Video: Ben Santer eviscerates Pat Michaels

Patrick Michaels of the pro-pollution Cato Institute is a fountain of nonsense (see Scientific American editor slams science denier Patrick Michaels for misusing their unscientific online poll).  So when Michaels, who recently said Big Oil funds some 40% of his work, is up against someone who really knows what he’s talking about, like climatologist Ben Santer, it’s a true mismatch.

Climate Decrocker Peter Sinclair has the video of the recent smack down on the Hill:


Punchline (as it were):

  1. If there had been a ref, he would have called that fight in the first round….
  2. Even deniers need their viscera, don’t they?
  3. Your joke here!

23 Responses to Video: Ben Santer eviscerates Pat Michaels

  1. robert says:

    This kind of testimony makes me nuts. Santer relies on the published data and published analyses and interpretations of that data; meanwhile Michaels slings unpublished — which is to say unvetted — critique of those conclusions. If Michaels thinks the 0.7 figure is wrong, he needs to publish his analysis, rather than just throwing it out to a bunch of politicians who don’t know how to make heads or tales of these two guys.

    Santer’s response needed to include: “If you’re so sure of that, Pat, you need to pubish that analysis. In the meantime, STFU.”

  2. caerbannog says:

    Well, it looks like Santer finally got his chance to beat the crap out of Michaels!

  3. Gasman says:

    I love Climate Progress, I read it everyday(check it atleast twice daily), but this video appears as 2 scientists disagreeing at a hearing. Michaels says 1 thing, then Santer says another. Clearly Michaels’ claims have obtuse and tangential basis in research and Dr. Santer bases his responses completely in research. Yet few in attendance understand that Dr. Santer and Michaels are not equals from a research perspective. I expect to many of those at the hearing, the discussion supported the denialist meme that the science is not settled. Until these events have a representative attendance(98% in support of AGW) observers will come away with conclusion that there is still debate.

    [JR: There is no question that nonscientists cannot easily adjudicate disagreements of this nature. I do tend to think Michaels did not come across very well here to the Members.]

  4. Mark S says:

    At the end of the smackdown Michaels asks one of the congressmen to submit questions to him. I’d love to see what questions they submit and his answers. I hope he realizes he’s under oath.

  5. Mark Shapiro says:

    Yes Gasman, Michaels can appear all sciency and truthy. That’s what he’s good at. So I was glad to hear Santer say that Michaels was wrong. But I admit that what I wanted to hear Santer, or anyone, say was that Michaels is a charlatan and a fraud. Santer is too polite and measured to slam him. Michaels claims he can “adjust” the temperature record with his four magical factors to 0.001 degree!

    And what is the Michaels and McKitrick paper in the Journal of Physics Atmospheres that he refers to? Is it that awful “it’s the economy, correlation equals causation” sewage?

    I don’t know how, but Michaels needs to be widely exposed. Santer’s point about the lack of error bars and uncertainty is a good start.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    In his book Understanding Media- published in 1964, I believe- Marshall McLuhan said that it was television that finished Joe McCarthy. Big scare headlines in the right wing press, and fawning radio interviews, had propelled him to the top, all the way up until the Army McCarthy hearings, which were broadcast live. Soon afterwards, McCarthy was disgraced, and it was not so much because the Army attorney Welch humiliated him in a debate, although he certainly did that.

    Television is a different medium, since the audience receives myriad unconscious signals. The audience perceived that McCarthy was a liar and a fraud, through his bumbling bluster and neurotic twitches. Fortunately, the relaxed and eloquent Welch made the perfect contrast.

    This is really what happened in the clip above, and why we need a lot more of Peter Sinclair, as well as repeated exposure through contrast of characters like Michaels, Morano, and even the pompous George Will. In the clip above, Michaels is a neurotic, blinking and gum flapping train wreck, and Santer a lucid and focused man. Let’s see if more of these one sided encounters can be scheduled. The Republicans won’t like the result, because all of their paid scientists and PR spokesmen are also a little, uh, crazy.

  7. Thanks Joe, this is good to see..

    But I have to say that this looks like the fire department crew (Congress) is standing by waiting for two fire investigators arguing over the cause – while the house is catching fire.

    I am pleased that Congress is getting to where they should have been in 1982. But Congress is buying in to Michaels performance of obfuscation and interference and delay.

  8. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Santer mocked Michaels thousandth of a degree “accuracy” with no error bars.

  9. WVhybrid says:

    I guess the only thing that would have made Ben Santer’s argument a little stronger is if he had mentioned that all of his answers had peer reviewed references, and Michaels’ do not.

  10. Jay Alt says:

    I watched a little of the hearing & saw that segment in realtime. It was brutal and satisfying.
    And no doubt many on the gop side of the aisle didn’t realize Santer trounced him.

  11. Steve L says:

    My voice shakes like Ben Santer’s when I’m angry and trying to stay calm. I wish I could speak as intelligently as he does when it happens to me.

  12. Andrew DeWit says:

    Gasman is right, I think, that Climate Progress merits more than one visit per day and that many people would likely have trouble following the argument. But I also suspect most viewers can see that Santer whupped Michaels to within an inch of his shelf life at Cato. That’s evident even with the sound off, through Michaels’ Nixonian inability to control his quivering eyes and lips. Turn up the sound, and Santer shows he knows what he is talking about and can communicate the essential points clearly with just the right undercurrent of passion.

    Whether America’s dysfunctional politics will get in gear on climate and energy policy is another matter. In that respect, the challenge between China and America perhaps resembles the Santer drubbing of the oil-financed Cato man.

  13. John Mason says:

    Definite two falls and a submission to Ben there!

    What came across with Michaels was a lack of familiarity with the material. I suggest he goes away to catch up with the literature for a year or two!!

    Cheers – John

  14. Kudos to Ben Santer.
    The reason Michael’s has not published any of his criticisms is because they’d never get through peer review. Same old junk.

    I wished someone would have pointed that out to the hearing.
    The process of science takes place in the peer reviewed literature and not in the discredited statements of someone on the payroll of oil companies. Well, 40% at least.

  15. Alec Johnson says:

    I’m afraid that most Americans won’t see what Joe, I and other commentators here observed. The public needs to hear clearly that Michaels is an industry-funded shill and that his claims, being non-peer reviewed, have the same weight as a National Enquirer article.

    More importantly, if the American public understood the scope of the war against science that the fossil-fuel industry is funding, than we’d all be in much better shape. I’m not sure how one would go about conveying the guts of Oreskes & Conway’s brilliant “Merchants of Doubt,” Hoggins “Climate Coverup,” or the many other publications that highlight this. It is a story that really needs to get out there.

    As this won’t be the last of these hearings, I’m hoping the scientists who testify are able to effectively tar the denialogues they’re forced to sit next to. Also, the progressives remaining in these committees could raise the unsavory connections as well. I’m hoping some of these hearings backfire spectacularly.

  16. Russell says:

    “Your Joke Here !”

    Actually it’s been front and center of Real Climate for weeks:

  17. KAP says:

    Now I get it. Since we don’t know *precisely* what the sulfate aerosol forcing is, the *best* assumption is ZERO.

    It’s all so scientific.

  18. Rob Honeycutt says:

    More evidence that Santer clearly kicked Michaels’ patootie is… WUWT has been almost completely silent on the sub-committee hearings.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Mark S says:
    December 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm
    At the end of the smackdown Michaels asks one of the congressmen to submit questions to him. I’d love to see what questions they submit and his answers. I hope he realizes he’s under oath.

    Me too. Surely these questions and answers will be available in the public record? I hope so.

  20. Chris Winter says:

    Michaels was clearly uncomfortable. Santer was well-prepared, and demolished Michaels on most points. But there were some that didn’t come across as clear wins because what Santer referred to was data or papers unknown to me. The written record will sort it out.

    One thing I hope gets corrected in the video is that Santer’s audio track is out of sync with the vide4o of his mouth, by about 0.3sec.

  21. Leland Palmer says:

    Actually, most people would find this whole exchange simply confusing.

    Without challenging Michaels on his funding, and exposing him as a paid witness, we cannot win these sorts of arguments in a way that will persuade most people.

    Michaels apparently collects salaries from the Cato Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, and CFACT, simultaneously:

    Sourcewatch: Pat Michaels

    Michaels is Editor of the World Climate Report, a blog published by New Hope Environmental Services, “an advocacy science consulting firm”[1] he founded and runs. In an affidavit in a Vermont court case, Michaels described the “mission” of the firm as being to “publicize findings on climate change and scientific and social perspectives that may not otherwise appear in the popular literature or media. This entails both response research and public commentary.”[2] In effect, New Hope Environmental Services is a PR firm.

    Michaels’ firm does not disclose who its clients are, but leaked documents have revealed that several were power utilities which operate coal power stations. On a 2007 academic CV, Michaels disclosed that prior to creating his firm he had received funding from the Edison Electric Institute and the Western Fuels Association. He has also been a frequent speaker with leading coal and energy companies as well as coal and other industry lobby groups.[3]

    Michaels is also associated with a number of think tanks and advocacy groups which dispute global warming. He is a Visiting Scientist with the George C. Marshall Institute, a Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies with the Cato Institute[4] and a member of the Advisory Board of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.[5]

    He has his own PR firm, which does not disclose its client list.

    The forty percent figure he gives for funding from the oil industry is probably also deliberately misleading.

    Chances are, that figure does not include the salaries he receives from Koch (Cato), ExxonMobil (CFACT, George C.Marshall) and Scaife (CFACT, George C. Marshall).

    The truth is, he is a paid advocate. He was put on a panel with real scientists, and by accepting that false equivalence, the Democratic politicians blew it.

    They should have challenged his funding.

    That’s an argument that the public can understand.

  22. American_Idle says:

    Pat Michaels, as an expert, was more than “wrong”. Perjury – “The willful giving of false testimony under oath or affirmation, before a competent place or seat of judgment, upon a point material to a legal inquiry.”