Archive for the ‘Knappenberger’ Category

Confirmation bias, rent-seeking and the rush to print the latest climate science "scoop" (Lindzen-Choi)

September 4th, 2009 1 comment

Since I`m in Tokyo and deprived of Bob Murphy`s enviable access, via talk radio, to cutting-edge climate science, I thank him using his blog to bring it to the attention of his audience (which occasionally includes me). Says Bob (emphasis added):

Chip Knappenberger explains
the significance (and remaining holes to be plugged) in the recent
Lindzen-Choi paper that’s got talk radio in such a tizzy
. The opening
sentence: “MIT climate scientists Richard Lindzen and collaborator
Yong-Sang Choi soon-to-be published paper (Geophysical Research
Letters, American Geophysical Union) pegs the earth’s “climate
sensitivity”—the degree the earth’s temperature responds to various
forces of change—at a value that is about six times less than the “best
estimate” put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Well, well, if talk radio is covering a new article that purportedly downplays climate risks, then others who have invested time in casting doubt

I`ve blogged previously about my various conversations with Chip Knappenberger, who is employed by the self-described “advocacy” group of Pat Michaels, New Hope Environmental Services.

I went to pay a visit to his post at Rob Bradley`s pro-coal, “free market” MasterResource blog, which I have discussed on any number of occasions here – especially after Mr. Bradley unceremoniously withdrew the welcome mat for libertarian critics (yours truly) while in mid-conversation with (and without notice to) several of his guest bloggers.

I reviewed Chip`s precis of the Lindzen-Choi paper and attempted to leave comments at MasterResource, but they were “disappeared” as soon as they were posted, so I forwarded a copy of my comments by email directly to Chip, which I copy below (with minor edits):

Chip, I couldn`t resist trying to comment on your post at MR, and
checking to see if Rob still has his blog set up to automatically
exclude all of my comments. Unfortunately, he still seems to be
convinced that a principled and libertarian approach (or his clients`
needs) requires maintaining his echo chamber by excluding me.

To check the sophistication of his method, I have for the first time
just tried commenting anonymously (I have until stayed away and simply
hoped Rob would change his mind), and to my surprise the comment went
through – though it is “awaiting moderation”. [update: this post has now received immoderate , “echo chamber” moderation]

I thought I would give you a head`s up on my pending comment, which I
do not expect to see published – but who knows?  Strange things
sometimes happen, such as Rob quoting with approval a link to a
comment that I have made:

My comment is below; I will wait until tomorrow before cross-posting
at my own blog.



[comment left at MasterResource]
“It is too early to tell whether Lindzen and Choi’s findings will
prove to be the end-all be-all in this debate.”

But it`s not too early for you, for others who act as paid mouthpieces
for fossil fuel and others who wish to avoid policy action, to trumpet
this as yet unpublished paper all over the intertubes, is it Chip?

By the way, continuing studies on the “sensitivity” of temperatures to
GHG increases should not lead us to ignore either the problem of ocean
acidification from our accelerating CO2 build-up or the very exquisite
sensitivity of the Earth`s climate and ecosystems to the 0.6 C average
temp increase that we have experience over the past 50 years
(remaining stuck at a peak for the past 10).  The Arctic and temperate
zone glaciers continue to rapidly thaw, and other changes affecting
ecosystems and human livelihoods are still underway.

I note I have seen very preliminary remarks by James
, and by

Schmidt here

“a waste of time and effort”

More directly, don`t you mean that such efforts would cost your clients money?

Sure, there are reasonable grounds to dispute practically any use of
government (though I note that Exxon and Margo Thorning of the ACCF
are both expressly advocating carbon taxes), but let`s not pretend to not

that those speaking most loudly in support of our radical, ongoing
planet-wide “experiment” on the affect of GHG emissions and albedo
changes are precisely the investors and firms (and their mouthpieces)
who benefit from the status quo (leaving all of these activities
unpriced), while it`s the world`s populations more generally who end
up with all of the risks.

This climate experiment and those paid to provide it cover are hardly
a “conservative” or “libertarian” enterprise.

I note that Bob Murphy is no climate expert, but simply posting blindly about something that he thinks cuts in the direct he wants; in a similar vein, Knappenberger also evidently is puffing the importance of a scientific article that is hot off the presses, but can`t be troubled to link to any articles providing additional context. (A recent blog post and comments by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit also point out the difficulties in reaching conclusions from the new research.)

I also note, as I have previously, that not only Chip but Bob as well – when he has on his “economist for IER” (which is a coal and public utility front group that was de-funded last year by Exxon) hat – are, at least in part, being compensated to undercut climate change policy.

In this context, we all are prone to note evidence that fits into our existing world view, while discounting contrary information, such “confirmation bias” is readily apparent in the internet and radio coverage of this piece.  While climate change and climate policy are certainly hot topics, it doesn`t seem to me that the so-called “skeptics” are at all taking this new study skeptically, but are instead eagerly lapping it up, assume it is good news, are are loudly trumpeting it. Now who`s fooling whom?  Many “skeptics” look just like the “alarmist” “global warming cult” “believers” whom they abhor.

Unfortunately, while it`s impossible to know what Rob and Chip are actually thinking and why, it`s clear that a dangerous mix of self-deception, confirmation bias and rent-seeking permeates the tribal conflicts that we are seeing in current over the use of government, not the least in the case of climate change, which is a difficult scientific and policy issue.


Duelling climate policy parables: in the face of RealClimate`s "tragedy of the commons", MasterResource`s Emperor has no clothes

May 26th, 2009 No comments

I`ve done a bit of blogging over the past few weeks regarding the “The tragedy of climate commons” post by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt and ensuing discussion at the RealClimate website.  Schmidt wrote the post in response to the implied suggestion by Chip Knappenberger at the MasterResource blog that, since unilateral policy action by the US would by itself be unlikely to significantly affect future climate (given the the rapid growth in CO2 emissions by China, India etc.), the wisest course for the US would be to do nothing.  

Knappenberger has now responded to Schmidt, this time with a parable of his own.  Knappenberger has good points, but he and Schmidt are talking past each other.  Since Rob Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research (BTW, no longer funded by pro-carbon-tax Exxon, all of you Exxon-haters out there) and founder/manager of MasterResource, won`t let me post at his self-proclaimed “free-market energy blog”, I put up a few thoughts at RealClimate, which I copy below (one typo fixed and link added below):


Allow me to stir the pot a bit, as it doesn`t appear that anyone has noticed Chip Knappenberger`s response to Gavin, in tbe form of his own climate parable, using the “Emperor`s new clothes” theme.

Waxman-Markey appears as the new clothes, with Chip apparently taking on the role of the bright and persistent voice of the insufficiently jaded little boy who can`t help but to see the truth, and bravely refuses to be cowed.

Some of the criticisms of W-M seem fair to me – after all, they manifest precisely the reasons that Jim Hansen has taken a strong stance in favor of more transparent and rebated carbon taxes over the pork and bureaucracy that comes with cap and trade.

1. But Chip is still failing to address the main premise of Gavin`s tragedy of the commons fisheries analogy: there is a commons problem that requires coordinated action (a multi-player, repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma), and the only way out requires initial measures at trust-building, with more effective measures to follow when the parties can agree on burden sharing and enforcement.

Thus Chip is simply perpetuating the problem that I have noted here:

“Unfortunately, what passes for discussion on climate change (and other environmental issues) is too often people talking past each other (frequently with all of the hallmarks of a tribal battle): some correctly see a looming commons problem that requires government regulation but ignore the risks of pork, partiality and wasted resources in the policies themselves, while others, not anxious for government to expand its regulatory purview, downplay or dismiss the resource problem and focus on the downsides of government action or the motives of those calling for government action (while ignoring those invested heavily in a status quo that is replete with moral hazard).

Capitalism, the destructive exploitation of the Amazon and the tragedy of the government-owned commons

2. Further, while Chip has good reason to criticize all of the pork that is loaded into the W-M hairshirt – there certain ARE plenty of corporate interests seeking to use climate policy to get sweet deals from government – it`s more than a bit coy of him to paint the critics of W-M as relative innocent truth-tellers, while somehow failing to note all of the sweet deals built into the status quo that fossil fuel firms, utilities, automakers and their investors have long enjoyed. (Not to mention that these interests have hardly been turned away from the W-M and other pork troughs.)

Chip`s convenient oversight might have something to do with the fact that the public advocacy firm he shares with Pat Michaels is funded by coal interests, as Marion Delgado points out in #677, and as I have previously discussed directly with Chip: Pat Michaels – scientist AND paid advocate. Correspondence with Chip Knappenberger.

It doesn`t end there, unfortunately, as Chip is posting on the “MasterResource” blog run by Rob Bradley, who is CEO of the coal-industry-funded Institute for Energy Research. For the sin of pointing out the political-favor-protection game that IER and MasterResource are engaged in, Rob Bradley has exercised his Constitutional right to ban me from the MasterResource blog (mid-conversation with, but without notice to, Chip, as it turns out).

So sure, let`s fight the pork as best we can, Chip, but let`s not ignore the fact since there are NO property rights in the atmosphere or climate, markets are not protecting it, but instead steadily producing an ever-growing tragedy of the commons. Care to acknowledge that, or to offer any suggestions?


Rent-seekers at the Core: Rob Bradley is anxious to defend his role at Enron, but is uninterested in balance, open debate or correcting his own misstatements about EXXON's support for carbon taxes

May 10th, 2009 No comments

Apparently Rob Bradley`s self-proclaimed “free-market” energy blog, “MasterResource”, has experienced a recent increased flow of traffic, so Rob is busy patting himself on the back and spinning his blog to his new readers.

But what`s the reason for the increased traffic?  Is MasterResource finding more success at putting out a message of “free-market” energy and “principled entrepreneurship“?*

* This is a purportedly trademarked(!) phrase that encapsulates Bradley`s laudable professed beliefs that (i) “businesses, big or small, should not seek special favors from government but create private wealth via the economic means rather than the political means” and that (ii) “government activism, not consumer choice in a free society, is the major threat to energy sustainability”.

Far from it – in the face of the growing stream of unbalanced (pro-fossil fuels and “clean” coal), partisan, thinly argued, and some surprisingly not pro-free-market posts from MasterResource and its related sites, the Institute for Energy Research (of which Bradley is founder and CEO) and IER`s “independent grassroots affiliate”, the newly re-founded energy front group American Energy Alliance (which calls IER its “partner”), these groups and blogs have basically simply been earning negative attention from those they see as their opposition in a classic rent-seekers` battle over using government (via public opinion tools) to achieve economic and other ends.  IER has been busy pushing for greater energy production on “public” lands, while AEA, with the help of Burston-Marsteller, has created affliliates in every state, and is running a large “integrated education and advocacy campaign” against the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill (which AEA prefers to misleadingly call simply an “energy tax bill”).

As I noted in another post and in comments regarding a puzzled reaction by Bob Murphy (who has found himself the target of attacks as a result of speaking on behalf of IER against Obama`s green jobs program), this is too bad, not only because one of the first casualties in a war of words is truth and reason.  MasterResource and the folks Bradley runs with at IER and AEA are assembling their own “Baptists and Bootleggers” coalition, where market principles are given lip service (along with patriotism, energy independence and the like), but the funders appear to all have rather more common-place and less lofty motives.  The descent into partisan bickering (while Bradley tries to maintain a lofty tone, it`s easily seen elsewhere by those who pick up posts from his blog, IER and AEA) is too bad, but the natural consequence when one acts as a spokesman for particular classes of rent-seekers.

That this state of affairs – professing the high ground while fronting for rent-seekers (or “political capitalists”, to use a term that Bradley prefers) – is what Rob Bradley actually desires, seems to be attested to:

– (1) by the alacrity by which Bradley has rushed to defend himself and IER against criticisms that were generated in response to commentary from Master Resource and IER, while deliberately obfuscating and refusing to correct the record about ExxonMobil`s fairly dramatic change in position – from opposition to government action on climate financial support to cutting off funding for IER and to actively supporting carbon taxes (Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson: “It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in the business community and beyond will come to share.”); and

– (2) of course, by the fact that, despite Bradley`s professed call to “Let the analysis and debate continue–and assume the best of intentions and civil discourse from all of us at MasterResource,” he banned me from the site, without explanation, and without the knowledge or consent of his “volunteer” co-bloggers in mid-conversations (Tom Tanton carried the conversation to my blog, while Chip Knappenberger responded by email, and I just discovered that Marlo Lewis, weeks after I was banned, posted a rejoinder).

Sure, Rob, let the “high-level” discourse continue, with nary an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of others`s preferences, of the role of government in frustrating such preferences so far, and of the firms and investors that continue to benefit from government interventions at the expense of consumers and the public weal. 

Heaven forbid anyone call for greater competition in power markets, for finding ways to rein in the mismanagement of the federal lands that your friends are itching to drill/mine, or for a frank acknowledgment that the world faces a number of “environmental” problems as a result of a lack of clear or enforceable private or communal property rights in important shared resources.

It`s the Austrian/libertarian/Objectivist way, after all.

Do actions speak louder than words?

Strange but true: in the context of climate & fisheries, enviros discuss property rights, cooperation and the tragedy of the commons

May 9th, 2009 No comments

Here, in the belly of the Beast – the ” RealClimate” blog by climate scientists.

Anybody wanna chip in?

So far, comments by yours truly are as follows:

134. TokyoTom Says:

thanks for a thoughtful post that I hope will be brought to the
attention of every so-called “skeptic” – none of whom has any basis to
deny that there are simply NO property rights protecting the atmosphere
(or the oceans).

As a result, to prevent a continuing “tragedy of the commons” the
nations of the world, we need to make a collective effort to manage what
is, after all, a shared resource.

It`s nice to see that others see that where there are no formal or
informal property rights or similar mechanisms, all incentives point to


171. TokyoTom Says:

rights are not an end-all or be-all, but they are a linchpin in
understanding the dynamics of the tragedy of the commons problem.
Resources that are owned – formally or informally, in common or
privately – are husbanded, at least much better that when they are not.

This is a key point to keep hammering home with “conservatives”,
“skeptics” and ordinary people, whom can all recognize that market
demands produce a tragedy of the commons whenever valuable resources
are not owned (or cannot be protected) by those who use them.

When there is ownership, (1) users have incentives to invest in
protecting what, after all, supports their own livelihoods and, even
further, (2) those who also care about the resource have an ability to
also protect the resource – by investing it themselves, or by making
other private, market decisions, such as to boycott particular owners
and to favor others.

When there is no ownership, there is very limited ability by anyone
to protect the resource directly, and what we are left with is a battle
of words.

Of course a corollary problem that requires attention is that when
resources are “publicly” owned, such resources may in fact be treated
as a commons, or something that politicians and bureaucrats dole out to
whomever is in favor – witness the environmental destruction in
communist states, the logging of “public” tropical forests, and our own
continued mismanagement of public lands.

In that case of fisheries, this is so readily apparent that even the
mainline environmental groups are now calling for giving fishermen
property rights in the fish they catch in order to end the destructive
race to catch them:

Meanwhile, concerned citizens continue to misunderstand the key
dynamics of environmental problems, and to miss opportunities to rub
the faces of “market” fundamentalists and “conservatives” in the
obvious lack of property rights in the atmosphere (and a related
inability of those adversely affected by using the atmosphere as a
dumping ground to seek redress from those who profit from using it as

[Update] Rot at the Core: Rob Bradley at "free market" MasterResource blog shows his true colors as a rent-seeker for fossil fuels

March 11th, 2009 2 comments

[Update:  I`ve added more background on Exxon, “Malthusians” and productive engagement.]

How has Rob Bradley showed his hand?  By shutting down reasoned (if challenging) debate at his blog, in the face of comments that were certainly more “free market” than displayed by Rob himself and his co-bloggers.

In a series of posts here and in comments at his blog, I have been critical of a number of obviously skewed and uninformative posts at MasterResource, the self-proclaimed “free market” energy blog of Rob Bradley‘s Institute for Energy Research, that downplay climate risks, cheer on coal and fossil fuels and point out problems with alternatives, while disappointingly show little evidence of a commitment to or understanding of free markets, much less a commitment to libertarian principles.  

Rob has fairly consistently simply ignored difficult questions from me on his posts, but what does he do when his guest bloggers (in particular, (a) Tom Tanton of  Pacific Research Institute, who jumped in on a post by Rob on drawbacks to wind that ignores the external costs of coal, and (b) climate scientist/paid policy consultant Chip Knappenberger) have no good answers to my comments and questions?  Even when I am just responding to his guest bloggers and others on the thread, he simply stops posting my remarks.  I am now blocked (“on moderation”) on all threads.  Granted, both Tanton and Knappenberger were in difficulty, but rather than allowing all (including other readers) to learn by having an open conversation, he apparently decided that open discourse with someone who can hold their own isn`t worth the potential embarrassment and distraction from the “mission”.  Tanton, to his credit, though he shows little understanding of market principles, at least chased me back to my linked blog post to throw in a few more parting words.

Of course the blog his plaything – or that of whoever funds it for him – so it’s entirely his right to decide whom he allows to comment.  But by deciding that hard questions and critical comments from a fundamentally libertarian, market perspective were too inconvenient, he’s tipped his hand that his interest is not in promoting “free markets” in energy, but in protecting the interests of his fossil fuel funders.  I noted on a previous post by Rob that boosted coal while bashing the “Malthusian anti-energy crusade” that:

I haven’t concluded here that Rob’s a rent-seeker; more evidence would be needed, but it’s fair to inquire and to wonder.

However, Austrians are problem solvers, not trying to win government
favor for a particular industry or bashing those with different views
for the benefit of clients.
It doesn’t looking like Rob is trying very
hard to be even-handed.

I think it’s fair to question what precisely are the objectives and
who is funding Rob, “Master Resources”, the Institute for Energy
Research, the American Energy Alliance and affiliated
institutions/personages. My understanding is that fossil fuel firms are
the principal funders, and it looks like the funding is rather generous.

So the jury is now in.

Too bad, as it’s just another manifestation of how powerful corporate interests work to manipulate the public debate (of course the wealthy citizens and corporations that fund enviros also deserve mention).  Further, it`s a turning away from principled and productive engagement over resource problems and the role of government in providing, facilitating or getting in the way of solutions to them. 

I queried Rob about his methods of engagement in response to a post by him entitled “Long Live King Coal?” in which he said that “coal looks to remain a mainstay in the domestic energy mix and bodes to help defeat the Malthusian anti-energy crusade.”  My comment?:

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 2:50 am }

are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and
others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by
improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a
“Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you
didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA,
with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and
indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out
how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from
our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to
reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional
underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some
of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

Interestingly, though, apparently ExxonMobil – a well-run firm that Rob Bradley praises – has decided to actively promote carbon taxes. As I pointed out in a recent post, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson,in a speech on February 17 at the Stanford University-centered Global Climate and Energy Project (the world`s largest, and internationally collaborative research prject focussed on clean energy), which Exxon commenced funding six years ago and has committed $100 million over ten years to, specifically endorsed carbon taxes AND pointed out its support as an effort to persuade others:

is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this
case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives
under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best
course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in
the business community and beyond will come to share.”

This must pain Rob to no end, as IER was once funded by Exxon; Exxon cut off funding last year to IER and certain other climate change denial groups.  An Exxon spokesman noted:

“We discontinued contributions to several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention
from the important discussion about how the world will secure the
energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible

Rob`s skewed data flow and perhaps even his own denial on climate science, investments and politics could be seen on his recent post in which he highlights comments from Exxon`s Tillerson about Exxon`s unwillingness to invest in renewables due to the unreliability of the government-provided incentives.  When I managed to get in a comment that pointed out Tillerson`s explicit endorsement  of carbon taxes, Rob responded that Exxon had not endorsed carbon taxes, but had argued that carbon taxes were simply preferrable to cap and trade.  Rob`s parsing of Exxon is ridiculous, as Exxon has clearing been signalling for the past few years that it believes that coordinated government action on climate change is merited.  But on top of that, I responded to Rob with a link to Tillerson`s Stanford speech, which clearly shows that Exxon HAS endorsed carbon taxes and that Rob is wrong.  But Rob won`t post this correction (which I made in earlier “moderated” comments as well), obviously preferring to continue to mislead his readers (with the statement that “ExxonMobil has not come out in favor of a carbon tax or pricing carbon
per se
; they favor a tax over cap-and-trade. Two different things.”).

If Rob doesn’t want to let me in over there (I’m hoping he’ll change his mind), I guess I’ll just have to start an “anti-MasterResource” thread here.  Maybe I’ll see if I can get funding from Exxon!

Chris Horner/CEI: Confused or alarmist on Kuznets, China and climate?

August 9th, 2008 No comments

The right-wing Business & Media Institute has published a rather confused piece by Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in which Horner, while noting China’s progress along the environmental Kuznets curve (as I discuss here), prefers to wring his hands that the West, in order to deal with climate change, may feel compelled to adopt the same strong-arm approach that China has taken to trying to partially clear its filthy skies over Beijing during the Olympics. 

But Horner has his paradigms all mixed up. Environmental Kuznets curves are discussed with respect to particular countries – and for good reason, as a society’s response to externalities is largely dependent upon the particular mix of property rights and other institutions which such society may rely on to protect its people and their property from harms generated by economic activity.  But despite Horner’s worst nightmares, there is no “world government” (even as growing trade and wealth is gradually bringing different countries together and establishing a very interconnected world, a world that encourages China by allowing it to host the Olympics), much less a red-handed governing elite that can impose its will on the rest of a powerless world.

Indeed, while one might very well conceive of a global Kuznets curve, it’s quite obvious that information and transaction costs, political disunity and differences in wealth and perspective across the nations of the world make it very difficult indeed for self interested countries to reach meaningful and enforceable agreements with respect to shared resources like the atmosphere.  Even so, we are more likely to see such a political agreement or resource-management much earlier than we are to see the establishment of a unified global government that is capable of exercising a monopoly on force the way the Chinese government does.

It’s the very difficulty in reaching such agreements that underlies some of the pessimism among many that man is capable of addressing in a coordinated and meaningful way various global and regional problems, from those relating to unowned or open access resources to those relating to development and poor/kleptocratic governance (from Zimbabwe to the USA).

Further, on climate change discussions, the effort has stumbled not because of strong-arming of the kind that alarms Horner, but because Western nations have tried to craft overly sophisticated and bureaucratized trading mechanisms (based in large part on US insistence and experience) that were intended to reduce costs overall.


Accordingly, Horner’s “alarmism” is rather surprising.  One would think that the difficulties that the enviros have encountered in trying to coordinate global climate change policy would hearten Horner, who is a strong climate change skeptic, both on the science and on policy grounds.  Is Horner secretly concerned that maybe the enviros are right, and that delay on the policy front is buying us unavoidable future costs – in which case governments might decide to act with greater alacrity that they have shown to date?  If not, what is he worried about?

We’ve encountered “beam me up” Chris Horner before; as previously, I find his views to be puzzling – unless Horner, like “skeptical” scientists Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, is becoming a warmer.  As Michaels and Knappenberger wrote in January:

“First off, it will take nothing short of a miracle for the 50% reduction to take place, and secondly, it probably wouldn’t stop the temperature from rising 2ºC above “natural” levels. …

“But the targets won’t come close to being met as a bits-and-pieces solution will not achieve the goal of halving current global CO2 emissions by the year 2100—much less any year before then. In fact, more than likely, these legislative efforts will not, to any noticeable degree, even begin to separate the blue and the red curves for a long time to come—far too long to avoid elevating global temperature 2 degrees above “natural” levels. 

That’s what the future holds in store. Get used to it.”




Pat Michaels – scientist AND paid advocate. Correspondence with Chip Knappenberger

April 2nd, 2008 No comments

In an earlier blog post  – WHY Pat Michaels says “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating” – I raised questions about the objectives and role of Pat Michaels in the political debate about climate change and climate change-related policy, and suggested that readers should bear in mind his self-described role as an “advocate” (for particular interested parties) in weighing the work that appears on his website, the “World Climate Report”.  Pat is a well-known commentator on climate change who has published many opinion pieces and along with some intermittent applied work, principally on human adaptation to rising urban temperatures:  The World Climate Report is published by Pat’s advocacy group, New Hope Environmental Services – which proudly trumpets on the first line of its web page that “New Hope
Environmental Services is an advocacy science consulting firm

By email, I alerted Pat Michaels to my post, and received a response from his colleague and fellow climate scientist-turned-advocate-blogger, Chip Knappenberger.  Chip and I exchanged several rounds of emails, which Chip kindly agreed that I might post publicly. Hence, this update to my prior post.

As further background, I note that my prior post was prompted by Walter Block‘s recent post, “Welcome to the new Ice Age“.  When I posted information here on the progress of understanding of climate change affecting the Southern Hemisphere and Antarctic (“Antarctic cooling?), Geoffrey Plauche directed me to the essay “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating” at Pat Michael’s website.  I thank Geoffrey for his reference.

The following are copies of my emails with Chip Knappenberger, unedited other than to remove email addresses (and to highlight a few points):


From: TokyoTom

To:      Pat Michaels


Sent:     Wednesday, March 05, 2008 1:49 PM


Subject: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?


Dear Pat:


It seems to me that your recent “exhaustively researched, impeccably referenced” post on Antarctica at the World Climate Report leaves quite a few important things out.  Accordingly, while your piece may be “timely” and “hard-hitting”, I fail how you can assert that it is “scientifically correct”, except in a very narrow and less than frank manner, that rather than informing panders to the cognitive biases of those who would prefer to believe that there is nothing to discuss, much less be concerned about.


I’ve posted a few remarks at on my blog (on the largely libertarian LVMI site); if I’ve been unfair, I hope you’ll let me know.  I`m sorry, but I think this kind of one-sided post undermines your credibility.


Me:  (in the Update)









“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman




from    Chip Knappenberger

to        TokyoTom

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 6, 2008 4:27 AM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?



Dear TokyoTom,


I must admit to be struggling a bit as to just what it is that you would like us to try to respond to.  Most of your blog posting espouses your personal opinions about the motives behind Dr. Michaels and New Hopes activities. Obviously these are your opinions and you are entitled to them, whether I agree with them or not.  So I won’t respond to them, as doing so would will prove fruitless. Just my opinions against yours. You needn’t have rooted your opinions in our recent Antarctica article, as I am sure that any of our World Climate Report postings would have served just as well.


Our “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating” piece was our coverage of the new publication from Monaghan et al. I don’t think we unfairly characterized that work.  Admittedly Monaghan et al. did talk about some weak non-robust possible upwards temperature trends during the past 10 years, but they were mostly grounded in the starting point, and not a robust result.  So we didn’t include that in our discussion.


We did not attempt in this piece to do a full review of the climate goings-on around Antarctica, as we cover the topic with a fairly high frequency, so we have a large body of articles that can be readily found in the WCR archives (, and which discuss most (if not all) of the bulleted points that you provided from the BAS or from Hansen.


Our take on the matter certainly seems different from yours, but I don’t think that our take is scientifically unsupportable, by any stretch. True, we don’t hype the alarmist claims, but rather highlight scientific results that stand counter to those claims (in Antarctica and around the world).


And, please, don’t get us wrong, we are not declaring that anthropogenic climate changes are not occurring, and will not continue to occur, simply that they will be on the low side of the ranges given by the IPCC–and that there is little than can, or need, be done to try to counter them.


Clearly your opinions may differ on the matter, but I don’t see where we have misrepresented the findings of the papers that we cover.


I hope that this helps.


Please let me know if you have further questions or comments.




-Chip Knappenberger


New Hope Environmental Services




from    TokyoTom

to        Chip Knappenberger

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 6, 2008 12:30 PM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?


Dear Chip:


I appreciate your response.


First, as to the science of this last Antarctica post, you are being disingenuous.  While purporting to describe “the truth from Antarctica”, this post lacks crucial context that you make no effort to provide or even refer to.  If you’ve got other posts up that provide that context, you should at least link to it.  Absent such context, the interested but under-informed reader comes away with the impression that nothing is happening in Antarctica, that this is inconsistent with the theory and models for anthropogenic climate change and thus, voila, said “anthropogenic climate change” is not occurring.  There are countless people who are just dying to have their confirmation biases affirmed and to leap to such conclusions, which service you and Pat thankfully provide.


In other words, while being strictly accurate on the science, you end up doing a great job of misleading.  If that is not what you intend, then you ought to seriously consider changing your approach.


Of course you have a point – why don’t the media and the “greenhouse advocates” talk more about how the warming picture is complicated and uneven?  Perhaps some of them are making decisions that, for their audience at least, too much detail means too much noise, and less understanding of the big picture rather than more.  But it is perfectly fair [for you] to criticize what you see as inadequate coverage and to seek to fill in details – but that is hardly what you come off doing in this piece.


While you attack “greenhouse advocates” by saying that “the facts are too inconvenient”, and that “Antarctica is definitely not cooperating with this greenhouse scare!”, you also create the impression that there is a strong scientific debate about whether anthropogenic warming is becoming manifest in Antarctica – but without providing any information on what is actually agreed or being debated.  In fact, you take a broad swipe at those who actually work in climate change science instead of policy by referring to recent discussions at Real Climate as an effort by members of the “greenhouse crusade” to fit Antarctica into their version of reality (rather than a discussion of reality), while declining to contest any of the positions they are taking.  Thus we have the rich irony of your site, which is self-avowedly a work of advocacy by two who are no longer hard at work in the field of climate science, putting up very incomplete posts while taking potshots at scientists who are pointing that, in the big picture, as noted by the selfsame IPCC reports that you cite, Antarctica (and the southern hemisphere) is quite different from the north and is not expect to warm at the same rate and in the same manner.  If you disagree with them, then why not argue with them directly, rather than pretending that your rather narrow post is the “inconvenient” “truth”?


This kind of “reporting” simply doesn’t inform, but rather misleads.  And that is why I decided to take a closer look at the “World Climate Report” and New Hope.  As I note in the blog, clearly you guys are in the business, at least here, of selling advocacy services.  Maybe that’s NOT what is driving any of these posts – you tell me.  But it sure explains alot, and I think it’s perfectly fair to point it out to others.  It’s not an ad hominem, but an effort to provide information so we can discern who is speaking for himself, and who is speaking for others.


Please understand that I do not see the interests of fossil fuel producers as evil or wrong per se.  It’s not their fault that the atmosphere is a commons or that the release of GHGs and soot is an unpriced activity.  But rather than trying to manipulate the debate via the science, they should be forthrightly engaging in the debate.  But whenever the government is involved in regulating economic activity or resources, we get this very pernicious dynamic where groups on both sides do their best to paint the others as evil and to spin the science.  I know that Pat, in his Cato hat, is making efforts to step above this.  But his work here continues to perform a disservice (except to his clients) and to undermine his credibility.


By the way, the “opinions” expressed in the blog post are mainly about the dynamics of confirmation bias and rent-seeking that I’ve mentioned again above, not about how New Hope is funded or what its mission is.  Rather, I’ve put forward what you guys expressly state about your mission and links to factual reporting.  If you’ve got more facts to offer that provide more clarity, I’d be happy to hear them.






PS:  Please let me know if you object to putting any of your response up on my blog – unedited, of course.


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman




from    Chip Knappenberger

to        TokyoTom

date      Mar 6, 2008 11:27 PM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?




Please fell free to post my response to you on your blog.


I realize, I guess, that you are not trying to be ad hominem but in your article you referred to Pat as a “former climate scientist, now policy critic” and in your response to me you wrote “two who are no longer hard at work in the field of climate science.”  What exactly do we have to do to keep our “climate scientist” credentials up to date?  While we may not be the most prolific of all researchers, we continue to publish in the peer-reviewed literature and have our work presented at scientific meetings.

At the end of this email is a list of our publications/meeting presentations for 2006-2007.  Currently we are finishing up research for submission on a reconstruction of Greenland melt extent (showing that the ice melt in 2007 was the highest in both the observed and reconstructed melt extent back to 1784) and are attempting to publish a piece in Eos demonstrating that the idea that global warming “stopped” 10 years ago is nonsense. The Eos article is currently under consideration by the editors. Additionally, we continue to work on weather/mortality relationships (although the going has been slow in the past year, it is picking up steam again—this is the nature of scientific research). So we have been and continue to be actively involved in climate research projects and publish in the literature as well as having degrees in the field and have been actively involved in climatology for more than 20 years each.


I am not trying to wave credentials around (because I don’t consider them to be a judge of a persons potential to have good ideas on a topic) but simply am trying to offer something to show that by any definition, I consider Pat and myself to be active climate scientists, and am a bit incredulous that you could think otherwise.


So again, I may ask you what more we have to do such that claims that we are not active participants in the field of climate science do become ad hominem attacks?


As far as World Climate Report goes, I’ll again reiterate that we have a body of material contained on-line, readily available, and organized by subject at our World Climate report site. I often link to our subject collections within our articles, but I don’t always do so. Perhaps, as you suggest, I should make it a more regular habit.  And, in hopes that it will increase the usefulness of our recent Antarctica piece, I will go back and add a link to our general list on Antarctica topics (the same link that I provided you in my previous email).


In my opinion, the biggest scare being put forward from continued fossil fuel use is the spectre of large and rapid sea level rise.  I think that the Monaghan et al. piece is evidence that temperatures changes over Antarctica are not indicating signs that the IPCC’s suggestions that Antarctica will have little contribution to sea level rise in the 21st century are clearly breaking down.  And this is the ultimate conclusion of our piece.


The general public think that Antarctica is melting and warming rapidly, largely because of the din that is raised by researchers and the press about the goings-on over the peninsula.  Our coverage of Monaghan et al. is another in a continuing line of articles that we have written trying to let people know that the peninsula is but a small piece of Antarctica, and that by and large, the rest of the continent does not go as the peninsula goes.


I think that this is a fair exercise.




Scientific Publications/Presentations 2006-2007


McKitrick, R. R., and P. J. Michaels, 2007.  Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded global climate data,  Journal of Geophysical Research,  112,  D24S09,  doi:10.1029/2007JD008465


Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Frauenfeld, O.W., Michaels, P.J., 2007. Observed changes in North Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity using a multivariate model. 2007 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, San Francisco, CA, April 17-21, 2007


Michaels, P. J., P. C. Knappenberger, and R. E. Davis, 2007. Reply to “Comments on ‘Sea-surface temperatures and tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin’ by Kerry Emanuel,” Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L06703, doi:10.1029/2006GL027527.


Davis, R. E., P. C. Knappenberger, P. J. Michaels, and W. M. Novicoff, 2007.  A Mortality-based Heat Wave Climatology for U. S. Cities, 16th Conference on Applied Climatology, American Meteorological Society, San Antonio, Texas, January 14-18, 2007.


Michaels, P.J., P. C. Knappenberger, and R. E. Davis, 2006. Sea-surface temperatures and tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin. Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L09708, doi:10.1029/2006GL025757.


Davis, R. E., P. J. Michaels, and P.C. Knappenberger, 2006.  Global Warming and Atlantic Hurricanes.  2006 Annual Meeting, Association of American Geographers, Chicago IL, March 7-11




from    TokyoTom

to        Chip Knappenberger

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 7, 2008 2:43 AM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?          


Chip, it`s way past my bedtime, but thank you for your response, and for patiently trying to educate me a little more about what you and Pat are doing (which is news to me – but since I haven`t seen that much of your blog I might have missed it even if it was prominent).  Certainly we all have our own confirmation biases, so it`s not always easy to know when we`re seeing clearly and when we`re just deluding ourselves.


I know that Pat is much more informed than others on the “skeptic” side, have earlier corresponded with him about what the acclerated melting [in Greenland] means, and I`ve heard clips of Pat saying that clearly AGW is underway, so I was actually expecting something relatively balanced when I took a look at this latest piece.  But its obvious lack of context and rhetorical swipes at others make it really look like a piece of relatively clever advocacy, intended to hoodwink instead of inform.  It may not be your intention, but the skeptics certainly take it to mean that AGW isn`t real, and that those who say it is are to be laughed off.  That`s what got me off on trying to figure out just what you two are up to, and whether you weren`t being partial and disingenuously so.


I really can`t judge your motives, and I consider it unfortunate that the debate is so politicized that trying to do so is now second nature.  You guys are not to blame for the polticization – it`s something that is endemic whenever governments are in the middle.  I blame partly the governments and partly the rent-seekers, who clearly ARE doing whatever they think works best – including employing you folks – to ensure that they keep getting a good deal (free use of the atmosphere, at costs shifted to others).  Even with government, there probably is room for more neutral (non-government, non-industry) scientific commentary, and hope you keep trying to get there.  But posts like this one, your apparent affiliation with fossil fuel interests (who have an obvious agenda) and what seems to be a consistent tone of attacking “greenhouse crusaders” instead of obvious partisans on both sides – like a bunch of the folks at Planet Gore who like to say that it`s been cooling for 10 years – make it hard to take your protestations really seriously.


But here`s hoping that you really do take the steps needed to be seen as an impartial, fair and reasoned voice.  Your intention to report that the ice melt in 2007 was the highest in both the observed and reconstructed melt extent back to 1784 and that the idea that global warming “stopped” 10 years ago is nonsense both sound like great starts.  When can we expect to see something up on WCR or at Cato?






“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman




from    Chip Knappenberger

to        TokyoTom

date      Mar 7, 2008 4:03 AM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?         




Thanks for your response.


You won’t see anything about our latest research results at either Cato or WCR until we get them published (or give up trying) as prepublication of the results on the web usually disqualifies you from publishing in a journal. So, only time will tell.


As for WCR articles, we are not attempting to be dispassionate observers, but instead are trying diligently to counter alarmist claims that human-induced climate change will lead to some sort of general calamity on earth (that is, in net, worse than the benefits of our current methods of energy production). And further, that proposed restrictions on CO2 emissions are useless in trying to control the future course of the earth’s climate.  For a more detailed view of what I personally think the future holds in store, I refer you to the WCR article in which I laid them out (


I understand that we may see things differently. I don’t see a problem with this.





from    TokyoTom

to        Chip Knappenberger

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 8, 2008 1:41 PM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?


Chip, thank you for your further email.


While I appreciate the partial frankness, I have to say the implications are disturbing.  Since you guys have your own minds made up as to what policy goals are desirable, and [are] not trying to be impartial (or dispassionate) on the science, it seems you are publishing whatever pieces of the science – and rhetorical flourish – that you think will help push policy in the way that you desire.  You are acting primarily as advocates, for a specific policy agenda that dovetails nicely with the interests of your clients.  Accordingly, it is difficult to see what you publish as being even-handed.


You might think that this helps you to achhieve your objectives, but a lack of balance obviously both muddles the debate and may be counterproductive to your own ends by leading many to discount what you have to say.  But I suppose you need to put bread on your tables, and of course he who pays the piper gets to call the tune, so I suppose my idealism here is a bit naive.  But that means discerning readers need to take what you say with a grain of salt, both on the science and the policy you suggest.


FWIW, I did take a look at your “future in store” post and have to say that, by suggesting massive government R&D funding hardly shows much faith in the market.  It would be far better simply for the government to create property rights in GHG emissions and offsets, and let the market do the rest.  We will of course need some regional and local infrastructure investments to cope with climate change, but that`s a different matter.


And as we know from other commons that we`ve manage to overexploit and crash throughout history, the only way to avoid this is to directly manage the commons via property rights or some other mechanism.  Just as we needed either pollution regulation or enforcement of liability claims to deal with more mundane air, ground and water pollution, so we need to do something about the atmosphere.  I`m not thrilled about having the government involved, but in this case there is more than one, so it is more of a negotiation than sheer fiat.  And pricing carbon/GHGs will lead to more rational economic behavior, not less.  There are plenty of efficiency gains to be captured by free markets – perhaps your clients would  appreciate if you`d push for greater utility deregulation, which could help by giving consumers more choice and letting utilities charge marginal costs instead of blended rates that encourage wasteful use.


Many thanks for the dialog.