"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" Pat Michaels - scientist AND paid advocate. Correspondence with Chip Knappenberger - TT's Lost in Tokyo

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

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: http://www.cato.org/people/michaels.html.  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

Cc:

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:  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/03/05/why-pat-michaels-says-quot-the-antarctic-ain-t-cooperating-quot.aspxand http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/03/03/antarctic-cooling.aspx  (in the Update)

 

You:  http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2008/02/27/antarctica-ain%e2%80%99t-cooperating/

 

Sincerely,

 

Tom

 

-- 

“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 (http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/category/climate-changes/polar/antarctic/), 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.

 

Sincerely,

 

-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.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tom

 

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?

 

Tom,

 

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.

 

-Chip

 

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?

 

Sincerely,

 

Tom

 

--

“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?         

 

Tom,

 

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 (http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2008/01/30/what-the-future-holds-in-store/).

 

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

 

-Chip

 

 

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.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tom

Published Wed, Apr 2 2008 10:35 AM by TokyoTom

Comments

# Why Pat Michaels says "The Antarctic Ain't Cooperating"

Monday, March 9, 2009 9:20 AM by TT`s Lost in Tokyo

[Update: I have separately posted for the interest of readers my exchange of emails with Chip Knappenberger

# On climate, myopic progressives console themselves by pointing out fossil $ behind science "skeptics"; but miss the same from left and ignore middle ground

Sunday, February 28, 2010 2:37 AM by TT's Lost in Tokyo

Case in point is Kate Sheppard , reporter on energy and environmental politics in Mother Jones '