Briggs and Big Oil

The closest I come to “Big Oil” is when I create my spécialité de la maison: bacon-olive-oil confit. Incidentally, that’s the only way to cook this miracle pig meat—frying removes all that delicious fat.

Shill for Shell?

But I don’t think finding this recipe is what people had in mind when they searched for keyword combinations “Briggs & Big Oil”, “Dr. William Briggs climatologist Oil”, and variants thereof. Several people (different locations, anyway; I can’t tell if it was different people or not, but the keyword syntax suggests variant sources) have come to this site hoping to find the inside dirt on my secret relationship with Shell.

Sorry, folks, but there is none. I have never received any money from Big Oil, nor any from little oil, nor any from any kind of oil. In fact, the following table details all the money I have ever received for any of the climatological work I have ever done. I use the words “all” and “ever” in their literal senses: no Clintonesque “the meaning is is” for me:

Source   Amount
Private Companies   $0
Public Companies   $0
Individuals   $0
Groups of Individuals    $0
Politicians    $0
Other sources    $0
Governments   $01,2
Non-profits   $1,0003
—————————–   ———–
Total   $1,000.


Shill for Hire?

It’s not so much that I am not a shill for Shell, a.k.a. Big Oil—or for Big Government. It’s that nobody ever asked me. Well, that’s not entirely true. The University of Florida Department of Statistics offered me a job that was partly environmental statistics, but I turned it down. Then Florida State U. offered me a job to be a money/stat man at it COAPS climate group. I turned that down, too. I also turned down or left other university professorships that had nothing to do with weather or climate.

There: That is a complete picture of my financial interest in any aspect of environmental—not just climate of weather—statistics.

Logical fallacy

Suppose I offer an argument claiming that the most terrifying predictions said to be caused by man-made global warming are improbable. Suppose, too, that I am an employee of an oil company, or that an oil company paid for the research that lead to my argument. It is a fallacy to say that my answer is wrong because of this. And it is so well known a fallacy, you are an ass if you invoke it.

Pay attention web searchers: that fallacy cuts both ways. Some scientists who are making these terrifying predictions had their work paid for by environmental groups, like the EPA or NGOs. Does that make their pronouncements false because of this? Others’ livelihoods—their salaries and daily bread—depend on securing funding to investigate these possible future horrors. Are all their findings suspect because of this?

Now, it is also true, that while it is a fallacy to suppose that a man’s findings are false because of who paid for them, knowing who paid can increase the probability that that man’s findings are false. This is why, for example, medical journals require authors disclose their financial interest in papers those authors submit—pause to understand that they still publish the articles regardless of the interest. Thus, it is not wrong to ask if I have been a Shell shill. But it is also not wrong to ask if Dr X et al. are WWF partisans.

Since nearly all of my academic work was paid for by me, does that increase the probability I am right? It does decrease the chance that I would shade my results in the direction of what I think somebody wants to hear.

How about you?

I now invite proponents of the most frightening forecasts to be as open in their declaration of interests as I have been (this includes grants with salary support, my friends).


1The Spanish Government covered my expenses for a trip to deliver a speech on quantifying the uncertainty in AGW.


2My Masters fellowship at Cornell—which paid tuition and a yearly stipend of about $13,000 (my entire salary)—was in crop and atmospheric science. I wrote two papers, whose page charges were funded by my advisor, that appeared in the Journal of Climate during this time. My PhD fellowship at Cornell was from the EPA for environmental statistics (about the same pay and tuition coverage). I wrote other papers that appeared in various places, the page charges of which were not recovered (since I was a poor graduate student). Subsequent meteorological/climatological papers and conference trips were funded by yours truly; though I seem to recall the the Cornell Medical School helped me with the page charges for a Monthly Weather Review paper on aircraft icing. Cornell also funded my appearance at various meetings. Excepting these, I have never received any grant for enviro/climate/weather work.


3An honorarium from Heartland (three years ago?) to give an identical speech I gave at the American Meteorological Society (on the non-increase in hurricanes) two months previous.

Update: the main purpose of this post is to have a logical landing place for those who search for the keywords combinations mentioned above.


  1. Luis Dias

    I receive exactly zero euros for saying the nonsenses I say everyday. Yeah, I know, it’s a literally worthless exercise, but I consider it a training for when I die and have to defend my case against the moron who figured out that banging a universe was an “ok” idea. Hey I have to cover up all odds ;).

  2. Mike B

    I guess I’m as corrupt as they come.

    I worked for Big Oil waaaay back in the early ’80’s (Shell).

    I’ve also worked for Big Defense, Big Metal, Big Insurance, Big Retail, Big Beer, Big Telecom, and Big Finance.

    And I’ve never taken a penny from Big Government. 😀

  3. JD

    That’s clever. Trying to divert attention from your Exxon connections by harping on Shell. A quick check of Sourcewatch reveals that you gave a speech at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by Heartland Institute which “…received substantial funding from Exxon for its work downplaying the significance of global warming.” Now you post this to your blog in an effort to keep people from finding out about your ties to big oil, but your dastardly plan has been uncovered and the truth revealed.

  4. Briggs

    The lesson to learn, JD, is always read the small print. I’m surprised your mother didn’t teach you this. Or, if that woman is a saint, you are a very poor student.

    Try reading the whole thing again, this time without holding your breath. Then get back to me.

  5. JD

    How did you know I was holding my breath? Have you been reading my school transcripts? Are you spying on me?

    I saw how you sneakily tried to hide your Heartland payoff with a vague reference in the small print, but wanted to point people to an independent, unbiased source that, like Wikepedia, provides indisputable facts. Exxon gave money to Heartland, Heartland gave money to you, therefore you are a pawn of Exxon. This is unassailable logic.

  6. Briggs

    I know all, JD. Never forget that.

    Actually, the best way to do this is to discover all the funding sources of Heartland for the year in which I gave the talk, then calculate the percentage of each contribution (including any interest the size of their endowment, naturally). Then apply that percentage to my thousand bucks and we can find out how much I am indebted to Exxon. I want to be sure my thank you letter goes to the right people, after all.

    Even better, Heartland asked me after I had given my speech at the AMS, because they wanted to hear it. So the poor saps’ money didn’t buy them much in the way of influence. Plus, I frittered my thirty pieces of silver all away on wine and booze, as I recall.

    The most important question: Have you discovered how much AGW proponents have scored from enviro groups, NGOs, and Big Government from these indisputable sources? We’re all curious to know, and it would be kind of you to give us a full report.

  7. Bernie

    The level of paranoia on the left is amazing. Steve McIntyre has a tip jar. One bright spark on dot earth claimed that Big Oil was funding him through his tip jar!
    The reality is that there is more money on the pro-CAGW side. Since most environmental organizations are essentially public policy and lobbying shops, it is pretty easy to compare the spend of industry groups with those of environmental groups. Anybody want to guess at the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Foundation’s budget?
    You have to admire the left’s long term strategy: they set out to control the media, charitable foundations and higher education and they have achieved their ends. You also have to admire their nerve. They charge others with “astroturfing” but they have essentially invented it and are past masters at generating it.

  8. JD

    You know I’m a terrible student, so you give me homework figuring I’ll either not do it or get it wrong. Now that’s just mean. Luckily, I can show that there is no point in doing a report. Environmental groups, NGOs and Big Government are providing money to those on the front lines in a battle to save the Earth, so taking money from them is the right thing to do. There’s nothing nefarious about it as those deniers over at would have you believe, so they should just stop writing about how much money is flowing from these groups to AGW proponents. Skeptics will go to any length. Even claiming that global warming measures will harm the economy. This doesn’t make any sense. Just think of the boost to the clothing industry from all the warm clothes people will have to buy to stay warm in the winter, and I’m sure there’s a pile of money to be made in figuring out how to stay cool in the summer without air conditioning.

  9. Bruce Foutch

    Its not important if you actually received money or not from big oil. It is enough to know you would if you could – a truth we can arrive at by applying this logical extension:

    If, AGW Skeptic = Big Oil $ (An agreed upon consensus of just about everyone.)
    And, Matt Briggs = AGW Skeptic (I mean, have you read the stuff he puts in his blog?)

    Then, Matt Briggs = Big Oil $ (Can there be further doubt? I think not.)

    You will be getting a visit tonight from the climate police and this blog will serve up only approved content beginning tomorrow morning. And, the people will be happy…


  10. PaulD

    So you expect us to believe that a shill for big oil would admit it on his blog.

  11. Joy

    Luis, that made me laugh.
    What nonsense, I thought you were joking with your first comment but I discover, alas, that you are serious.

    I was going to mention to Briggs that the conference was in 2008 and I know this because I listened to all of them on line when I had a lot of time on my hands. So it was nearly two years ago.

    If big oil needs a physiotherapist, I’m your girl. I’ve always fancied staying on an oil rig, but I’ve been told they don’t have people on them now, only a skeleton staff.

    Have you considered the bigger picture here? Have you ever benefited from the petrochemical industry? Do you use plastics, soap, cleaning agents, hospital equipment, clothing, building materials?
    Did you think about this from the perspective of the good that has come from the work that chemists and geologists do? It’s not all about transport and heating.

    If you want to think cynically about this, do you not think if you ran a multinational oil company you would have huge sums of money invested in alternatives? Not just because of the current pressure on you to do so, but because whoever has the breakthrough in energy technology has the edge. This is always the case and green mania simply raises the premium.

    Decarbonisation has occurred naturally as technology has developed from wood to coal, to oil, to nuclear energy (which IS the way forward). However what the public is told about fossil fuels and cleaner alternatives is what the media wants the public to hear. This is a huge topic JD and I would be interested to hear how you come to the view that Briggs or anyone would want to hide big oil contacts.

    Only a coward would do that.

  12. Tony Hansen

    Are you so sure that JD is not having a lend of you,me,us?
    And you’ve got me beaten here… ‘they don’t have people on them now, only a skeleton staff’. (staff of skeletons- aliens- bots?)

  13. Joy

    I meant ‘many people’ on the rigs, that was funny.
    I’ve never, it has to be said, heard the dastardly word used in earnest, so he probably was teasing.

  14. harold

    Yes Joy, I think JD was pulling our leg. I have not found any proof yet that our Professor is a shill, but I do think his carnivore cravings could be a motive for his ideas. Today in an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
    And talking about pulling someone’s leg, he also said: “We have not seen those sort of conditions for 30 million years.(…) southern Europe is likely to be a desert; hundreds of millions of people will have to move. There will be severe global conflict.”

  15. Joy

    Yes my friend read me that headline- in The Times. Someone a while back was advocating eating insects as an alternative source of protein. (I expect Briggers already fries tarantulas for breakfast, though, he’s a foodie. Apparently they taste like scrambled egg, another friend told me house spiders taste of almonds. I think he was just pulling my leg.

  16. Luis

    I declare poe`s law on jd.

  17. JD

    I’m glad Harold brought up Lord Stern’s statement on vegetarianism. I’ve been a vegetarian since the days of ignorance when people were worried about a coming ice age. Naturally I feel a certain sense of self satisfaction that for many years I have been helping to save and preserve our planet, but that’s not why I mentioned it. No, what I think is that, like poor countries, I should get some money to help me adapt to climate change caused by carnivores. Since my climate impact has been so much less than that of a meat eater, it is only fair that I not suffer undue burden. Some may claim this is just a ploy to dip into the pork barrel, but as a global climate change victim all I ask for is justice.

  18. Luis

    Definitely a poe 😀

  19. harold

    Briggs says: The most important question: Have you discovered how much AGW proponents have scored from enviro groups, NGOs, and Big Government from these indisputable sources? We’re all curious to know, and it would be kind of you to give us a full report.

    Well … not a full report, but JoNova has made a pretty graph:

    The full article can be found here:

  20. harbinger

    James Hansen works for Big Beanz…….

  21. MrCPhysics


    The last one was spot on. I almost passed milk through my nose halfway through.

  22. But … but …. but ….. Briggsy maaate.

    You are guilty of receiving some oil from and oil producer of no small note are you not?

  23. Briggs


    I was trying to hush that up. Now the secret is out!

  24. “but wanted to point people to an independent, unbiased source that, like Wikepedia, provides indisputable facts.”

    How can JD’s comments not be a scam with that reference to Wikipedia, even though misspelled.

  25. Briggs


    Our JD has a finely honed sense of humor.

  26. No petro-sheik money? Too bad. Maybe if you didn’t give it away! then the Princes and Emirs of Obscene Wealth would drop a dime or two on you.

    Or maybe not. It could be that there actually is no vast Big Oil conspiracy to boil the planet and to hide that fact with bought-off “scientist” puppets. That dire tale might possibly be yet another paranoid fabrication made by professional alarmists.

  27. Briggs


    Say, it’s almost Halloween. Maybe I can dress as Greenpeace and frighten my neighbors. Far scarier than oil.

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