The closest I come to “Big Oil” is when I create my spécialité de la maison: bacon-olive-oil confit. Incidentally, that’s the only way to cook this miracle pig meat—frying removes all that delicious fat.
Shill for Shell?
But I don’t think finding this recipe is what people had in mind when they searched for keyword combinations “Briggs & Big Oil”, “Dr. William Briggs climatologist Oil”, and variants thereof. Several people (different locations, anyway; I can’t tell if it was different people or not, but the keyword syntax suggests variant sources) have come to this site hoping to find the inside dirt on my secret relationship with Shell.
Sorry, folks, but there is none. I have never received any money from Big Oil, nor any from little oil, nor any from any kind of oil. In fact, the following table details all the money I have ever received for any of the climatological work I have ever done. I use the words “all” and “ever” in their literal senses: no Clintonesque “the meaning is is” for me:
|Groups of Individuals||$0|
Shill for Hire?
It’s not so much that I am not a shill for Shell, a.k.a. Big Oil—or for Big Government. It’s that nobody ever asked me. Well, that’s not entirely true. The University of Florida Department of Statistics offered me a job that was partly environmental statistics, but I turned it down. Then Florida State U. offered me a job to be a money/stat man at it COAPS climate group. I turned that down, too. I also turned down or left other university professorships that had nothing to do with weather or climate.
There: That is a complete picture of my financial interest in any aspect of environmental—not just climate of weather—statistics.
Suppose I offer an argument claiming that the most terrifying predictions said to be caused by man-made global warming are improbable. Suppose, too, that I am an employee of an oil company, or that an oil company paid for the research that lead to my argument. It is a fallacy to say that my answer is wrong because of this. And it is so well known a fallacy, you are an ass if you invoke it.
Pay attention web searchers: that fallacy cuts both ways. Some scientists who are making these terrifying predictions had their work paid for by environmental groups, like the EPA or NGOs. Does that make their pronouncements false because of this? Others’ livelihoods—their salaries and daily bread—depend on securing funding to investigate these possible future horrors. Are all their findings suspect because of this?
Now, it is also true, that while it is a fallacy to suppose that a man’s findings are false because of who paid for them, knowing who paid can increase the probability that that man’s findings are false. This is why, for example, medical journals require authors disclose their financial interest in papers those authors submit—pause to understand that they still publish the articles regardless of the interest. Thus, it is not wrong to ask if I have been a Shell shill. But it is also not wrong to ask if Dr X et al. are WWF partisans.
Since nearly all of my academic work was paid for by me, does that increase the probability I am right? It does decrease the chance that I would shade my results in the direction of what I think somebody wants to hear.
How about you?
I now invite proponents of the most frightening forecasts to be as open in their declaration of interests as I have been (this includes grants with salary support, my friends).
1The Spanish Government covered my expenses for a trip to deliver a speech on quantifying the uncertainty in AGW.
2My Masters fellowship at Cornell—which paid tuition and a yearly stipend of about $13,000 (my entire salary)—was in crop and atmospheric science. I wrote two papers, whose page charges were funded by my advisor, that appeared in the Journal of Climate during this time. My PhD fellowship at Cornell was from the EPA for environmental statistics (about the same pay and tuition coverage). I wrote other papers that appeared in various places, the page charges of which were not recovered (since I was a poor graduate student). Subsequent meteorological/climatological papers and conference trips were funded by yours truly; though I seem to recall the the Cornell Medical School helped me with the page charges for a Monthly Weather Review paper on aircraft icing. Cornell also funded my appearance at various meetings. Excepting these, I have never received any grant for enviro/climate/weather work.
3An honorarium from Heartland (three years ago?) to give an identical speech I gave at the American Meteorological Society (on the non-increase in hurricanes) two months previous.
Update: the main purpose of this post is to have a logical landing place for those who search for the keywords combinations mentioned above.