How Pat Michaels Helps Kill the Credibility of CATO and All Climate Science Deniers
Dana Nuccitelli, in a Skeptical Science crosspost
Patrick Michaels is a research fellow at the Cato Institute think tank, the chief editor of the website World Climate Report, has been given a climate blog at the business magazine Forbes, and his articles are frequently re-posted at climate “skeptic” blogs like Watts Up With That (WUWT). Despite his clear conflict of interest (Michaels has estimated that 40% of his work is funded by the petroleum industry), many people continue to rely on him as a reliable source of climate information. This is an unwise choice, because Michaels also has a long history of badly distorting climate scientists’ work. In fact, not only does Michaels misrepresent climate research on a regular basis, but on several occasions he has gone as far as to manipulate other scientists’ figures by deleting parts he doesn’t like.
Patrick Michaels is a serial deleter of inconvenient data.
Skeptical Science has previously documented the most high-profile example of Michaels’ serial data deletions, which involved James Hansen’s 1988 study projecting future global warming. James Hansen is a scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and one of the world’s foremost climate scientists.
Climate scientists aren’t in the business of predicting how human greenhouse gas emissions will change in the future – that is a policy question. Instead, climate scientists predict how the climate will change in response to a series of possible emissions scenarios (for example, continuing with business-as-usual emissions, dramatically cutting our emissions starting in the year 2020, etc.). In 1988, Hansen used the NASA GISS climate model to predict how the planet would respond to three possible scenarios. Scenario A assumed continued exponential (accelerating) greenhouse gas growth. Scenario B assumed a reduced linear rate of growth, and Scenario C assumed a rapid decline in greenhouse gas emissions around the year 2000. Hansen believed Scenario B was the most likely to come to fruition, and indeed it has been the closest to reality thus far. In the summer of 1988, Hansen presented his results in testimony before U.S. Congress.
Ten years later, with the Kyoto Protocol international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the works, Patrick Michaels was invited to testify before Congress about the state of climate science. He spoke of Hansen’s 1988 study, and in the process, grossly misrepresented its projections and accuracy by deleting Scenarios B and C, wrongly asserting that the planet had warmed “more than four times less than Hansen predicted.”
James Hansen had this to say about Patrick Michaels’ distortion of his work:
“Pat Michaels, has taken the graph from our 1988 paper with simulated global temperatures for scenarios A, B and C, erased the results for scenarios B and C, and shown only the curve for scenario A in public presentations, pretending that it was my prediction for climate change. Is this treading close to scientific fraud?”
Michaels certainly didn’t mess around with his first known case of data deletion, using it to mislead our policymakers as they decided whether or not to commit to reducing American greenhouse gas emissions (they ultimately refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol). Michaels’ other data deletions, while being equally misleading, were not made on nearly as grand of a stage.