Cato Climate Skeptic Comes Clean

November 28, 2017

I posted an interview with Jerry Taylor, formerly a top-gun climate skeptic mouthpiece for the conservative Cato Institute, that drew a lot of comment.

Taylor described his journey from denial to reason. He adds some details above.
Have been playing a guessing game to figure out who he’s talking about when he describes a Cato Colleague “scientist” who presents a dishonest assessment of climate science.  It can only be Pat Michaels.

Here, from Skeptical Science,  is the discussion of Pat Michael’s deceptive analysis, which matches Taylor’s account.

Reposted from Skeptical Science:

Patrick Michaels is a research fellow at the Cato Institute think tank, the chief editor of the website World Climate Report, has been given a climate blog at the business magazine Forbes, and his articles are frequently re-posted at climate “skeptic” blogs like Watts Up With That (WUWT).  Despite his clear conflict of interest (Michaels has estimated that 40% of his work is funded by the petroleum industry), many people continue to rely on him as a reliable source of climate information.  This is an unwise choice, because Michaels also has a long history of badly distorting climate scientists’ work.  In fact, not only does Michaels misrepresent climate research on a regular basis, but on several occasions he has gone as far as to manipulate other scientists’ figures by deleting parts he doesn’t like.

Patrick Michaels is a serial deleter of inconvenient data.

Hansen 1988

Skeptical Science has previously documented the most high-profile example of Michaels’ serial data deletions, which involved James Hansen’s 1988 study projecting future global warming.  James Hansen is a scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and one of the world’s foremost climate scientists.

Climate scientists aren’t in the business of predicting how human greenhouse gas emissions will change in the future – that is a policy question.  Instead, climate scientists predict how the climate will change in response to a series of possible emissions scenarios (for example, continuing with business-as-usual emissions, dramatically cutting our emissions starting in the year 2020, etc.).  In 1988, Hansen used the NASA GISS climate model to predict how the planet would respond to three possible scenarios.  Scenario A assumed continued exponential (accelerating) greenhouse gas growth.  Scenario B assumed a reduced linear rate of growth, and Scenario C assumed a rapid decline in greenhouse gas emissions around the year 2000.  Hansen believed Scenario B was the most likely to come to fruition, and indeed it has been the closest to reality thus far.  In the summer of 1988, Hansen presented his results in testimony before U.S. Congress.

Ten years later, with the Kyoto Protocol international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the works, Patrick Michaels was invited to testify before Congress about the state of climate science.  He spoke of Hansen’s 1988 study, and in the process, grossly misrepresented its projections and accuracy by deleting Scenarios B and C, wrongly asserting that the planet had warmed “more than four times less than Hansen predicted.”

Original Version


Michael’s Version 


James Hansen had this to say about Patrick Michaels’ distortion of his work:

“Pat Michaels, has taken the graph from our 1988 paper with simulated global temperatures for scenarios A, B and C, erased the results for scenarios B and C, and shown only the curve for scenario A in public presentations, pretending that it was my prediction for climate change. Is this treading close to scientific fraud?”

Michaels certainly didn’t mess around with his first known case of data deletion, using it to mislead our policymakers as they decided whether or not to commit to reducing American greenhouse gas emissions (they ultimately refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol).  Michaels’ other data deletions, while being equally misleading, were not made on nearly as grand of a stage.

Puzzled by his assertion that the influence of Koch funded Tea Party faction on Republican politics “got its teeth kicked in” in the last election.  I’m seeing just the opposite, so I’ll have to ask him that sometime.

Below, what we knew, and what scientists predicted, in the early 1980s, from archival footage and interviews.

The video below mentions Hansen’s 88 testimony, and how accurately it played out, even in light of a random major volcanic eruption at Mt Pinatubo.




8 Responses to “Cato Climate Skeptic Comes Clean”

  1. Jerry Falwel Says:

    Hansen is the principle author of the Giss model which he put in place when running the place. Any dissenters were sent off to in effect Siberia.

    Hansen has said in the past that any data prior to about 1950 is unreliable which is reasonable considering the lack of world wide stations, gaps in the data and unknown reliability of the measurements. Yet now Giss is claimed to be good back to 1880 so something changed.

    Giss makes a bunch of assumptions about the climate and how it is measured. The most aggressive of those assumptions is the arctic is much warmer than the actual reading so the numbers are adjusted upwards. Barrow Alaska , for example , was adjusted upwards from the actual reading by one degree which is a huge adjustment. Another aggressive assumption is the claim if a station if out of line with surrounding stations the data is thrown out and average of surrounding stations is substituted in its place or they simply throw it out altogether. So the result is a fake temperature from stations which can be hundreds and in the early years, thousands of miles away. The claim the readings need to be adjusted for altitude and time of day is reasonable but it falls flat when they are busy adjusting Barrow Alaska and Miami Florida upwards at the same time both of which measured at the same time of day and are essentially at sea level.

    Giss used to be in fair agreement with the satellite data until Hansen and his fellow adjusters got busy adjusting. Now the satellite data shows colder and Giss shows warmer. My skepticism comes from the fact that when you make adjustments it usually requires the result to be supported by some independent source which is not the case with Giss. Other similar surface measurements use the same data and much the same adjustments such as the Hadcrut series so they are not in fact independent sources. I will leave the argument to the reader to decide if the adjustments are making the data fit reality or not.

    • Marco Says:

      Jerry, RSS v4 TLT gives a larger trend than GISTEMP. Explain how this fit with your claim that “Now the satellite data shows colder and Giss shows warmer.”

      You also seemed to be blissfully unaware that the changes made to the satellite records have caused massive changes in trends that are much larger than those for GISTEMP. Just as an example: the latest change from v5.6 to v6.0 in UAH TLT has made the trend drop from 0.155 per decade to 0.127 per decade. A change of more than 15% in trend in one update alone. With the first version of the UAH software you’d probably still get a negative trend, however…

    • grindupbaker Says:

      No numbers in your babble. That’s why it’s babble. Here’s a number. Arctic is 3% of Earth’s surface area. I have more numbers. If you think GMST went up 0.96 degrees since 1880, not 1.06 degrees, then state that. No numbers in your stuff and we all know why. Socio-politico only you are. Not the slightest interest in physical science from you. Your comments state it as clearly as a cardboard sign around your neck.

  2. Jerry Falwel Says:

    There is something else to consider. When data is presented, the normal practice is to keep the original data forever to allow fellow science types to do independent analysis of the data. Unfortunately Giss is not doing that. All those changes are being dumped on top of changes so the original data is no longer available. You cannot get a side by side comparison of the data at any government source. At one time Berkeley did have a side by side comparison of the adjusted and unadjusted data. It no longer does that. To me that is both bad science and politics at work.

    • Marco Says:

      Jerry, the original data is kept at NCEI. You can go there and get all the data you want at your leisure. You can do the independent analysis you want to do. You do not need a *user* of the data (GISS) to store the data it *receives* from the original source: NCEI.

      Arguments from ignorance are bad science, Jerry.

  3. mboli Says:

    Denier arguments are manufactured, and they aren’t science.

    How else to look at an example like this? Did Michaels print out the graph and use white-out to doctor it, then re-scan the result? Do we imagine him with an early version of some photo editing software? Remember, this was 20 years ago that Michaels produced the doctored graph. It seems more likely he used a straight-edge to carefully read the y-axis numbers and re-plotted the graph. Or maybe he got the numbers for the three scenarios from Hansen’s group, and plotted the one he wanted.

    I can’t think of any way to look at that and say “Michaels was committing science.” He wasn’t producing any data of his own. He wasn’t providing any analysis of data. He wasn’t synthesizing some result from assorted data sets. He wasn’t matching the data with some physical process. No new science, no new understanding resulted from this exercise. No earlier science or understanding was confirmed or disputed.

    Michaels was doing what the deniers always do. He went through the stuff that real scientists do, found a way to pick some small subset of it that he didn’t like, and published that.

    Next year they find something different. But what there isn’t an accumulating body of denier science. Each year’s contributions don’t add up to a bigger understanding. Each year’s contributions lasts until debunked or forgotten, and they move on. Finding some new graph to white out.

  4. indy222 Says:

    Deniers are fond of “baffling with bullshit” science’y buzz-words like “satellite” data to convince the dupes that it MUST be superior than old-fashioned thermometers on the ground.
    Here’s how the satellite data, taken raw, serves the deniers purpose. The troposphere is warming, especially at the ground where sunlight is absorbed. The stratosphere is COOLING because of the very same CO2, because the mean-free-path for the IR photons is so large up there that the IR can escape, and because temperature is a measure of the kinetic energy of the entire molecule, which now hold internal energy from the collisions. Since the mean free path of the long wave IR photons drops below the ability to escape somewhere near the top of the troposphere, this is where the satellites are measuring temperature. Now, that’s ~ halfway between a place where temperatures are RISING steeply (the ground) and where temperatures are DROPPING significantly (the stratosphere). Hence you get the BS claim that “global warming has stopped!”.

    Try explaining that to a less literate audience and you get exactly what they want – lies accepted, global climate policy killed, and a grim future for all… but short term profits for the liars.

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