only thing that can cause the globe to not warm, is if the solar radiation reaching the earth has diminished. The last solar lull lasted from 2002 to 2009, so the period 1999 to 2002 and 2010 isn't adequately explained by the solar lull. I'm baffled why ENSO events (cooling & warming of the pacific ocean) have been deemed a cause rather than an effect of temperature change, unless the "scientists" believe that there is a heat source underneath the ocean.

jdey123: at least in the Forbe's comment section you take time to frame your abysmal ignorance in a semblance of "skepticism". Here, your ideological blindness is on full display. Refreshing, yet stupid. Maybe the sheer arrogance of your asinine claims will encourage others to educate themselves about this issue, as you clearly can't.

Bob sun, yes the point being made was eventually you can make a nice salary. But most scientists aren't full professors and becoming tenured faculty, as I explained above, is a long shot.

So, if after 5-10 years as a grad student, 2-5, as a post doc, and between 5-10 years as assistant prof you may become an associate prof a minority of the time, with tenure and full professorship after another 5 years. After all that they better damn well pay you for expertise. The majority of academics doing research do not occupy full professor chairs and 99% of the day to day slog is by the grad students post docs and lesser minions of the lab.

Sorry, the point stands, there are many faster paths to a good salary than academia.

Back in my day, when I finished my Biology PhD in 1965, there weren't postdocs that I knew of. I started out as an Assistant Professor, received early tenure and promotion to Associate Professor after three years rather than the usual seven. I spent 21 years as a Full Professor. My initial salary in 1965 was $950 a month. According to the consumer price index, my buying power stayed the same for most of my career. I never came anywhere near $100,000 a year, even corrected to today's dollars. All the people we hired in, except for one Full Professor, were hired in at a lower salary than I was making. I wondered how they survived. Yes, there are a small number of Professors who can afford a Porsche, but they are mostly in Engineering and Business, or are selling Amway on the side.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 12 Feb 2012 #permalink

Damn, Brad. You really are one stupid sack of shit.

The schedule provided by Mark is a slow one. A PhD should be completed in 4 yrs. A post doc is a dumping ground for PhDs who can't find a position as an assistant professor and a tenure track. Better you go out and earn an honest living. A five year schedule to professorship is a reasonable one.

But that all ignores the fact that the people running the show and in charge of the money are professors and, more likely, institute directors. Stand in the middle of any large campus and throw a stick and you can't avoid hitting an institute, complete with a chaired director earning $200K.

Then there are the stars, like Michael Mann of Penn State. How much is his total earnings in a year? With his chair, his own institute, government and international consulting fees and lecture fees? $500K would be a good guess. Not as much as a TE for the Redskins, but more than those anonymous tools of Big Oil.

And except for global warming, thousands of scientists worldwide would be selling shoes for a living.

@Jim Thomerson,
You are like that star TE who played for the Packers 25 years ago. The example I provided, a typical one, was for an environmental science department, at UVA. You missed out on the big bucks. Tough luck.

Mark, thanks for setting up a denier reserve here - they shouldn't roam wild, where'd they'd just come to silly ends.

Bob, making up stuff is just silly - so is pointing to one case (and why not sy who, so we can check your 'astonishing data') and claiming it's all of them.
So - I have a share in 2 grants, worth about $650,000. So far, I've got 2 free dinners out of the deal (and some hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime), I don't get any extra funding for conferences, dancing girls, or free parking. Explain how I'm living a lavish life on the taxpayer's expense. It's not in climate science, but health, which takes a much larger part of every country's budget (from research and from health expenditures), so there should be opportunities for even more lavish graft. After all, if 97% of climate scientists are on the take, then it should be even higher for health researchers, right? So why, if everyone does it, are the cases of suspected fraud followed up so assiduously, and blown apart by fellow scientists? We don't like lies and bullshit, and that's what denialism is. I'm recommending Frankfurt's 'On Bullshit', so we can call a spade a spade.

Bob, you really have no clue what you're talking of when you speak of time lines for academic careers and pay.

There is nothing astonishing about the data, stewart.It actually represents a boring normality. Unfortunately, the numbers may come as an eye-opening shock to some of you, however.

Public universities in many states are required to publish salaries of all public employees, including university professors. Here is a comprehensive collection of that public data.
Top ranked private universities are absent, of course. Feel free to check on the salaries of your colleagues.

Take a look at any large, well-known university and you will find that professor salaries in science and engineering (and other professional disciplines) average over $100K and top out above $200K. I gave the Environmental Sciences Department at U VA as one example because the writer was from that school. Professor salaries there run from $77K to $231K. That was a random choice. Pick another.

A director of an institute may control grants worth millions, stewart. As you probably already know, the university rakes off a large fraction of those grants (40%? More in your university?) for overhead. The university rewards those who help support the institution with a salary that reflects his contribution, as any institution would.

Contrary to Mark's assertion, the monetary incentives to be a successful professor today are significant. Professor salaries at the university he graduated from are far higher than he claims them to be ("as high as $80-90K") - a fact he could have determined with a few minutes of effort. I have seen NO data that supports his charge that deniers more more highly paid than those who support AGW.

dean, been there done that, bought the T shirt.

I am trying to take comfort in the fact that Minnesota is not always predictive. We went for Romney last time, and McCain got the nomination. So here's hoping a similar thing happens.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 14 Feb 2012 #permalink

IMO all this talk on salaries, grants, etc is a red herring.

What matters is what the empirical evidence shows. The empirical evidence shows a top-of-atmosphere energy imabalance causing global warming resulting from increased concentrations of IR-trapping gases emitted by human fossil fuel emissions; all occuring at a rate which increasingly appears to be unprecedented in Earth's geological history (and which certainly is unprecedented in recent geological history).

The empirical evidence shows that knock-on effects from the fossil fuel emissions and global warming include unpalatable sea level rises, increasingly inhospitable heat regimes and extreme hot weather events, expansion of dry Hadley cells, ocean acidification, and widespread disruption to wild, managed, and agricultural ecosystems. These are all occuring already and the evidence shows we can expect them to get worse over time.

Given all that (which is ably documented at sites such as Skeptical Science, Real Climate, or Spencer Weart's online book A History of Global Warming who cares about salaries or grant money?

"dean, been there done that, bought the T shirt."

So have I. You're still wrong.

I agree with Compose that the discussions about funding by "Big Oil" or government grants are a red herring. Tell that to Mark, who raised the issue. My complaint is with his fallacious argument that university professors are insulated from the economic pressures that he assigns to those who disagree with him. His claims are demonstrated to be false. His own university pays professors far more than he claims they do.

However, basing your arguments on "cheer leading" blogs sponsored by proponents of AGW is not an impressive story in support of the theory. There are other equally "committed" blogs that make the opposite argument. Does the fact that there has been a warming trend and rising oceans, by itself, prove it is caused by man? Are there really more weather extrema, or is the extensive NOAA study that says otherwise correct?

Experience tells us that it is much easier to predict the history of complex systems than it is to predict the future. Man has a propensity to imagine that tomorrow is a linear extrapolation of today and yesterday, and is always surprised when it turns out differently.

dean says I'm wrong about professor salaries. Perhaps in his case, but I was dealing with the averages, for the conditions I defined. You can look up the numbers, dean, in the data base I provided. Perhaps you can even look up your own salary.


This blog post, which shows how we can know that humans are releasing, via fossil fuel combustion, excess heat-trapping gases which result in global warming. The author (John Cook in this case) helpfully provides links to journal articles which back up his claims. You can read those articles and determine if Cook has accurately represented his sources.

As far as your claim re: NOAA studies go, please substantiate it with a link to the study. If you don't have a direct link on hand, please provide a link to your source for this claim.

This post might be topical if anyone wants to keep arguing over salaries/grants.

All I can say is that in one respect I'm envious of Craig Idso: I'd love it for someone to pay me $11.6K/month to write fiction.

I have read the arguments that you provide in your link. I agree there is global warming. I agree that there is an increase in CO2. The indirect evidence used to argue that there is a link have been disputed. The effort to establish a direct link through a quantitative model has fallen short - the effect of CO2, by itself, is not large enough and postulates of secondary effects have not been included in the model. I remain unconvinced.

Here is a link to one version of the paper. It received wide notice in the news.
The program leader, Gil Compo, was quoted in an interview in the Wall Street Journal as saying that the lack of variability over over 100 years was surprising in the light of predictions of every widening variation. Subsequently, NOAA canceled this program.