How Trustworthy Is Climate Change Funding, Research, & Reporting?

Below, we discuss how trustworthy or reliable climate change funding, research, and reporting might be.

We do this by listing and explaining potential issues and consideration in the climate change science and research field.

This guide is written as an exploratory and impartial guide only.


How Trustworthy Is Climate Change Funding, Research, & Reporting?

The following section contains both paraphrased and summarised information, as well as some direct quotes from a range of reports.

Refer to the URL links in the ‘Sources’ list at the bottom of this guide for the full information.


Climate change funding, research, and reporting might have some of the following issues to consider:


Potential conflicts of interest with different groups and individuals

– Conflict of interest of those funding studies and publications

For example, a fossil fuel company funding a study or publication might be considered to have a direct financial conflict of interest.

The same might be said for public funding (from the government, and certain political parties)

Some may even go as far as to suggest that the source of funding impacts the researchers’ or scientists’ ability to be impartial, and this may especially be the case when federal funding declines, and academics (at universities) have few options but to get industry funding



… the energy industry funds both sides of the climate debate … [but,] the overwhelming majority of climate-research funding comes from the federal government and left-wing foundations [and, most of this money might go towards] research that advances the warming regulatory agenda [and] clear public-policy outcomes … [which threatens … ] scientific integrity …


In terms of fossil fuel money in climate research, from

… oil companies [are prominent] in funding the American Geophysical Union … The Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy take fossil fuel money … [and] The UKMetOffice has stated that energy companies are major customers.


– Conflict of interest of researchers and scientists

An indirect conflict of interest might be a researcher or scientist involved with a study or publication who has ties to a group with direct financial conflict of interest


– What constitutes a conflict of interest might be subjective

It might differ depending upon the views of each individual or group

Just because funding comes from a certain source though, it may not necessarily prove that there’s a conflict or interest or bias in the research that follows

Some may also argue that there is no fully independent source of funding in climate science research, as most funding comes from the government, followed by industry funding

Fully independent scientists with fully independent sources of funding might not practically exist


Difficulty in differentiating between conflicts of interest, & confluences of interest

An example of a confluence of interest might be a scientist or researcher who serves on an advisory board, separate to their research

In this instance, this could be considered a confluence of interest, and not necessarily a conflict of interest

But, overall, it might be difficult to differentiate conflicts and confluences – the line might be blurred to a certain extent


The conflict of interest issues for climate science are far more complex and less easily identified than the financial conflicts existing in the medical field (


The InterAcademy Council Conflict has made conflict of interest recommendations in the past [but the] IPCC [might be addressing them] in a minimal way (


Potential bias of different groups and individuals (like agencies, programs and scientists)

Bias might involve political or idealogical bias (like for example political preferences and alignment) more so than financial bias

Some argue that these types of sub-personal biases are practically unavoidable

However, scientists might try to be aware of these biases. Additionally, selecting a group of scientists with different political and idealogical preferences to work on the same study can also help

Beyond these types of bias, ‘funding induced bias’ and ‘systematic cascading bias’ (which relates specifically to government funding) may exist where funding comes from one dominant source

Systematic research might be one of the key ways to determine if different types of funding induced bias or systemic bias exist in certain studies and publications – although, systematic research to identify funding induced bias or systematic bias might not be a key part of studies and publications at this stage (and may be seen as a gap in current climate science studies and publications)

With systematic research, any finding of widespread funding induced bias or systemic cascading bias might bring into question existing and also new climate policies for the Federal government

In addition to systematic research, another way to reduce the potential of funding induced bias might be for the Federal government to fund a broader spectrum of research that challenges the politically preferred outcomes i.e. have greater intellectual and political diversity in climate change research

The health/nutrition industry might have a good history of research interaction with industry funding to take note of

Having said the above, the Federal government may always face a challenge in funding research that is intended to explore potentially new policies or missions, without biasing the research outcome itself lists the ’15 Potential Practices of Funding-Induced Bias’ in the ‘Is Federal Funding Biasing Climate Research’ report. It might be worth looking out for these practices in climate research


In some areas, especially regulatory science, Federal funding is by far the dominant source [and federal government funding for research can be related to] agency missions, programs and paradigms [. This raises the potential for funding induced bias to exist] (


Regardless of the presence or not of formally defined conflicts of interest, scientists need to continually challenge their assumptions to avoid bias (


The issue of systemic bias introduced by institutional constraints and guidelines is of greatest concern (


How impartial researchers can be

Potential conflicts of interest and biases may impact whether a researcher or scientist can truly be impartial or not

Beyond these things, researchers may face a range of challenges and factors that could potentially impact their impartiality, such as:

Feeling pressured to find in favor of an outcome that aligns with the interests of the group funding the research – funding and research budgets impact a range of things such as salary, resources and facilities for institutions like universities, and more. The more the program grows and the more positive attention they receive, the better it might be for researchers and the programs and institutions they are a part of.

Feeling pressured to find in favor of a certain outcome (usually political) for other reasons, such as future career opportunities and advancement (career pressure), individual and institutional reputation and recognition, and other reasons 

Feeling pressured to defend a previous hypothesis or conclusion, and essentially admit you were previously ‘wrong’ (and potentially lose credibility in the process)


Essentially, performance goals (like income, employment, and growth) for researchers and institutes may not always align with more truthful scientific outcomes


Some reports indicate that the source of funding is less of an issue for bias and impartiality than the pressure to adhere to the existing consensus, and also to defend an individual’s existing hypothesis or conclusions


Requiring disclosure of funding sources and other information as part of studies and publications

Disclosure of government funding sources might be required for some studies, but, other studies and publications that have private or corporate funding may not have disclosure requirements

Having guidelines and requirements for disclosing certain information in a transparent and comprehensive way (as part of some type of disclosure statement, or an acknowledgments section) may help make studies and peer reviewed publications in journals more credible and trustworthy – by at least identifying potential conflicts of interest or bias (even if they don’t eliminate them)

It may also provide more accurate information to policymakers who may consider these studies and publications for decision making

Disclosures that separate potential conflicts of interest, and confluences of interest, may also be helpful


The potential impact on some individual researchers’ or scientists’ careers and lives if they are in the minority

If researchers or scientists speak out or publish information that goes against the majority, it may result in them receiving public criticism, as well as it potentially impacting their career (both now, and in terms of future career opportunities and advancement), reputation, and means of earning a living in the future – at least in the climate science field

There may also be a potential emotional and psychological toll too

There might be far more of an incentive for researchers and scientists to conclude or produce finding in line with the majority/consensus


‘Overconfidence’ in scientific research, findings and judgements may be an issue

Overconfidence might involve research, arguments, and conclusions that lack reasonable evidence, information, or justification supporting them

Not only might overconfidence be common in some science debates, but, there might be little to no accountability for it, and the negative consequences across society might be significant if it ends up influencing public opinion, as well as national policy

Systemic consensus seeking (and manufacturing a consensus) can reinforce overconfidence

Not being prepared to be uncertain or unsure about certain aspects of climate change (and instead wanting a yes or no answer) may also lead to overconfidence

Ignorance can also lead to overconfidence

However, some strategies to help reduce overconfidence might be:

Researchers and scientists challenging their own scientific judgments and potential bias

Researchers and scientists generally reading a range of papers, considering multiple perspectives, and so on

Selecting diverse groups of authors for research

Groups like the IPCC and NCA needing to reflect on overconfidence issues (the IPCC might currently do this, but potentially not the NCA)


… we see in at least some of the sections of the NCA4 is bootstrapping on previous assessments and then inflating the confidence without justification (


‘Manufacturing a consensus’

Some reports may indicate that ‘manufacturing’ of a consensus may happen when there is an institutionalized consensus building process in place in a field of science

This potentially leads to cognitive bias, and the consensus becoming increasingly entrenched

The medical community for example might have been facing these issues for the last few decades according to some reports

Some reports indicate that it might be more likely for a consensus to be manufactured in research in a particular field of science when there’s several of the following factors present:

Clinical guidelines (that lead to a certain consensus)

Cherry picking of data

Stacking of committees

Conflicts of interest, and other sources of bias


… the IPCC and particularly the NCA introduces systemic bias through the assessment process, including consensus seeking (


How easy to replicate some climate science is

Some aspects of climate science might be easily replicable for researchers with tools like climate models

Data sets might be publicly available too

This might make these aspects of climate science more credible than fields of science that can’t be easily replicated



Unlike research related to food and drug safety and environmental contaminants, most climate science is easily replicable using publicly available data sets and models


The consensus has collapsed in other fields of science before

Like for example with cholesterol and heart diseases

Some may use this as an example of a reason to continue to challenge the climate change consensus, and reassess existing evidence and information, as well as new evidence and information


[There was a] collapse of the consensus regarding cholesterol and heart disease (


The lesson for climate scientists is that the consensus can be wrong, and many scientists will go along with it to avoid censure by their peers (











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