I came across this video today of John Cook interviewing Brian Schmidt, who shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work showing that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. He mainly talks about attempting to accept a bet from Maurice Newman, but what struck me was when he said
if you don’t want to believe in climate change, you have to really believe that there’s a grand scheme of scientists around the world, with our $75000 per year salaries and 12 years of education behind us, who are just trying to scheme the rest of the world for grants.
This is something that has struck me time and time again too. Scientists who remain in research will have spent maybe 10 – 12 years studying before they get their first job, they’ll then postdoc for a number of years before they get something permanent, they’ll get their first permanent job in their mid-30s, and maybe reach Professor by their mid-40s. Salaries are not awful, but they’re not brilliant. It’s true that getting grants can improve your career prospects, but they don’t typically benefit scientists directly; most of the money goes to paying the salaries of postdoctoral researchers, paying for studentships, covering travel and computing costs, and some goes to the university to cover other indirect costs.
If these were people who were after money, or power, there would be far easier ways to do so than to study for a decade, and then spend maybe as much as another decade in a relatively low paying job hoping for something more permanent. Sometimes they’ll have to move to another country in order to remain in a research environment. This may sound appealing, and it certainly can be, but there are still sacrifices. These are people who are capable of getting good undergraduates degrees and then going on to do a PhD; it’s not as if there isn’t any demand outside academia for such people.
So, the idea that it’s more likely that climate change is some kind of grand scheme amongst the world’s scientist, rather than actually being real, just seems utterly bizarre. I find it ridiculous that anyone can actually believe this, and even more amazing that those who do – Maurice Newman, or if you want someone more local, James Delingpole, for example – actually have a platform to spout this nonsense. It’s so far away from being some kind of reasonable scenario, that it’s hard not to conclude that those who promote such ideas are simply bonkers.