Hypocrisy at universities over oil company funding/divestment

by Judith Curry

Have you been wondering whether the university’s calling for fossil fuel divestment also accept research funds from fossil fuel companies?

The ‘evils’ of oil companies and their funding of research has been the topic of much angst, e.g. Merchants of Doubt, and most recently the RICO20.  On a previous post, Industry funding and bias, I introduced a 2010 report Big Oil Goes to College.

All this is occurring against a backdrop of many universities considering or implementing fossil fuel divestment plans.  I haven’t written about this, although I occasionally flag an article in Week in Review.  I regard it as a side show and pointless exercise, mere tokenism and a ploy in the green PR war, that isn’t influencing actual investments in the fossil fuel sector in a meaningful way.

In case you have been wondering whether the same divesting universities receive research funding from fossil fuel companies, well wonder no longer.

UK universities

From Greenpeace: Investigation: Top universities take millions from fossil fuel giants despite divestment drive.  Excerpts:

Britain’s top universities have admitted taking £134m in funding from oil, gas and coal companies in the past five years – even as many move to divest themselves from the fossil fuel industry, according to a Greenpeace investigation.

The majority of all the funding – nearly £100m – went to the University of Manchester, University of Cambridge, Imperial College and Oxford University.

Last year Glasgow University became the first academic institution in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry, removing £18m in shares and endowments into other funds. Warwick made a similar decision in July and Oxford has approved a partial divestment, selling investments in tar sands and coal extraction. Manchester is under pressure to follow suit, removing £9.5m of shares held in BP, Shell and others – yet all of these institutions continue to take money from fossil fuel giants.

The investigation also found some top universities – including Oxford and UCL – are receiving more funding from oil and mining companies than from major scientific research councils, sparking fears that industry pressures could be dictating the focus of scientific research.

The use of money from fossil fuel giants to fund research which may be used to increase extraction also raises questions about the University’s positions on divestment – apparently aimed at reducing global fossil fuel use.

JC comment: Interesting and eye-opening article, well worth reading the whole thing.


A refreshing alternative to such hypocrisy is highlighted in an article in American Energy News:  New MIT climate plan a model for American universities. Subtitle:

MIT focus on engagement with industry a clear alternative to environmental movement’s focus on conflict


MIT says it is joining the fight against climate change, but rather than divesting from fossil fuel companies, MIT plans to engage with them to mitigate the “risk of catastrophic outcomes.”

Eco-activist Bill McKibben and 350.org have been leading a campaign to have colleges worldwide remove 200 publicly traded companies – including BP, Exxon Mobil, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil, and Total – from their investment portfolios. Fossil Free MIT gathered 3,400 signatures in support of purging these companies from the school’s $13.5 billion endowment.

But MIT chose a different strategy.

“We believe that divestment — a dramatic public disengagement — is incompatible with the strategy of engagement with industry to solve problems that is at the heart of today’s plan. Combatting climate change will require intense collaboration across the research community, industry and government,” the plan states.

Engagement with industry, collaboration on solutions, helping to achieve a “pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon global energy system” – MIT’s approach is completely opposed to that of McKibben and his environmentalist supporters, which is to isolate and cripple industry, hoping that the new “clean energy” and “clean industries” can fill the gap.

Its five-year plan addresses five areas of climate action:

  • research to further understand climate change and advance solutions to mitigate and adapt to it
  • the acceleration of low-carbon energy technology via eight new research centers
  • the development of enhanced educational programs on climate change
  • new tools to share climate information globally
    measures to reduce carbon use on the MIT campus

The MIT plan is a clear alternative to the divisive, conflict-oriented, sterile strategies of the international environmental movement.

This is the kind of plan American industry should get behind, the kind of plan more American colleges and universities should adopt. And the kind of plan American governments should support with sound policy, resources, and political support.

Robert Millard, chairman of the MIT Corporation, calls the plan “bold, respectful, complete, honest, and well-reasoned. It therefore reflects…the highest aspirations of MIT.”

I agree. Let’s hope MIT serves as a model for many more American institutions of higher learning.

JC reflections

There are two drivers at universities:  politically correct sustainability initiatives, with climate change at the forefront; and the need for more funding, targeted at industry given the declining availability of public funding.

The divestment issue highlights the hypocrisy of these universities.  MIT is taking exactly the right approach to this issue, and they should be applauded not just for their sound and non-hypocritical business decision, but for doing something constructive to actually improve the dialogue and partnership between academia, industry and government.   Such partnerships can seed progress in science, technology and policy for the socioeconomic challenges in the 21st century.

146 responses to “Hypocrisy at universities over oil company funding/divestment

  1. Their 5 year plan. Where have I heard of this before? Plus by 2 of their goals,”the acceleration of low-carbon energy technology via eight new research centers & new tools to share climate information globally
    measures to reduce carbon use on the MIT campus”, they already believe that carbon is the root of the so called problem of climate change.

  2. From the same source: Exxon Mobil refutes environmentalist claims it lied about climate change research

    Exxon Mobil is counter attacking after months of allegations by environmental activists that it knew about climate change impacts as early as the 1980s and covered up the information.


    “For nearly 40 years we have supported development of climate science in partnership with governments and academic institutions, and did and continue to do that work in an open and transparent way,” said Ken Cohen, vice president of public and government affairs for the Irvine, Texas-based corporation.

    “Activists deliberately cherry-picked statements attributed to various company employees to wrongly suggest definitive conclusions were reached decades ago by company researchers. These activists took those statements out of context and ignored other readily available statements demonstrating that our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time which, in fact, mirrored global understanding.”


    Environmentalist Bill McKibben of 350.org was arrested Thursday after staging a one-man protest against Exxon Mobil outside a gas station in Vermont. McKibben released a statement online that included:
    In the 28 years I’ve been following the story of global warming, this is the single most outrageous set of new revelations that journalists have uncovered. Given its unique credibility—again, it was the biggest corporation on earth—ExxonMobil could have changed history for the better. Had it sounded the alarm—had it merely said ‘our internal research shows the world’s scientists are right’—it would have saved a quarter century of wheel-spinning.

    Both InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times ignored evidence provided by the company of continuous and publicly available climate research that refutes their claims, says Exxon Mobil.


    ExxonMobil joined other companies to provide initial and ongoing funding to create and support the MIT Joint Program on Climate Science and Policy and Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project, which has engaged scores of researchers, faculty and students and has resulted in hundreds of scientific publications on climate change and low carbon technologies.

    The company says it has an active research program into lower-carbon emission technologies, such as algae and cellulosic-based biofuels, carbon capture and storage and advanced engines to name a few.

  3. MIT is certainly taking a better approach than other universities. But I don’t think it is ‘exactly the right approach.’ Their 5-year plan still includes a huge money grab:

    “the acceleration of low-carbon energy technology via eight new research centers”

    We already have a slew of government labs and government-funded universities working on many so-called ‘low-carbon technologies’. Do we really need more? At what cost? And, of course, who pays?

    The MIT plan is simply a less divisive attempt to loot the national treasury.

  4. “The ‘evils’ of oil companies and their funding of research has been the topic of much angst, e.g. Merchants of Doubt, and most recently the RICO20. ”

    I continue not to understand why oil companies don’t at least issue denials regarding their supposed massive funding of skeptics. Of course they won’t be believed, but so what? Set the record straight..Their silence only makes them look more guilty…

    Have I missed something? Have such denials been issued? If not, why not?

    (aka pg)

    • I suppose they prefer to keep silent, otherwise they will provoke a huge round of headlines along the lines of ‘Oil Companies Deny Funding Anti-Science Cranks’, with follow-up special reports that fling some delicious mud about.

    • Have I missed something? Have such denials been issued? If not, why not?
      As a thought exercise, suppose that Merchants of Doubt has at least some basis in fact. In that context consider how the oil companies might react..

    • Mabye they’re sandbagging.

      They all do it at once. But it won’t go like you think. They call everyone denialist and jump on the anti-co2 bandwagon. There is a lot of money to be made from subsidies, marketing, and writing anti-competitive policy.

      • “Oh no! Please don’t regulate away my competition and constrain the supply of my product and drive my profits up!”

  5. Fossil Free MIT gathered 3,400 signatures in support of purging these companies from the school’s $13.5 billion endowment.

    MIT reports that it has 12,710 students and 11,840 employees. It appears that not many of them signed.

    • Just looking at the numbers – about 40% of the student body is people that don’t build things (humanities/business/science).

      If you don’t have the engineers on board, that is a sign it isn’t real.

      An engineering university can’t stake out a really absurd PC position without hearing about it.

      MTU had a “A World Without Ice” event announcement posted, it attracted some alumni comments.

      The alumni comments were entirely against.. Some clippings from different comments::
      …climate-change alarmism.
      …apparently the institution is undergoing some pretty severe intellectual degradation. Oh well, I guess entropy rules are unavoidable…
      …Apparently he is unaware of the 35 errors in Al Gore’s sci fi comedy horror movie
      …MTU is simply setting themselves up for ridicule by supporting this hoax.
      …I remember having to watch propaganda on “global warming” and “global cooling” in my first general engineering class. More tuition money wasted
      …Maybe the Technological should be dropped? Lemmings? Leftists? Anti-Thinkers? Robotrons?
      …information immune dullard chumped double-plus-good hoax parrot drones from Orwell’s Oceania, shills, for big money rent seeking leaches.

      My take is that the alumni have not been completely persuaded by global warming science.

      It might be nice to do a poll of the engineers on the blog and see how bad the “engineering consensus” is. I don’t believe “mostly GHG warming since 1900” would even get 30% it might get single digits.

  6. Within the S&P Global 1200, the Materials and Utilities sectors each have greater Carbon Emission Intensity than the Energy sector — Utilities more than double.


    The reality is that removing oil producers from an investment portfolio is a largely symbolic gesture. Better to turn down the thermostats, shut off the lights and limit travel.

  7. McKibben says: “Given its unique credibility—again, it was the biggest corporation on earth—ExxonMobil could have changed history for the better. Had it sounded the alarm—had it merely said ‘our internal research shows the world’s scientists are right’—“

    But doesn’t he also say, by inference, that all industry funded research is tainted, self serving, and can’t be trusted.

    As the old Lovin’ Spoonful song wisely suggested, in a different context:

    “Better go home, son, and make up your mind”.

    • McFibben is either disingenuous or he doesn’t get it: Exxon pays the highest income taxes in the USA and globally – more than any individual or corporation. They do it by providing a product that the people truly love, as demonstrated by their behavior and their choices, for which they are willing to pay for with their hard earned money. We don’t got to show you no stinking’ studies…look out the window!

  8. One way to mitigate emissions is improving technology to get more power out of the combustion of fossil fuels and thus use less for the same output. That’s not only environment-friendly, it makes good economic sense too. Good work MIT, carbon or no carbon we all want to see less emissions.

    • Oldfossil,

      You are correct, of course, but that is just too rational for the greeny fossil fuel deniers, even as they zip around in their internal combustion powered autos.

      Thank Gawd for the greatest legislation never passed – the laws of thermodynamics! No repeal will be coming, even with climate cloture.

    • “improving technology to get more power out of the combustion of fossil fuels” Surely that has been going on for years, driven first to make vehicles more competitive, and later by government-mandated emissions reductions on fossil fuel users? It only makes good economic sense if the returns on further research exceed their opportunity costs.

  9. Universities on the take? I am shocked by Greenpeace’s revelations! Is the Department of Education for sale now? What are they going to do next… invite the ROTC onto college campuses? Support the police?

  10. It’s true. These companies have seen the light and are now funding research into decarbonized technologies. The skeptics have been left dangling without their support.

  11. Double nuclear by 2040 says Exxon

    World electricity demand is likely to grow by over 80% by 2040, and nuclear energy capacity will need to double to help to meet it, according to figures from Exxon Mobil.
    [ … ]
    Exxon Mobil’s 2013 Outlook for Energy bases its findings on data from 100 countries across the globe, looking at 15 demand centres and 20 fuel types. It also takes into consideration the technology and policy issues underpinning the world’s energy situation, Exxon Mobil technology advisor David Khemakhem explained to delegates at the World Nuclear Association’s Annual Symposium. Latest figures indicate that, with world population anticipated to be close to 9 billion by 2040, energy demand will continue to increase. Electricity demand will drive that growth.

    Exxon’s figures suggest that world nuclear capacity could be set to double to help meet that demand, as the cheapest form of low-CO2 electricity generation: other options such as onshore wind and solar photovoltaics have significant knock-on grid costs, Khemakhem remarked.

    Exxon Mobil’s figures spurred a lively and wide-ranging debate amongst Khemakhem’s fellow speakers in a panel discussion on energy and nuclear power.


    • James Hansen, Exxon, and I agree…we need more carbon-free reliable nuclear power. California, almost 40,000,000 people, gets 7% of it’s electricity from just two plants on 960 acres, humming along at over 100% of capacity 24/7 all year every year, year after year. Try doing that with a wind farm or solar ghetto! Btw, most of that 960 acres is very green – I bet it’s a good spot for wildlife.

  12. Not sure there is much hypocrisy.

    What does a quick fact check reveal?

    For instance Glasgow U divestment isn’t quite what the GP article makes out – it’s subject to some caveats, and has barely begun. If it does go ahead, the divestment will only be complete in 10 years time.

    So, not much hypocrisy.

  13. Constructive engagement won’t appease the zealots.

  14. As a backdrop it’s always good to add a little perspective. For example, it’s not like we’re talking about anything of scientific importance, which is something many of us knew years ago. It’s not bad science that is the issue: it’s the politicization of bad science and academia’s willing abetting of such politicization of bad science for ideological purposes that is the real crime.

    We cannot think of a single challenge facing humanity that less urgently requires our attention than “global warming”. The suggestion that “global warming” is the greatest threat to humanity is cruel nonsense that overlooks the sufferings of the millions of poor people in the third world who die each year as a result of malaria, foul water, AIDS, smoke from wood fires and all the other by-products of poverty. ~MoB, et al, (Sept. 2009)

  15. Much of the article is about divesting their endowment and pension funds from fossil fuel stocks- which means they’re portfolio will perform worse and they’ll need more direct funding of research and scholarships. Fiduciary duty should come first.

    Universities could actually divest if they want to – they are, after all, miniature dictatorships. They can ban fossil-fuel powered cars from campus, convert parking lots into green spaces (starting with faculty lots of course) erect solar panels and windmills on rooftops and (former) parking areas to demonstrate how inexpensive and easy it is to go 100% renewable. Surely our environmentally enlightened college students would be happy with a tuition increase to cover the cost.
    In fact, Congress and state legislatures could go a long way toward preserving endowments and pension funds from taxpayer bailouts by requiring that any university that “divests” actually honestly divests- no cars, no power except when the sun shines and wind blows, no parking lots, no non-electric buses, no heat from furnaces. After one winter in Boston, we’ll regroup on the question and discuss it.

  16. I think you could back way from the calls of hypocrisy here, it seems essentially to be what Greenpeace is trying to push. The real problem is the fact that an organisation like Greenpeace can get away with such moralistic bullying.

    Tub-thumping Puritans are never going to be satisfied with any gesture and always want more. Every organisation is pressured to behave as good citizens. Those that are seen to fail to do this are treated as pariahs, those that accede are pushed to do more.

    The universities need to push back against this, reassert that their academics are expected to work at the forefront of knowledge in an independent, creative way uninhibited by attempts to narrow the fields of investigation by organisations like Greenpeace.

    In a way it reminds me of what happened to British politics in the 1990s and continues today. Moral crusades about corruption, sleaze and morality replaced substantive challenges of political issues. Rather than cleaning-up the body-politic the process introduces new codes of conduct that puts more and more demands for politicians private lives to be strutinized and for them to be angels. And more and more the real business of politics takes a back seat. The business of academics is to challenge the limits of understanding, Greenpeace would rather have us talking about their morality through discussion of who they associate with, who funds them and to what end their work might be used.

  17. Mckibben promoting divestment policies = advocacy. Advocacy = bad. Mckibben = bad guy.

    Judith criticizing divestment policies ≠ advocacy. ≠ advocacy = good. Judith = heroic.

    • Joshua can you see the difference between advocating for integrity vs advocating for a particular team? The difference is profound, both in substance and end result. There are plenty advocates like Mckibben out there. Don’t you find any usefulness in a voice like Judith’s?

      • smokin’ –

        ==> “Don’t you find any usefulness in a voice like Judith’s?”


        I think that advocacy, as a general phenomenon, is useful. However, its usefulness varies, IMO. It’s usefulness is contingent on various attributes, IMO. Even-handedness, consistent application of standards, attempts to control for bias are, among others, attributes that I think correlate positively with usefulness.

        And I think that advocacy that is based on attacking advocacy (of only those who disagree) undermines it’s own usefulness.

      • smokin’ –

        ==> “Joshua can you see the difference between advocating for integrity vs advocating for a particular team?”

        Everyone on all teams disavow the teamness of their own advocacy. Everyone here thinks that they’re advocating for integrity. I don’t find self-sealed self-proclamations of integrity to be impressive. I’d rather judge advocacy on it’s integral logical consistency – to the best of my ability.

    • Joshua, I agree everyone claims integrity for their own, and I’m under no delusion that someone with pure integrity will show up and enlighten us all. What we can hope for is every time an idea is put foreword, a contrary idea pops up to challenge it. The essence of integrity requires it. Especially when one group is discouraging alternate explanations/interpretations.

    • Josh (aka Putz)

      Get it right.

      McKibben promotes divestment – advocacy. No bad, as he’s not a scientist.

      Judith criticizing divestment policies of universities – observation & opinion. Where is the bad?

      Point of this post – universities who receive significant funding from or have significant investment amounts in energy companies should not be playacting to please the advocates of divestment. At a minimu it is hypicritical. At worst it is a sign of stup*ty, particularly if they drink their own koolaid and actually try divestment.

      Once again you manage to be honesty challenged.

  18. Anybody selling oil stocks at the moment would be taking on quite a big loss, so I think it’s unlikely to happen.

  19. Another aspect of the hypocrisy is that in the UK, university academics have their own pension plan, called USS, which is quite generous.
    The top investments of this scheme are (numbers in £M):

    1 HSBC HOLDINGS 303.9
    3 VODAFONE GROUP 265.2
    4 ROCHE HOLDING 220.8
    6 NESTLE 205.0

    Ethical investment?

    • “1 HSBC HOLDINGS 303.9
      2 ROYAL DUTCH SHELL 301.6
      3 VODAFONE GROUP 265.2
      4 ROCHE HOLDING 220.8
      6 NESTLE 205.0”

      Classic “Do as I say, not as I do” liberalism.

  20. University hypocracy has been present since I was at a university. It does, however, seem that its scope and scale has grown along with political correctness. And not only concerning CAGW.

  21. I want to know how the divestment campaign is going to work to make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia divest Saudi Aramco, how the Russian Federation will divest Gazprom and Rosneft, the Venezuelan thugocracy divest PDVSA, and so on…I wouldn’t mind buying a few shares.

    • The penchant for self flagellation is a western thing. Divestment is a homeopathic remedy for people who have overdosed on prosperity.

  22. I searched the blog for the word natural. zero hits.

    They wrote:
    research to further understand climate change and advance solutions to mitigate and adapt to it

    no mention of anyone studying natural climate variability and finding out if there is any need to mitigate and adapt. No mention of anyone studying to see if there is anything we can do that might make a difference.

    Everyone assumes that 400 parts per million of CO2 made a difference. Many, on the different sides assume that CO2 is bad. There is no data to support more CO2 as any kind of bad thing.


    If MIT, or any university, is going to do anything useful, it would be to study what caused the climate to be so wonderful for the past ten thousand years, in cycles that are robust and regular in the same bounds.

    CO2 varied between 260 and 280 parts per million during the ten thousand years and did not correlate with the temperature changes.

    I do know that MIT would lose government funding if they proposed studies that might lead to decrease of alarmism, but that does need to be done.

    • My thoughts as well. I have no problem with adaptation piece given that climate will always change – that is unless the greens can guarantee a perfectly stable climate for EVAH with no more extreme events if we can control co2 levels.

    • At the same time, given that this is a relatively new approach, maybe, just maybe, some adult will come along and introduce the concept that increased co2 levels may actullay be a good thing. Naive optimism on my part, but you never know.

      • That CO2 is good is well known. It makes green stuff grow better while making better use of available water. This is all supported with real data.

        It is only the bad effects from CO2 that have not been supported with real data. The bad only comes from flawed climate models and flawed climate theory. Actual data disagrees.

        CO2 at 260 or 280 or 400 or 600 or even more than 1000 parts per million are tiny for something that controls earth temperature. It is wonderful that small amount can make our green things grow. Be thankful and give up the CO2 alarmist madness.

      • The rise in CO2 from anthropogenic action is presently feeding an extra billion people, and that increase of feeding ability will remain fairly linear until just after we’ve reached peak ability to increase CO2, and our use of fossil fuels will likely never approach the maximum beneficial effect of CO2 greening.

        It’s a good thing, too, because the warming effect from AnthroCO2 is not likely to be able to counteract natural cooling. We can hope, though, and remain thankful for the greening.

  23. It’s almost too obvious to mention, but every share of oil company stock that is sold, is sold TO someone who thinks it’s a good investment…better than what they own now. More selling will drive the price down, improving the attractiveness of the shares long term.

    Divesting oil shares is a fundamentally silly strategy, in other words, unless you think they are going out of business sometime soon.

    • It is not that simple. Large scale divestment (which is highly unlikely) would drive the share prices down to the point of clobbering the weaker firms, who would go out of business. This might reduce production, causing the price of coal, oil and gas to rise. It is a kind of carbon tax, except the surviving companies get the proceeds, not the government. Funny in its way.

      But I agree with Dr. Curry, that this is a sideshow at best. Powerless students seeking local power.

      • Actually, it is pretty close to that simple. Driving down share process of small companies just make them more attractive acquisition targets for the Majors. Driving down share prices will drive companies toward stock buyback programs, driving share prices back up. Divestment campaigns do nothing to affect the actual value of a company, they just distort the market to some extent, creating opportunities for smarter people to make money.

  24. Hypocrisy is such a loaded word. It attributes base motives without proof.
    It is a mirror term for denier in its implications and similarly forecloses any useful discussion.
    A more useful characterization would be to call these policies highly inconsistent. That might encourage the advocates of these policies to think through the implications before committing to them.

    • from the dictionary: hypocrisy – the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform

      • :)
        must we scrub the entire language of even the slightest possibility of offense?
        let’s create an entire neutered language
        filled with fluffy words and concepts like ‘climate change’

      • ==> “must we scrub the entire language of even the slightest possibility of offense?”

        The problem isn’t one of “offense,” IMO. The problem is the engagement of ad homs in place of reasoned discussion in good faith. As such, pointing out hypocrisy can be a grey area, as saying someone’s arguments (or advocacy) are hypocritical isn’t technically an ad hom, even if often it effectively amounts to playing the man not the ball.

      • Joshua, sometimes you are hard to understand. Hypocrisy is well defined. The term applies to those who are hypocritic. Sometimes the hypocritical person/organization IS the ball being played. As here. So what, exactly, was the intended “on topic” meaning of your supposedly erudite and ‘neutral’ comment?

      • ristvan: “your supposedly erudite and ‘neutral’ comment?”

        There’s something you don’t see every day – Joshua’s being referred to as “erudite and neutral”!


      • I’m fond of reminding youngsters that dawn is a trigger warning. Most of ’em get it.

      • kim, the Lone Ranger used “Woah!” as a Trigger warning. “Woe!” might be more appropriate now.

    • Hanlon’s Razor should always be on hand and used liberally: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

  25. “All donations to the University, whether from oil companies or anyone else, do not affect the independence of our teaching and research programmes,” she said. “Those donating money to the University have no influence over how academics carry out their research or what conclusions they reach.”

    See, you only need show trials for the scientists who go against the ideology (whether or not a cent of funding comes from the fossil fuels sector), not the ones sucking up petro-pounds and preaching to the choir.

  26. industry pressures could be dictating the focus of scientific research

    Duh, industry wants to know what is really going on in natural climate cycles.
    They need that to make correct decisions to be successful.

    The other side only wants to convict humans and CO2 of crimes.
    The need that to tax and control us.

  27. If they stop taking donations from private industry and individuals based on ethical qualms, where will they get free money to balance their budgets?

    Why, from government, i.e. the taxpayers, of course.

  28. industry pressures could be dictating the focus of scientific research

    Whatever industry wants scientific research to be focused on is more likely right than whatever the government wants the research to be focused on.

    • We want honest answers. Industry is more likely to look for right answers than the alarmist government.

    • True in theory, not in practice. Old example: my thesis cut the economic legs from under then nuclear power on economic grounds. Was opposite industry research at the time. New example: ‘industry’ research from the renewables industry claiming viability. Planning Engineer and I have been guest posting to the contrary.
      My problem with much gov sponsored research is that it is not basic, rather applied, but in directions even the Mad Hatter would know are crazy wrong. Which is why so many gov research dollars have produced so little benefit. Been there, done that, up close amd personal in the corporate, personal, and gov R&D arenas, both basic and applied, in energy, biotech, and electronic subject matters.

  29. Back in the 90s you had whole departments devoted to things like Deconstructing Gendered Modernist Marxian Analysis or Non-Lineal Post-Modern Marxian Gender Analytical Structuralism or…well, no need to list all the possible combinations. Perhaps such futilities are still being cranked out by the thousand now that electronic storage means you don’t have to find shelf space for all the dissertations. But, in the way of fads, this severe mock-rationality has given way to mock nature worship and mock romanticism in the form of “earth” and “climate” studies.

    Can’t blame MIT for engaging in some aimless and mindless patter about “fighting climate change”. If you’re not doing your share of “tackling” and “fighting” these days the urchins will throw rocks at you, HuffPo will out you, and the Student’s Union will hoot you down even if you are ordering a sandwich in the cafeteria. Pope Junta might even excommunicate you.

    In the end, however, someone will have to toil to observe, record, doubt, contradict, confirm, observe again…in short, there will have to be actual scholarship with the actual goal of knowing something. And if that happens with funding from a fossil fuel producer and to the benefit of a fossil fuel producer, so long as it is actual knowledge, then we have all benefited. Because if Pazuzu from the Exorcist, funded by Mephistopheles or Mr Burns, manages to actually know something and is able to publish that actual knowledge…we all benefit!

    The problem is academic tripe, which works shamelessly from assumption, dogma and facile interpretation. Tripe is pernicious, no matter who funds it. Disinvest from tripe.

  30. And the coddled nitwits line up behind their Alinsky-method leaders.

    When everyone on the correct political side is allowed to bully because they claim to be offended/afraid you really have to wonder where we’ll end up.

  31. “… the Internet is a safe space and we should all be free from ever having to hear anything that offends us…”

    Heh. Grow some thicker skin. I don’t care what race, color, creed or religion you are, I have an epithet to offend you with – and I will use it! I encourage you – all of you – to do the same. I can laugh at myself as well as I can laugh at you, so don’t hold back.
    Life isn’t fair – get over yourself.

  32. Separate topic: AAAS is holding a symposium that is Live Streamed:
    Climate Science, 50 Years Later Symposium”
    Event Date: October 29, 2015 | Conference
    “On 5 November, 1965, the group now known as the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) cautioned President Lyndon B. Johnson that continued accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from fossil-fuel burning would “almost certainly cause significant changes” and “could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.”

    “Fifty years later, the reality of human-caused climate change has been reaffirmed by virtually every leading scientific organization as well as the vast majority of individual climate scientists worldwide. Yet, widespread public skepticism persists, and comprehensive policy responses have remained elusive.

    “On October 29, 2015, a daylong AAAS symposium will review what scientific research has revealed over the past 50 years, and offer a forward-looking assessment of the range of scientific, technological, communication, and policy options for the future.” A live webstream will be freely accessible to the public here: http://www.aaas.org/climate50

    This meeting is intended to push the climate advocacy agenda, and the timing is directly in the run up to the COP21 Paris climate meeting. Holdren leading off tells us the administration is directly involved in having this public forum at this opportune time to “nudge” public opinion. There will be lots of press coverage to follow. In addition, I received a letter from AAAS / Holt today asking for a pledge/donation to support AAAS programs including advocacy.

    8:30 a.m. Welcome by Rush D. Holt, AAAS CEO; Science executive publisher, and Matthew Scott, President, Carnegie Science
    8:35 a.m. Special Lecture: John P. Holdren, presidential science advisor, OSTP director

    Climate Change and Science Policy
    9:10 a.m. AAAS Video Presentation: Confronting Climate Change
    9:15 a.m. Keynote Address: Chris Field, Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University
    “Examining the Evidence: How Much Have We Learned in 50 Years?”
    9:50 a.m. Panel One (moderated by Rush Holt, AAAS)
    “What We Know About Impacts to People, Animals, and Crops”
    – Howard Frumkin, University of Washington (public-health impacts)
    – Camille Parmesan, Plymouth University, U.K. (species)
    – Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford University (drought / crops)
    11:15 a.m. Panel Two (moderated by Anna Michalak, Carnegie Institution for Science):
    “Climate Change, Extreme Weather, and Costs”
    – Kerry Emanuel, MIT (extreme weather events)
    – Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University (preparedness)
    – Charles Kolstad, Stanford University (economic costs of climate change)
    1:30 p.m. Special Lecture: J. Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia
    “Communicating about Climate Change — 50 Years Later”
    2:05 p.m. Panel Three (moderated by Ed Dunlea, Board of Atmospheric Science and Climate):
    “The Promise of Science and Technology-Based Solutions”
    – Jennifer Wilcox, Stanford University (options for CO2 sequestration)
    – Nathan Lewis, California Institute of Technology (options for CO2 removal)
    – Waleed Abdalati, CIRES, University of Colorado Boulder (technology)
    3:35 p.m. Capstone Presentation: Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University Climate Science Center
    “What More Do We Need to Know — Where Do We Go From Here?

    I have become am increasing concerned (as an AAAS member) at the increasing political advocacy of the AAAS. Naming of Rush Holt (former Representative from N.J.), as President of AAAS and CEO/Publisher of Science journals seems to be a clear move to support AAAS political advocacy. I doubt if this meeting will present a balanced view of the state of climate science and the uncertainties.

    As a congressman Holt:
    – supported legislation to clean up the environment and cap greenhouse gas emissions
    – promoted the development and use of alternative energy sources
    – (re)introduced the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act in 2011
    – co-sponsored the No New Drilling Act in 2012 to prevent new drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf
    – founded the Children’s Environmental Health Caucus to raise awareness about environmental issues pertaining to children’s health.
    – voted against the Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012 (H.R. 3409)
    – voted for the Offshore Drilling Regulations and Other Energy Law Amendments Bill 2010 (H.R. 3534)
    – voted for the Energy and Environmental Law Amendments (“Cap and Trade”) Bill (H.R. 2454)
    – voted for the Renewable Energy Credits and Other Business and Individual Credits Bill (H.R. 7060) to extend energy efficiency tax credits, as well as various individual and business tax credits.
    – maintained a 100 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters (since 1999)
    – maintained a 100 percent rating by Environment America in 2008, 2009, and 2011
    maintained a 100 percent rating by Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund from 2003 to 2008.
    – was awarded in 2012 by the New Jersey Sierra Club, the Outstanding Achievement Award for his environmental conservation efforts.

    • So, you have some personal choices to make. Be silent and complicit there (not here). Agitate for change there, and if fail, resign. You may identify others more greyscale than such a simple if, then black/white dilemma.
      My alma mater will never get another dollar contribution to any of the three schools I graduated from, even though only one committed the offense of tenure hiring Naomi Oreskes. In my world, actions always have consequences.

      • Such a difference betwixt the ivied walls of the Academy
        and the Agora – one a marketplace where Hammurabi
        consequences prevail, you sleep under the bridge of yer
        own making, the other, a world of tenured philosopher
        kings far from the madding crowd – less so.

        Ehrlich, Hansen,Stiglitz failed predictions costly to
        plebs but not themselves, privilege sans obligation,
        Money is such a plebeian consideration, except in
        regard to research grants of course, and ends justify
        means, you know, a world run by philosopher kings
        who know how to deal out funds, each according to
        his need, is worth some intervening devastation and
        failed predictions,( so U.N. and so, them Brussels E.U
        unelected philosopher kings.

      • So true, Beth. Here in the US, the elites won’t have to deal with the non-assimilated immigrants, we the serfs will. As long as it makes their rich donors happy, both the Dimowits and Redimowits would crawl over a room full of w____s to ____ their own Grandmother.

  33. How the f!%k can big Bill McKibben and associated stain-brains encourage people to divest from Saudi Aramco when it is a privately held corporation?

    Maybe I should be pleased that they are diverting so much of their energy and attentions against a brick wall.

    • MH, informed intelligence was never their long suite.

    • Michael Hart – you know already that the liberal policy wonks in all fields come from universities and have no practical experience in “doing” in their fields, rather, they are academics who learn from mentors who learned from mentors etc. so they are certain that based on their academic training and resulting liberal ideology that they know what the right thing is and how to do it. The current administration in key departments include no persons with field experience a) to understand the importance of historical context and motivations from experience over decades, centuries and even millennial time frames in the regions of critical importance, e.g., Middle East. Similar but different in EHS – environmental, health and safety. Key positions are filled with people who are bureaucrats, agree with the storylines, and are willing to draw conclusions based on beliefs not data, unproven hypotheses (hope) to achieve desired outcomes (change) which together spells hope + change. the story line has to agree with personal objectives (such as legacy) facts be damned.

  34. … a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi …
    Is moving its slow thighs,
    Slouching towards Paris to be born.

    H/T W.B.Yeats.

  35. Somewhat related, 61 prominent Australians have written a letter to world leaders urging an end to coal-mining, with the Australian coal industry the main target. The Australian has a hard-hitting editorial. Quotes:

    “Nobody really believes a global moratorium on coal is feasible or likely. The point of this kind of exercise lies elsewhere; its real purpose is to parade the virtue of the enlightened. … Haters of coal cannot get their story straight. Sometimes they speak of an industry on the point of collapse. They mobilise against new coalmines only because they wish to save the banks from a bad investment. More in sorrow than anger, they dismiss those foolish enough to suggest that coal may prove a stayer in the energy mix. But at other times the anti-coal crew complain they are up against an industrial colossus. …

    “Australia has good reason to expand coal exports. Coal will remain a key fuel for electricity for most of this century. Thanks to its cheap cost and abundance, coal provides just over 40 per cent of world electricity. The International Energy Agency expects electricity powered by coal to rise by 33 per cent to 2040. In Southeast Asia, demand for coal is estimated to increase by 4.8 per cent a year to 2035. Renewable energy will make its presence felt in the energy mix but its likely contribution is easily overstated. The IEA says that about 0.4 per cent of global energy now comes from solar and wind power. By 2040, and after massive public subsidies, solar and wind power will contribute just 2.2 per cent of global energy. …

    “About 1.3 billion people around the world live without electricity. The Adani mine [the main target], if it goes ahead, would serve the Indian market, where 400 million people have no access to electricity. Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg was quite right earlier this month when he said there was “a strong moral case” for the Adani project. In this newspaper today Brendan Pearson from the Minerals Council of Australia makes a telling point: “The observed truth of human development is that energy access is essential to economic growth.” Why should rural India be denied an affordable fuel source that will power development? Those who signed the open letter are engaged in a form of class warfare. They count among the privileged members of a society whose prosperity has been underwritten by coal exports and cheap coal-fired power. Yet their demands, if taken seriously, would deprive of electricity countless households in the developing world — renewables provide no substitute on any scale — and would destroy large numbers of working-class jobs in Australia.”


    • And well said.

      Odd that the rise and rise of the Australian climatariat and green fetishism have been funded by a dizzying increase in the price of iron and huge volumes of export coal. Like Norway, we can export most of our carbon sins and turn them into cash. Unlike Norway, we don’t have the mountains and gorges in the right places to have a domestic source of renewable energy which doesn’t suck. Unlike our Asian coal customers, we don’t bother to modernise or upgrade those domestic coal facilities upon which we continue to depend utterly. We waste coal shamelessly while our “green” states (Tassie and SA) become backwaters of unemployment and de-industrialisation in the name of “sustainability”.

      So coal, gas and uranium-rich Australia is striving to become an energy pauper – and our “concerned” classes have the hide to endorse beggary for countries like India which have endured beggary for millennia.

      Fight Green Blob!

      • Yes, the Aus Green Blob naggers – wowsers, actually – are protected from a 3rd world existence by our farming and mining industries while simultaneously trying to destroy them

        The genuine stupidity of this has always confused me (and I readily admit that stupidity has always confused me, I have never been able to see its’ point), although I now accept it as part of the city-based furniture

    • The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      Oh Saul and Naomi, oh Bill !

    • The “moral case” for a coal mine?

      I love the smell of desperation in the morning.

    • @Faustino: Somewhat related, 61 prominent Australians have written a letter to world leaders urging an end to coal-mining, with the Australian coal industry the main target.

      Not to worry, Michael. The letter writers are wasting their time. Instead of writing letters they should just sit back and wait for four more years. By that time the Australian coal industry will have to pay countries to take it off their hands. Extrapolate this graph out to 2020:

      (Source: https://ycharts.com/indicators/australia_coal_price )

      • Prices go down.
        Prices go up.

        Seems like people would have learned that extrapolation does not imply knowledge by now. Rookie investors make that mistake all too often.

      • Ok, but where did this forecast:

        @Faustino: The International Energy Agency expects electricity powered by coal to rise by 33 per cent to 2040.

        come from if not by extrapolation?

        Are you suggesting that extrapolation out 25 years is somehow more reliable than extrapolation out 4 years?

      • Are you suggesting that extrapolation out 25 years is somehow more reliable than extrapolation out 4 years?

        At present TSI is around the level of the 21/22 solar minimum.what would your extrapolation for the next 4 years be?

        How about the next 90 years?


      • VP

        Markets don’t work like that. Using your logic, in 1933 the Dow would have just kept going to zero. The variables affecting price change every day.

      • I’m sure their extrapolation isn’t a mere, simple extrapolation such as yours. It is a conglomerate of extrapolations. It’s still a guess. But if the assumptions hold, i.e. we don’t blow a third of the populace away with nuclear weapons, their extrapolation probably is better than yours.

      • @jim2: Prices go down. Prices go up.

        Good point. If the price of Australian coal goes back up, that would be the time for the 61 to write their letter. As long as it continues to decline their time is better spent on other things.

        As is the time of coal miners if the price declines to the point where they can no longer make a decent living that way.

        Just saying. Let’s check back in four years to see how it turned out. ;)

  36. So oil-company funding is to be avoided since it will corrupt climate science in the direction of questioning climate alarm, since this is where oil’s vested interest lies.

    Fair enough. And by the same token, then, since government funding will corrupt climate science in the direction of fomenting alarm, since this is where the state’s vested interest lies, this too should be avoided.

    There is a key difference though : government funding of climate science is numerous orders of magnitude larger than oil’s. Let us therefore prioritise removing the beam of state-funding-induced corruption from climate science eye, before we attend to the mote of oil-funding’s.

    But of course govenment

  37. It is not hard uo be hypocritical about ones funding until the mortgage comes due. The subsequent compromises whittle down to self preservation and then the absence of further discussion. Ite s like a college student who protests against the very economy that allowed him/her to attend college in the first place. Always easier to advocate for the university to stop using coal for electricity generation until tuition goes up with the use of renewables. I guess that is ok if parents are still paying the bills.

  38. The very logic of divestment is strange. To divest means just to sell your shares. That means that someone is a willing buyer. It doesn’t hurt the fossil fuel company.

    Given that usage of fossil fuels is predicted to at least double by 2040, it would seem very much like cutting off your nose to spite your face. The willing buyer will smile all the way to the bank. You, on the other hand, will struggle to find pristine sources for your investment dollars.

    What am I missing?

    • Lefties do all sorts of silly things just because it makes them feel good, Tom. And they get to pretend they are morally and intellectually superior to the rest of us. I guess it’s hard for you to see it.

    • Divestment is donning sackcloths with motives as many coloured as Joseph’s raiment, and the moral transparency of the Emperor’s newest habillements.

    • You are missing what most of us are missing, or not missing. They are making stupid decisions for stupid reasons. I don’t think we are missing that.

  39. I give these comments zero problematics!

  40. Some of the comments in the linked Powerline piece above are a hoot –e.g.,

    … Imagine crossing a bridge built with such “settled science”. Or, worse, taking a plane to anywhere built with models that did not work. ~Arnold Townsend

  41. Speaking of Exxon … this from today’s WSJ:

    It’s Always Exxon’s Fault
    Why climate warriors keep returning to the same whipping boy.

    But the truth is, people like Mr. McKibben can’t afford practical, meaningful progress—because it would be unnoticeable and undramatic. Modest tweaks to incentives, then seeing how energy technology and the energy economy adapted over time, would not fulfill their need for a pressing global crisis that casts them as moral warriors (well-funded ones) whose victory over deniers and climate criminals is always just around the corner—and must remain so in order to keep the money, media attention and political fealty flowing.


  42. Hey, Oz Cousins. Wot’s up with this? Better watch your back. From the article:

    PLAID, the Australian ‘unbreakable’ smart card identification protocol has been recently analyzed in this scientific paper (disclaimer: I am one of the authors, and this is a personal statement.)

    Technically, the protocol is a disaster. In addition to many questionable design choices, we found ways for tracing user identities and recover card access capabilities. The attacks are efficient (few seconds on ‘home’ hardware in some cases), and involve funny techniques such as RSA moduli fingerprinting and… German tanks. See this entry on Matt Green’s crypto blog for a pleasant-to-read explanation.

    The detailed story of PLAID in the paper is worth a read, and casts many doubts on the efficacy of the most important standardizing body in the world. It is interesting to see how a “cryptography” product can be approved at ISO without undergoing any real security scrutiny.


  43. Any comments on Hurricane Patricia. Strongest hurricane to hit the west coast of Mexico. No reports of massive storm surge so far. Luck? Hype? Less vulnerable coastline?

    • I read the Mexican officials did a good job preparing for the hurricane. Also, I believe it didn’t hit a densely populated area and fell apart almost as fast as it spun up.

  44. And then there’s this …

    How scary are your jack-o’-lanterns? Scarier than you think, according to the Energy Department, which claims the holiday squash is responsible for unleashing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


  45. Waiting for the Big Pumpkin … See O too.

  46. I’m CEO of a small exploration company and my equal opportunity recruiting policy for earth science graduates has changed. Policy now is to not employ graduates if they have graduated from a university with a policy in force of not investing in mining companies….. Seems fair that it works both ways.

  47. Steve Milesworthy

    The University has to balance its ethics with the need to support academic freedom. A University may choose to divest for the presumed common good. But it takes a more dangerous step if it bans a department or academic the normal academic freedom to choose their own research.

    With regards to divestment as an investment strategy, there is the ethical choice and there is also the investment choice which could be based on the presumption that oil companies are overvalued because many of their in-the-ground assets will never be realised. They are simply getting ahead of the short-sellers.

  48. Robert Bridges

    If Universities were serious about divestment, they would also divest themselves of their petroleum engineering departments, and limit other engineering departments to green technology only.

  49. Here’s one for Dr. Curry. What with the internet and all, terribly expensive text books should be a thing of the past, but …
    from the article:

    California State University at Fullerton brought a grievance against associate professor Alain Bourget recently. It wasn’t for poor results or questionable conduct — it happened because Bourget refused to assign a $180 textbook for his introductory linear algebra and differential equations course, instead using one that cost $75 and supplementing it with free online materials.


  50. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #203 | Watts Up With That?

  51. Pingback: Hypocrisy at universities over oil company funding/divestment | ajmarciniak

  52. Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
    Executive Summary: There are two drivers at universities: politically correct sustainability initiatives, with climate change at the forefront; and the need for more funding, targeted at industry given the declining availability of public funding.

    The divestment issue highlights the hypocrisy of these universities. MIT is taking exactly the right approach to this issue, and they should be applauded not just for their sound and non-hypocritical business decision, but for doing something constructive to actually improve the dialogue and partnership between academia, industry and government. Such partnerships can seed progress in science, technology and policy for the socioeconomic challenges in the 21st century. –Judith Curry

  53. Pingback: Viatical Settlement Vs Life Insurance Settlement - For Bangun Omah

  54. Presently there are display caapture software program accessible like
    Camtasia, Camsudio among others that allow you to file every part you see in your display disllay along with your