Home > Antarctica, climate change, confirmation bias, fossil fuels, Pat Michaels > WHY Pat Michaels says "The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating"

WHY Pat Michaels says "The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating"

[Update:  I have separately posted for the interest of readers my exchange of emails with Chip Knappenberger, Pat Michael`s colleague at his self-described “advocacy science consulting firm”, New Hope Environmental Services.]

In comments on my preceding post, Antarctic cooling? Or WHY “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating”, Geoffrey Plauche pointed to an essay entitled “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating” at the “World Climate Report” – the website run by former climate scientist, now policy critic Pat Michaels.   Review of Michaels’ piece prompted further work, which I first posted as an update to my prior post.  Given the broader issues raised by that review, I have decided also to post it separately.

When I pointed out to Geoffrey that Michaels’ essay leaves out an awful lot, he replied that Michaels’ piece was clearly “criticizing … the alarmist hype coming from some scientists, some politicians and others (like Gore), and particularly the media”.  Thus I decided to spend a little more time exploring just what it was that Michaels was up to in his essay. 

While a review of the post certainly shows criticism of the press (not scientists) for incomplete disclosure and discussion of data about Antarctica (a criticism that is not in itself unfair), a little further digging reveals that it is Pat Michaels who is being deceptive – for self-acknowledged political and business reasons – by failing to refer to or provide additional background information (noted in my prior post and update) that show that there is plenty of evidence indicating that while Antarctica may be warming more slowly than elsewhere (which was not unexpected), there are ample signs of warming and other changes consistent with GHG forcings.  The Antarctic is already “cooperating” more than we need it to.

Pat Michaels describes the “World Climate Report” as “concise, hard-hitting and scientifically correct” and “exhaustively researched, impeccably referenced, and always timely”.   It is intended as a “response to the global change reports which gain attention in the literature and popular press” that “points out the weaknesses and outright fallacies in the science that is being touted as “proof” of disastrous warming” and is “the perfect antidote against those who argue for proposed changes to the Rio Climate Treaty, such as the Kyoto Protocol, which are aimed at limiting carbon emissions from the United States”.  Michaels trumpets World Climate Report as the “definitive and unimpeachable source for what Nature now calls the “mainstream skeptic” point of view, which is that climate change is a largely overblown issue ….”  http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/about-us/

But who produces the World Climate Report?  Pat Michaels’ personal and self-described “advocacy science consulting firm”, New Hope Environmental Services.  And who hires Pat Michaels?  Well, firms that have a direct financial stake in trying to hang onto their present ability to emit GHGs free of charge into the global atmopsheric commons, of course, even though Pat does his best for his clients’ sake to keep it under his hat. ; http://notes.sej.org/sej/tipsheet.nsf/80c21fb7123767b586256cd0000f3f91/257E45ECA8C523648625735B007503C3?OpenDocument.

It is not surprising that particularly heavy users of the global commons (clearly electric utilities and coal producers in Pat’s case) would like to continue to operate under the same sweet terms that they have up until now, but other users of the global commons of course have the right to their own preferences as well.  But why the secrecy?  Why aren’t the electric utilities and coal producers who support Pat, instead of funding one-sided arguments about science, willing to be straightforward about their preferences so all commons users can discuss how to manage the atmospheric commons?  I suspect that it has something to do with the small problem called “rent-seeking” whenever governments are in the middle of a problem – viz., these fossil fuel interests are trying to influence government in order to get (manintain!) favorable treatment, as opposed to trying to come to terms with others.  Thus the desire to mask their behavior and muddy the science – to influence public opinion and government – rather than forthrightness.

In other words, at least at the World Climate Report, Pat Michaels is in the business of selling climate policy positions.  This is clearly manifested in posts like “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating”, which while “scientifically correct” is much less than scientifically complete, and misleadingly so.  This degree of disingenuousness shows that his motivation isn’t really so much to clarify as it is to muddle – in order to advance his own policy preferences and/or those of his clients.  While Pat and his clients are fully entitled to their own preferences, they are not entitled to their own facts.  If Pat wants to really advance our understanding of climate developments, he should be providing a rounder picture, rather than feeding factoids to those who are happy to pretend (or continue to fool themselves) that there is no scientific case for ongoing climate change (and a significant human role in it).

But as “skewed but technically accurate” science is what Pat’s clients want, it’s hard to fault him for doing his best to be responsive to them.  But it nevertheless behooves us to be aware, when Pat speaks, who has actually paid for his voice, and why, so we might better know how to weigh his words.  Otherwise we are simply allowing ourselves to be manipluated by others, others who are happy to play on the confirmation biases of readers who are predisposed to believe either that man is not influencing the climate or that it is not a “problem” that we should invite our governments to address.

I refer readers to my prior post (and update) to review additional information on what is happening in the Antarctic. 

Here’s to hoping for greater forthrightness, both on the science and on our respective preferences with respect to what is a shared – an indispensible – common resource.

  1. TokyoTom
    March 5th, 2008 at 18:29 | #1

    I think it`s clear that I`m talking about Pat Michaels` work on the World Climate Report, not Pat Michaels generally. This particular piece is so one-sided that it`s really hard not to wonder – and see – why.  

    Did you miss my update to my first post, where I went to some trouble also to point out the science that Michaels` conveniently omitted?

    I`ll take a look later at your references. But cui bono is a necessity when we`re discussion rent-seeking, not an ad hominem. And yes, it`s perfectly appropriate to look in all directions.

  2. March 5th, 2008 at 15:59 | #2

    Oh geez. You’re going to play the “source of funding” card? I’m disappointed.

    You realize that you’ve descended into ad hominem, right? That’s what attempting to discredit someone’s substantive views by resource to their alleged or actual, partial or total source of funding amounts to.



    Way to go lumping yourself in with the hypocritical leftist-statist alarmists.

    You want to talk about money? All right, let’s play that game.





    So much for the credibility of Al Gore, RealClimate and GreenPeace, if we take your ad hominem tactic as a serious method of criticizing their substantive views.

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