There was a time when it was possible to point out an error by way of a rebuttal published as a note in a scientific journal – even in the journal Nature, even when it went against the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming agenda. The late Patrick Michaels had a note published back in 1996 (vol. 384, pg. 522) explaining that there was a major error in research findings by Ben Santer – findings so significant they underpinned the key claim in the second IPCC report that ‘The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.’
Pat Michaels’ career spanned the emergence of global warming as the dominant paradigm underpinning not just atmospheric research but more recently energy policy. His death last week represents not only the loss of a great intellect but also the end of an era.
Pat Michaels is a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society, research professor of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia for 30 years and contributing author and reviewer of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports – reports that more than anything else created the modern illusion of catastrophic warming.
Nowadays a television news bulletin almost always includes climate change – based on the assumption that there is something unusual about the modern climate; that it has been so perturbed by human activity we are heading for catastrophe. There will be some moralising, and an appeal to the authority of science. Some are animated by these reports, some are frightened, but very few can place any of this in any meaningful historical context. If we could, then we would realise that the fear of human-caused climate change is a recent phenomenon. The late Patrick Michaels understood how public choice theory in economics combined with an almost textbook example of how nonsense paradigms can take hold in scientific research created the current faux narrative.
The IPCC was established by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to assess available scientific information on climate change, assess the environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change, and formulate response strategies. The first IPCC assessment report (AR1) was published in 1990, the second (AR2) in 1995, the third (AR3) in 2001, and the sixth and most recent just last August 2022 (AR6). Each IPCC report consists of reviews of ostensibly scientific work on climate, divided into chapters. Each chapter has several lead authors, plus a number of contributors. In the Second Assessment Report (AR2) it is stated on page 4 that:
The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.
This was the first unequivocal claim of a human influence on climate being reported by the world’s leading experts and in an authoritative report. That sentence was read and reported by opinion leaders around the world as a breakthrough; such is the reach of the IPCC assessment reports.
The claim was based on the work of Ben Santer, a physicist and atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, whose job it was to model the effects of human-caused climate change. The nature of his research led to his appointment as the lead author of Chapter 8 of the 1995 report (AR2).
Ben Santer hadn’t actually published the key study on which this claim was based at the time of AR2, in 1995. The research was not published until the next year, 1996. As soon as it was published, it was fact checked by Patrick Michaels who subsequently published the devastating critique in the journal Nature.
Ben Santer’s ‘fingerprinting’ study looked for geographically-limited patterns of observed climate change to compare with patterns as predicted by general circulation models (GCMs). The idea was that by finding a pattern in the observed data that matched the predicted model, a causal connection could be claimed. Except that Patrick Michaels showed that the research on which the key 1995 IPCC ‘discernible influence’ statement is based had used only a portion of the available atmospheric temperature data.
The Santer study was terribly flawed because of the fallacy of incomplete evidence – also known as cherry picking.
Patrick Michaels explained the problem in the chapter he wrote for Climate Change: The Facts 2017. (That chapter has just been made available online courtesy of the IPA, click here.)
The peculiarity of the [Ben Santer] paper was that it covered the period from 1963 to 1987, although the upper-air data required for a three-dimensional analysis was reliably catalogued back to 1957 – by one of the paper’s thirteen authors – Abraham Oort of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton. The starting date of 1963 was also a very cool point in global records, as temperatures were chilled by the 1962 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Agung, one of the four large stratovolcanoes in the twentieth century, and the biggest since Alaska’s Katmai in 1912.
The year 1987 also seemed to be an odd ending point. Data were certainly available through to 1994, seven years later, and updatable through to 1995. It is noteworthy that 1987 was an El Niño year, and therefore relatively warm compared to the rest of the study period.
The match between the observed three-dimensional temperature profile and the modelled profile was persuasive because of the projected difference between warming in the two hemispheres, with a substantial ‘hot spot’ – both simulated and observed – in the lower and mid-tropospheric Southern Hemisphere …
However, the omission of data from the years 1957–62 and 1988–95 was puzzling. The reason these data were not included became clear when I added them in. If all the data were used, there would have been no significant match between the modelled and observed data. Santer et al. simply discarded the data that didn’t fit their preconceived hypothesis.
Pat Michaels showed that when the full data set is used, the previously identified warming trend disappeared. His thoughtful rebuttal, published in a peer-reviewed journal, could have been a game changer. But there was an extraordinary lack of political will to do the right thing that exists to this very day. There is a complete lack of political will to call out the fake findings.
Back in 1996, because of Patrick Michaels scholarly rebuttal in Nature (co-authored with Chip Knappenberger, vol 384, pg. 522), Ben Santer should and could have been hauled before a commission and the entire IPCC process quashed.
Pat Michaels, the scientist, had loaded the gun with that note published in Nature in 1996. But there was no politician prepared to pull the trigger. Now it is impossible to even get this type of rebuttal published.
If a process of overhauling the IPCC had been put in place back then, back in 1996, there would have been no Third Assessment Report (AR3) and arguably no global-warming hockey stick chart that went onto seal the fate of rational evidence-based discussion about global climate change.
Pat Michaels went on to include public choice theory in his writings. He would emphasise that it does not judge someone’s honesty or dishonesty. It simply implies that the structure of incentives that climate scientists are currently presented with creates a bias of distortion, in which problems must be exaggerated in order to garner funding … and that this political process creates a symbiotic relationship between politicians and scientists that works to both their advantage. Scientists get resources for their research, and responsive politicians can tout their funding of virtuous causes.
On the reality of climate change Pat Michaels explained:
We know, to a very small range of error, the amount of future climate change for the foreseeable future, and it is a modest value to which humans have adapted and will continue to adapt. There is no known, feasible policy that can stop or even slow these changes in a fashion that could be scientifically measured.
Pat Michaels was interested in measurement, and its statistical significance. And he was prepared to be bold and have his inconvenient findings published and then he was prepared to be interviewed about them and explain it all in plain English. There are so few of them anymore at government institutions – as far as I can tell most publicly-funded climatologists are full of hyperbole or cowardice.
The image at the top of this email is Pat Michaels back in 2009 talking about the Climategate emails on CNN, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffgj6Deni_Y
To read his chapter in the book I edited back in 2017, click here.
The key rebuttal published in Nature is
Michaels, P., Knappenberger, P. Human effect on global climate? Nature 384, 522–523 (1996).
Don Gaddes says
The ‘enlightenment’ continues….
Allan Cox says
Thanks Jennifer for another concise and cutting explanation of the things that make sense to all can think; biggest problem is: getting the ‘unthinkers’ to remove their rose coloured glasses and ear buds so that they can see what’s bleedingly obvious to all those who can think.
spangled drongo says
Great stuff Jen, for a very special person who will be sadly missed.
What a shame so few cli-sci-fi specialists are convinced that Pat Michaels’-type measurement is the basis of all good science.
Let alone being aware that natural variability following the coldest few centuries in human civilisation must take some responsibility.
The old fashioned honour of science is today a dying trend.
Bud Bromley says
Excellent Jennifer. Very well said.
I would like to post the link on my blog, but this possibility is blocked. Can you approve the link, please?
Simon Trinca says
Excellent commentary as usual Jennifer. Another who exposed the fraud was Michael Crichton in his novel “Climate of Fear”. Unfortunately there are now so many people with their snouts in the trough it will be hard to stop our lemming like rush into the abyss.
Keep up the good work,
Richard S Bennett says
Readers who want realistic comment and interaction about climate change should also visit GBNEWS on You-Tube/online because that media source does not censor commentary which is based on actual facts as opposed to the political narrative pushed out by the MSM.
Russell Seitz says
Thirty years later, it is stunningly obvious that Pat was wrong in denying that
“The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
As Ben’s valid attribution of warming to human influence contributed to Paul Crutzen’s correctly noting that such a biogeophysical watershed deserved a place in the geological column, Jennifer should honor Pat’s memory by sending Nature a posthumous note of apology on his behalf.
As Paul’s fellow Dutch Nobel laureate and critical thinker Nico Bloombergen used to say ;
“When you’re wrong, you should publish a retraction.”
Much thanks to Charles and Anthony for republishing: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2022/07/20/the-end-of-an-era-vale-patrick-michaels/
Also at the IPA website:
And Bud Bromley, You have my permission if you would like to republish.
Bud Bromley says
Thanks Jennifer. It is posted on my blog now. It may have been waiting for you to approve the pingback, I am not sure about that.
I use WordPress.com and you use WordPress.org and there are some differences.
Pat Michael showed the flaws in Ben Santer’s justification, which was also the IPCC’s only justification, for ascribing a discernible influence on the balance of evidence. His rebuttal was relevant back then, and still today.
If you want to ascribe a human influence, then let’s be clear, it is yet to be found in atmospheric temperature profiles, certainly not by latitude. Garth Paltridge has also published on this.
With John Abbot, I have looked at departures from what might have been natural warming through the 20th Century in an attempt to ascribe a human influence. We come up with a possible 0.2 degree Celsius contribution and a 0.6 degree Celsius Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. That was published in my paper in GeoResJ, behind a paywall here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214242817300426?via%3Dihub
You can find more information here: https://climatelab.com.au/rebuttals/historical-temperature-reconstructions-and-estimating-the-contribution-of-the-industrial-revolution-to-20th-century-warming-a-response-to-criticism-of-abbot-and-marohasy-2017-as-published-in-geores/
Russell Seitz says
Jennifer, if you wish to uncritically and oxymoronically refrain from ascribing the extra watt of radiative forcing arising from anthropogenic increase in CO2 to the anthropogenic increase in CO2 , you have created one of the best echo chambers in the history of self-citation.
Publicists like Pat have to make a living , but Cato’s Best Practices in climate disinformation have become sadly indistinguishable from those of Covering Climate Now.
The ever expanding pack of satellite radiometers that laid his credibility low is at your heels as well
K Streek survivors like Marc Morano, and coal patch culture heroes like the Idso clan may never give up the grift, but the jig is up: as surely as instruments have improved and proliferated, the instrumental record has reified the idea of the Anthropocene.
Bud Bromley says
Russell Seitz, the human-CO2-caused global warming fraud is still underway.
Russell Seitz says
My thanks to Bud for corroborating un-peer reviewed self-citation as the first recourse of climate contrarians.
He should read more of Pat’s work:
Bud Bromley says
Russel Seitz, your ad hominem comments are ignored as well as your logical fallacy ( appeal to authority (argumentum ab auctoritate). A peer-reviewed “authority” is useless unless YOU can support the argument. Otherwise YOU are a distraction.
spangled drongo says
Russell Seitz, what do you suppose was the human influence [for the warming and the higher sea levels] back in Roman Conquest times when their English Channel harbour was recently found to be two and a half miles inland in a part of the coastline that is sinking?
And was always previously thought to be a similar distance out to sea?
And then you can go on to tell us about other “unprecedented” climate events that are happening today.
Glen MICHEL says
Seitz is part of the furniture and thouroghly embedded in the culture surrounding climate anxiety. Any references to natural events with precedent are denied. Convince me about the science of man – made climate-change Russell.
Bud Bromley says
Jennifer, here’s an example supporting your and Michael’s arguments.
Climate scientists who support human-caused global warming, Ben Santer, Michael Mann with others authored a peer reviewed paper which acknowledges that their climate models are wrong, although their admission is buried in weasel words and technical jargon:
“In the early twenty-first century, satellite-derived tropospheric warming trends were generally smaller than trends estimated from a large multi-model ensemble,” reads the first line of the abstract in Nature Geoscience, linked below. In other words, the actual temperature trends were less than their models.
“Over most of the early twenty-first century, however, MODEL tropospheric warming is substantially larger than OBSERVED,” reads the abstract, adding that “model overestimation of tropospheric warming in the early twenty-first century is partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.” (Capital letters are mine for emphasis.) In other words, their computer models substantially overestimated the global warming which has been observed in the real world.
For three decades in thousands of peer-reviewed science papers, tens of thousands of scientists have been pointing out the large differences between climate models and real world observations or measurements of climate. But, these works have received very limited coverage by mainstream media and are very rarely taught in schools.
Their models cost taxpayers billions of dollars and they want trillions more dollars. $9 trillion according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
In the scientific method it is not the obligation or responsibility of skeptics or “deniers” to falsify or disprove the hypotheses and theories proposed by climate scientists. It is the obligation and responsibility of climate scientists to present evidence and to defend their hypothesis. Alarmist climate scientists have failed to do so despite the expense of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and NGO donations.
Full paper in pdf:
A review: http://climatechangedispatch.com/the-pause-in-global-warming-is-real-admits-climategate-scientist/
Glen MICHEL says
Maybe explain Santer’s wish to visit violence on PM . I say guilty.
Thanks for the timely reprise, Jennifer.
Steven Koonin in “Unsettled ?”, 2021, devotes several chapters exposing the hyperbole of those such as Russell Seitz.
Koonin, who is a “warmie” and as such served as Undersecretary for Science in the Obama administration, has been subjected to the usual organised ad hom vituperation that pretends to analysis. Yet his points, like those of Pat Michael’s, remain unrefuted. (Koonin’s CV is impeccable).
Russell Seitz says
“Bud Bromley says July 21, 2022 at 9:18 am
Russell Seitz, the human-CO2-caused global warming fraud is still underway.”
“Bud Bromley says July 21, 2022 at 12:40 pm
tens of thousands of scientists have been pointing out the large differences between climate models and real world observations ”
With a scholarly flourish soi disant climate authority Bill Bromley then directs us to :
” A review:
Which , surprise, is not a link to the outside world where radiative forcing is a thing, and people read about science in science journals, but another echo chamber outpost : James ” I don’t read science” Dellingpole, late of Breitbart, and arguably the only lecture circuit climagogue more egregious than Viscount Monckton .
To his credit , Pat tried to steer Cato clear of both.
For dozens of examples of why, try entering their names as post title search entries at
The Climate Wars .
At least they’re funny agt times.
Bud Bromley says
More ad hominem from Russel Seitz. Once again Russell Seitz attacks the messengers instead of addressing the topic, that is, the climate models project too much warming and they all know it.
The link to Climate Dispatch is a review of a paper by Ben Santer and Michael Mann in Nature Geoscience. In their paper, Santer, Mann et al admit their climate models are wrong, substantially wrong. Yet they continue their behavior.
I am not recommending either the Climate Dispatch review or the Nature Geoscience article. But, both are evidence against the continuing the global warming conspiracy.
By the way, Mr. Seitz, radiative forcing by CO2 may or may not be significant. That is not the issue. The argument is whether or not radiative forcing from human-produced CO2 is significant. Since net human CO2 emissions cannot exceed 0.6% of net global atmospheric CO2 concentration, and net global CO2 atmospheric concentration itself is only 0.04% of air, then can you explain how much warming that causes?
Net human CO2 emissions cannot exceed 0.6% of net global atmospheric CO2 concentration because 0.6% includes the increase due to all net CO2 emissions from all sources and sinks, both human and natural, since 1971, as measured by NOAA/Scripps Mauna Loa. That’s ~86 ppm total net increase from all sources human and natural since 1971. Not my opinion. That is the NOAA/Scripps measurement.
Maximum possible average annual rate of growth of net human emissions is 0.0061 ppm per year, since 1971. Meanwhile, the average annual rate of growth of net global CO2 concentration is 1.8 ppm per year, since 1971. In other words, the average annual growth rate of net global CO2 emissions is 295 times faster than average annual growth rate of maximum possible net human emissions.
If you can do the arithmetic, then obviously, human CO2 emissions are trivial and negligible with regard to net global CO2 concentration and rate of change of net global CO2 concentration. Therefore, radiative forcing due to human-produced CO2 is trivial and negligible.
Russell Seitz says
Mister Bromley, the late John McCarthy observed that “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.”
That goes double for anyone so sublimely ignorant of the dependence of radiative transfer , both in theory and praxis, on integral calculus as to assert that:
“If you can do the arithmetic, then obviously, human CO2 emissions are trivial and negligible with regard to net global CO2 concentration and rate of change of net global CO2 concentration. Therefore, radiative forcing due to human-produced CO2 is trivial and negligible.”
Which is a very silly statement.
Bud Bromley says
As McCarthy says, you are doomed to talk nonsense, and you display it in full.