Pat Michaels has written an article for his employer, the Cato Institute and Rupert Murdoch dutifully published it in the Wall St Journal. I was given a copy and thought you might like to see what he wrote. In my view he didn't earn his pay packet with this one. His article and arguments are pathetic. It's barely above the conspiratorial disinformation you read at WUWT.
Pat does have a bigger vocabulary and a better grasp of the English language than does Anthony Watts. And he does agree the world is warming. Maybe. But it's nothing to worry about. His article must still be a big disappointment. The arguments are weak, wrong, unoriginal and boring, especially for someone who claims to have some scientific expertise. I'd give him the sack if I was running the Cato Institute. Wouldn't you? :)
Don't forget, Pat's had several months to figure out how to deny the hottest year on record after the hottest year on record. It's not as if he had no warning. Plus he's got a sidekick to bounce ideas off or tell what to do. Yet he couldn't come up with anything but the sort of wishy-washy Gish gallop you'll read any day on any old third-rate denier blog. This is what he should have been preparing for over the past 12 months:
|Figure 1 | Global mean surface temperature 1880 to 2015. Data source: GISS NASA|
Let me tell you some of what is in his article and you can tell me what you think of it.
Pat does show a spark of originality for a science disinformer. He agrees that the world is really warming. And he agrees that 2015 was probably, maybe the hottest year on record if you're willing to trust the record (which he cautions against). However according to him a rise of more than one degree Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures - already, and it's only 2015 - is no big deal. (Go to the bonus right down the bottom to see a test for "big deal".) Pat called 2015 "business as usual".
Excuses 1 and 2: "Pause" and "Little Ice Age" bounce nonsense
In between his "big" points, Pat tosses in the fake "pause", which I understand is still mandatory for science disinformers. And a disinformation article wouldn't be complete without mention of the Little Ice Age magical bounce. I think that one would have been a special request from S. Fred Singer and Pat doesn't like to disappoint old Fred. I'd guess that Pat opened up SkepticalScience's list of Most Used Climate Myths and went through the list to see what he could use, what was mandatory, and what was optional. Willie Soon and Henrik Svensmark would be disappointed there was no room for "it's the sun" or "it's cosmic rays". Pervs would be disappointed he didn't mention poring through snippets of stolen emails. Conspiracy theorists will be saddened that he didn't mention the One World Government, HAARP, or Lizard Men.
Excuse 3: It's El Nino plus an "it's about to cool" prediction
Pat comes up with a grab bag of excuses for the hottest year. His main one is that he claims it was mostly caused by El Niño. Thing is, he claimed "Early in 2015, a massive El Niño broke out." Well it wasn't all that early. the "massive El Niño" didn't start until May - almost half way through the year. And it took a while longer before you could call it "massive". Pat didn't bother trying to explain why this El Niño made the world so much hotter than all the previous El Niño years.
Update: There's an article by Roz Pidcock at the Carbon Brief, where she collected estimates from a number of scientists, of how much El Niño contributed to the hottest year, and more. It wasn't "mostly" caused by El Niño, but probably about half of the increase was. It's expected to have a bigger influence this coming year (which is consistent with what I found looking at the progression of past El Niños.
He messed up, claiming that what happened this year also happened in 1998. That's dead wrong. The measured surface temperature in 1998 was between 0.2 and 0.3 °C (0.3 to 0.54 °F) cooler than it was last year. In any case, it must have been a typo, or perhaps he submitted his January 2017 article by mistake, because by rights he should have been comparing 2015 with 1997, not with 1998. And he'd know that, because he puts himself forward as a climatologist. Maybe he thinks it's too late to send the 2016 report in. At least he doesn't have to worry about next January's article. He can use the same one again (with a minor change as you'll see).
Pat stuck out his neck and predicted a La Nina will happen this year. At least that's what I think he's predicting. I say he's sticking out his neck because according to the Bureau of Meteorology:
Based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50% have been followed by a neutral year, and 40% have been followed by La Niña. Models also suggest neutral and La Niña states are about equally likely for the second half of 2016, with a repeat El Niño the least likely outcome.The period from 1998 to 2001 was one long La Nina. Sure there could be a long La Nina this time around too. But if I were him I wouldn't count on it. The 1998 La Nina kicked off a cool phase of the PDO. There's no guarantee that there'll be a string of La Nina's any time soon. It could be more like the period from the early 1970s to the late 1990s when there were 8 El Ninos and only four La Ninas. If that is the case, Pat'll have to rethink his entire strategy. Correct that. Pat will have to come up with a strategy. He clearly doesn't have one at the moment.
Excuse 4: The data might be wrong - No it's not
He was very liberal with the truth all through his article. He did the mandatory hatchet job on the NOAA, flinging all sorts of wild and conspiratorial accusations about. Not a good look for a supposed "climatologist". He said that NOAA had "changed its measurement standard" whatever the heck he meant by that. He probably thought it rolled off the keyboard nicely. He waffled at length about hot decks in the sun and engine intake rooms, as if the scientists who research this stuff would never provide for such things. He didn't mention all the other surface temperature data sets in the USA and around the world. Nor did he explain that they must be even more "fudged" than NOAA because NOAA comes in second last on the trend scale.
|Table 1 | Trend per decade since 1970 for global mean surface temperature. |
Data sources: GISS NASA,UK Met Office, NOAA,Berkeley Earth:
Pat couldn't make up his mind about the surface temperature record. In one spot he called the records going back 160 years "reliable", only to flip flop and refer to them as "debatable". That's the denier dogwhistle for "unreliable".
He claims the much more uncertain upper air temperatures are the ones to rely upon. Which means that he'll have 12 months to come up with a good excuse for ditching them. If the satellite records are in good shape then he'll probably have to switch to "reliable" surface temperature for his 2017 report. I expect he'll just leave the lower troposphere out of next year's report altogether. I'm of course assuming the lower troposphere behaves as it normally does in the second year of a strongish El Niño. That it's temperature will shoot through the roof.
Excuse 5: The Ridiculous: Halve the temperature projections to save the world from warming!
Pat made up some nonsense out of thin air, arguing that the upper air temperature as estimated from satellite data is the same as the readings as estimated by radiosondes. That's a bit suss. Remember Tamino has been comparing satellite date with that from Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Accessing Climate (RATPAC) and came to a very different conclusion (links here). Maybe Pat just made that bit up so he could write:
It is therefore probably prudent to cut by 50% the modeled temperature forecasts for the rest of this century. Doing so would mean that the world—without any political effort at all—won’t warm by the dreaded 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 that the United Nations regards as the climate apocalypse.
Now is that a brilliant novel idea or is that the most ridiculous suggestion you ever heard? He's saying that if we cut the projections in half, then we'll stop the world from getting too hot. Easy peasy. (Now why didn't the world leaders at COP21 think of that?)
Excuse 6: Extreme weather losses are declining - Are they?
Patrick does a Pielke Jr, claiming that insurance losses weren't that high last year. What he doesn't mention was that they were still quite high in the USA. And he talked about a 'decline" over the past 25 years. The chart below is the number of loss events, not the value of losses so it's not the same thing. Still it's another way of looking at it. This is from the report released in 2015. The next Munich Re report will be out in a couple of weeks I think.
|Figure 2 | Number of loss events 1980-2014 Source: TOPICS GEO Natural catastrophes 2014, Munich Re (2015)|
A disappointment and a bonus
That about covers it. I probably left out some details and even some bits that deniers might think are crucially critical. Like I said it was a let down. A mediocre Gish gallop. The most entertaining part was where Pat said that if we cut the temperature projections in half, it will stop global warming. I was hoping for something entertaining, like "it's Jupiter" or "undersea volcanoes" or "little green men from Mars". But it was just the same recycled blog standard denier memes that were out of date a decade ago.
Here's a bonus for you, in case you were as disappointed as I was. It's from 2006 (h/t Capital Climate):
There's a list of the other articles in the Desperate Denier series here.