Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another National Review Edition)
Matthew McIrvin on Achenbach on Global Warming Denial...

Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Think Tanks? (Yet Another Cato Edition)

Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute is unhappy:

Patrick Michaels: Well, Paul Krugman sure smeared me in his May 29 column (sub. req%u2019d.) where he accused me of "fraud pure and simple" in congressional testimony eight (!) years ago. Krugman's screed... another salvo in the current global warming charm offensive... Gore's screeching movie... multiple smearings of any climate scientist who dares to speak out against the current hysteria....

What Patrick Michaels doesn't say is that Paul Krugman is not alone: that the accusations' root is climate scientist James Hansen, who writes:

NASA GISS: The Global Warming Debate: Dr. Michaels... had used (or misused) a figure of mine in testimony to the United States Congress. The figure showed the first predictions made with a 3-D climate model and time-dependent climate forcings — it was a figure from a paper that we had published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in 1988 and it had been a principal basis for testimony that I gave to the United States Senate in 1988....

The figure... shows the simulated global mean temperature for three climate forcing scenarios. Scenario A has a fast growth rate for greenhouse gases. Scenarios B and C have a moderate growth rate for greenhouse gases until year 2000, after which greenhouse gases stop increasing in Scenario C. Scenarios B and C also included occasional large volcanic eruptions, while scenario A did not. The objective was to illustrate the broad range of possibilities in the ignorance of how forcings would actually develop. The extreme scenarios (A with fast growth and no volcanos, and C with terminated growth of greenhouse gases) were meant to bracket plausible rates of change. All of the maps of simulated climate change that I showed in my 1988 testimony were for the intermediate scenario B, because it seemed the most likely of the three scenarios.

But when Pat Michaels testified to congress in 1998 and showed our 1988 predictions (Fig. 1) he erased the curves for scenarios B and C, and showed the result only for scenario A. He then argued that, since the real world temperature had not increased as fast as this model calculation, the climate model was faulty and there was no basis for concern about climate change, specifically concluding that the Kyoto Protocol was "a useless appendage to an irrelevant treaty".

Although scientists have a right to express personal opinions related to policy issues, it seems to me that we can be of more use by focusing on the science and carrying that out with rigorous objectivity. That approach seems to be essential for the success, as well as the "fun", of scientific research.

Fig. 1 is a good case in point. We now know (Hansen et al. 1998a, 1998b) that the growth rate of greenhouse gases in the period 1988-1998 has been flat, very similar to scenarios B and C (which are nearly the same until year 2000). Thus we can compare real world temperature changes in the past decade (filled circles in Fig. 1) with model calculations for the B-C scenarios. Taking account of the fact that the real world volcano occurred in 1991, rather than 1995 as assumed in the model, it is apparent that the model did a good job of predicting global temperature change. But the period of comparison is too short and the climate change too small compared to natural variability for the comparison to provide a meaningful check on the model's sensitivity to climate forcings. With data from another decade we will be able to make a much clearer evaluation of the model...

It's not Krugman alone who is a shrill critic of Patrick Michaels's ability to speak with unforked tongue. It's James Hansen too. And the excellent and serious people at http://realclimate.org have their own view of Michaels:

Mann and Schmidt: Patrick Michaels and associates billed his own paper (McKitrick and Michaels, 2004) (co-authored by Ross McKitrick), this way:

After four years of one of the most rigorous peer reviews ever, Canadian Ross McKitrick and another of us (Michaels) published a paper searching for "economic" signals in the temperature record.... The research showed that somewhere around one-half of the warming in the U.N. surface record was explained by economic factors, which can be changes in land use, quality of instrumentation, or upkeep of records.

It strikes us as odd, to say the least, that, after one of the "most rigorous peer reviews ever", nobody involved (neither editor, nor reviewers, nor authors) seems to have caught the egregious basic error that the authors mistakenly used degrees rather than the required radians in calculating the cosine functions used to spatially weight their estimates. This mistake rendered every calculation in the paper incorrect, and the conclusions invalid -- to our knowledge, however, the paper has not yet been retracted. (McKitrick and Michaels have published an errata correcting the degrees/radians error in CR 27, 265-268 which now shows that latitude correlates much better with temperature trends than any economic statistic.) Remarkably, there were still other independent and equally fundamental errors in the paper that would have rendered it entirely invalid anyway. To the journals credit, they published a criticism of the paper by Benestad (2004) to this effect. It may come as no surprise that McKitrick and Michaels (2004) was published in Climate Research and was handled by none other than Chris de Frietas.