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To Get Science Agencies Back To Science We Need To Cut Their Funding


I’ve been an ardent environmentalist for more than 40 years. When I say “environmentalist,” I mean a person genuinely concerned about science-based solutions for the environment — which will benefit humans. I do not look at the world as a place where people are a blight that needs to be eliminated.

I’m also a scientist — a physicist, to be exact. In the last 40 years I’ve had to spend a lot more time than I’d like defending against continuous attacks on my profession. Although I’d rather be playing golf, we have to do what we have to do.

In the last several months, we’ve been inundated by incessant cries of horror about what’s happening with federal agencies. Some of the more grating reports I’ve read say the Environmental Protection Agency is now focused on undermining Science. From what I know (and that is a fair amount), nothing could be further from the truth.

The fundamental question at stake is: should the EPA be based on politics, or rooted firmly in science? Although they would never acknowledge it, alarmists are actually advocating for the political option. Perspective is always good, so let’s step back to get a better understanding about what is actually going on here.

Government Agencies Are Addicted to Money And Power

It’s critically important to fully understand that government agencies are inherently addicted to money and power. To keep this simple, let’s just focus on the money part. If you have any question about the financial part, tell me when was the last time a federal (or state) agency administrator said: “We can do a fine job of meeting our mission, with less money this year”?

These agencies (e.g., the EPA) spend a significant amount of their time creating “justifications” for an ever-increasing budget. Not surprisingly, every additional billion dollars they requisition is always categorized as “being for the public good.”

Although the public’s gullibility is high, these professional bureaucrats still know that they have to cleverly disguise their demands for emptying citizens’ pockets. Trial-and-error, along with marketing research, have revealed that the two most effective camouflages for their financial extractions are: 1) fear, and 2) urgency.

For example, how can citizens object to forking over more hard-earned money when such funds are necessary to protect them from catastrophic consequences? This home run can then be converted into a grand slam when the agency can make it appear that this disaster is imminent, pressing, looming, etc. Government bureaucrats are skilled at doing exactly that.

It is this parasitic relationship (not science) that has led to global warming, a.k.a. anthropogenic global warming, a.k.a. climate change, a.k.a. disruptive climate change, etc. It was quickly apparent to those running government agencies that “climate change” was the mother lode to assuring our long-term dependency on their “services.”

Telling the Truth Can Jeopardize Their Careers

What about the scientists here—aren’t they independent, objective players? Unfortunately no. The fact is that almost all funding for scientific studies, one way or the other, comes from the government. It goes without saying that these same agencies are not going to fund studies that will jeopardize their future financial income!

So the government pays scientists to write reports that say: “We have a serious problem, and it needs attention right away!” Then the agency insists that citizens kick in more money for their agency to address this “problem” by saying: “See what the scientists are telling us!” Incestuous is not descriptive enough to describe the relationship between scientists, academia, and these agencies.

Consider the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as an example, which is a major United Nations agency. They had a choice between two missions: 1) to objectively research the causes and effects of climate change, or 2) to report possible consequences of human-induced climate change. If you’ve followed the logic here, you know why they chose No. 2 — because it had a lot more upside for justifying IPCC’s existence and financial entitlement.

Unfortunately, by-and-large the media is complicit in this charade. One would hope that the fourth estate would call a spade a spade, but no. We live in an information saturation age where the soundbite is the primary objective, as few have the ability to do critical thinking. That mentality is simply not conducive for meaningful discussions of such relatively complex matters (like the pros and cons of our energy options).

Most People Don’t Know Anything About Science

That’s why surveys of citizens about topics like industrial wind energy are LOL silly. For any survey to be meaningful, the polled people would need to have a good understanding of what’s being asked. For example: how meaningful would a survey be that asked citizens whether they think uranium or thorium makes more sense for nuclear power?

The public understands almost nothing about renewable energy, so simply regurgitates the propaganda they’ve been carefully fed. Such surveys are more a measurement of the effectiveness of lobbyist marketing.

The media situation is further complicated by the fact that few journalists have genuine scientific credentials, so their understanding of our society’s technical issues is superficial to begin with. What most people see and hear in the “news” today are political opinions thinly disguised as reporting.

So how do we get out of this interminable cycle? One good way would be to elect a non-politician president who has the audacity to say: “The XYZ government agency can do better job, and with less money.” In other words, when normally compliant citizens actually say “enough of this already,” real change can actually happen.

However, we need to be prepared for considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth as the pacifier is extracted. I hope that the public sees the light and can support a transition from political government agencies to those that are more science-based — in other words, agencies more concerned about benefiting the public than expanding their size and influence.