Follow the Money? That’s Exactly What Rent-Seekers Do

This fellow from New Zealand appears to think that Climategate proves that the big money is in climate skepticism. How does that work?

Here’s my attempt to follow his argument: The US Government has spent $79 billion in the past two decades on climate science. But Big Oil and Big Coal want a piece of this. They spend heavily on lobbyists to get it. They would be well served by certain provisions in bills and international treaties. [I agree with this so far…] But “the aims of the climate change lobby groups and the large industries they represent dovetail quite nicely with the arguments put forward by the sceptics.” So [he implies] therefore the skeptics have all the money.


Global warming skeptics don’t want carbon capture and storage. They don’t want targets for emissions reduction. They don’t want international treaties and thousand page bills that take money out of the productive class and spend it on vastly expensive ways of doing things we know how to do already. Global warming skeptics do not want “a seat at the table.” They don’t think there should be a table in the first place.

Our science blogger friend has confused skeptic with rent-seeker. We skeptics have a grudging respect for our ‘alarmist’ opponents. In most cases they have a sincere belief that there is a serious problem and want to solve it. (Part of the problem revealed by climategate was that many of them, however, want to solve the problem by any means necessary and are insincere in their methods). Rent-seekers, on the other hand, want to exploit such beliefs for personal/corporate gain*, at the expense of the rest of us. Therefore rent-seekers are a bigger problem than alarmists, because they do indeed bring the big bucks. That’s why rent-seeking businesses want carbon capture and storage, which they will be paid handsomely for. They want international treaties and thousand page bills that contains nice incentives for them, their executives and their shareholders. They want the free market distorted to their benefit. The ends they desire, however, are completely different from those desired by the skeptics. Their aims do not dovetail with the ends of the skeptics in the slightest.

That’s why the big money is with those looking to establish a regime for emissions reduction. Now those thieves have certainly fallen out, and there are still some honorable types who want no handouts to big energy companies at all, but the money is certainly on that side of the aisle.

If genuinely skeptical groups have gotten as much as $790 million total worldwide for global warming efforts since 1989 – 1 percent of that devoted to climate science – I’d be extremely surprised. A tenth of that amount is more likely in the right ballpark. You can’t change that by lumping rent-seeking industries in with skeptics. Rent-seekers really do follow the money.

* Rent-seekers are also only too happy to exploit belief in the free market, arguing for free enterprise up until they can see a benefit from government restricting market entry, and so on.