Patrick Michaels is not actually our state climatologist.

Over on, Charlottesville City Councilor Kevin Lynch has provided a pair of articles resulting from his investigation into Virginia State Climatologist Patrick Michaels. The man’s been in the news recently for the revelation that he’s been soliciting contributions from power companies, a funny coincidence given that he’s also the only State Climatologist who doesn’t believe that global climate change exists. (Though Michaels has never managed to publish a paper demonstrating this.)

Kevin’s investigation has revealed that, in all likelihood, Michaels is not, in fact, State Climatologist. Michaels was named “acting” State Climatologist by Gov. Godwin in 1977 and was never reappointed, but he’s been claiming to be State Climatologist ever since, drawing $2.5M in taxpayer money in that time. In the second article in his two-part series, Kevin disassembles claims that it’s appropriate for Michaels to accept money from power companies, demonstrating that doing so is in direct violation of the conflict-of-interest policies that govern his employment.

Presumably the governor’s office just needs to point out that he’s not actually the Virginia State Climatologist and, boom, problem’s solved. Getting Michaels canned would be an enormous victory for science and a tremendous body blow to the anti-science forces in this nation. Get on the stick, guys — there’s no reason why this guy should have a job on Monday morning.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

28 replies on “Patrick Michaels is not actually our state climatologist.”

  1. Hey, today’s Friday, what a coincidence. All right, delegates and Kaine administration folks that read this, get crackin’. Let’s cut some budget bloat!

    Hmm … is there any way to get that money back from Michaels? There’s a sewage treatment plant in Lynchburg that needs some money …

  2. Did this guy really get 2.5M dollars over 29 years? If so, that comes out to about $870,000/yr. Seems like a lot for a state employee (or any employee for that matter).

  3. Since I’m not well read on climate issues and the science surrounding it, I really don’t have a dog in this fight. While I’m not going to take it on faith that either one position is correct, environmental responsiblity does just seem to be the sensible response. I am admittedly compromised because I do enjoy cheaper than Cville electrical rates because (I am told) my power company uses coal burning electricity generation plants, and I would hate to give that up.

    What really irks me with this issue, is not “which ideology’s science is correct.” Instead I am irked and irritated by how no one at either U.VA or in the Govenor’s office wants to take responsiblity for this dealing with this issue. I wasn’t really impressed with Govenor Kaine last November and I’m even less impressed now.

  4. TrvlnMn,

    Kaine’s office has actually been really helpful with this as far as I can see. He had his staff do a lot of homework into the question of where in the Code of Virginia the position might be addressed. This problem was only just brought to their attention about a week ago. Since there’s not an immediate emergency it’s probably a good thing that Kaine isn’t going off half-cocked. Best for him to conduct a brief investigation, get Michaels’ side of the story, etc. If another week or 2 goes by and nothing has been done then I will start to worry.

  5. >Getting Michaels canned would be an enormous victory for science and a tremendous body blow to the anti-science forces in this nation

    Ahhhh… you must mean those anti-science kooks like Bill Gray, huh?

    What’s your scientific background? You must obviously have much better credentials than either Michaels or Gray. Can’t wait to hear what they are.

  6. Michaels hasn’t supported “my conclusion” (by which I assume you mean the conclusion of the entire global scientific community) for years, but I’ve never sought the elimination of his job before. What I don’t like about him is that he’s deliberately practicing bad science. But the reason that I think he should be fired is because he’s not actually the state climatologist. Nobody should have a job with a state that does not, in fact, have a job with the state.

  7. The global warming farce is hardly unanimous in the scientific community. The theory of gravity is not even unanimous. It is usually the guys who disagree with “settled science” who advance the science. Those who accept that they already know the answers stop looking.

    as for Mr. Michaels, I don’t know him or know of him, but it seems that if he agreed with your global warming position, you would not have even noticed him. Are you advocating that Virginia not have the position of “state climatologist?” It doesn’t seem like it. It looks like you just don’t want THIS climatologist.

    Does the state pay him? Then he has a job with the state. You advocate that the governor fire him. If he doesn’t work for the governor, how could he do that? It looks self-evident.

    Perhaps you have some other argument that is more persuasive, but on the face of it, it looks like you just disagree with him on global warming, he is probably used to that.

  8. I would suggest that you research the productivity of the position of “state climatologist” and advocate aboloshing the position on that basis. If you could prove that the state does not benefit from such a position, you would be farther ahead.

    after that, you could take on the EPA.

  9. The global warming farce is hardly unanimous in the scientific community.

    Kindly point me to a single peer-reviewed paper from the past decade that so much as suggests that global warming does not exist.

    Just one.

    You can find one right?

    (I’ll give you a hint and save you some time: of the nearly 1,000 published in that period, not a single one makes any such case.)

    Are you advocating that Virginia not have the position of “state climatologist?”

    No, I’m advocating that, if we have one, he ought to be appointed. Prof. Michaels has not. He’s just a guy claiming to be the state climatologist, despite not, in fact, being state climatologist.

    Is it so much to demand that, in order for somebody to claim to have an appointed state position, they actually be appointed to that position? I don’t think that’s putting a particularly great burden on anybody.

  10. You know, I went to see “An Inconvenient Truth,” and I found it compelling. I couldn’t help but wonder what the right wing could say against it. Thank you, Waldo, for letting me find out. I now know that the naysayers rely on the following responses:

    1. Blair Hawkins — “Kevin Lynch is a liberal.”

    2. Bill Gray — “Meteorologists can’t tell us if it’s going to rain on my golf game, so how can we trust them to tell us whether global warming is occurring?”

    3. Roci — “Scientists can’t even agree on the theory of gravity.”

    4. George Bush — “Complying with Kyoto would cut our profits.”

    Pat Michael’s essential position is like Bill Gray’s — that there have always been fluctuations in the earth’s temperature for reasons having nothing to do with man’s production of carbon dioxide, and we can’t say that the fluctuations that we are seeing now are anything out of the ordinary.

    There are two responses to this, aside from the fact that virtually no one knowledgeable in the field agrees with him.

    1. To me, the most compelling part of Gore’s presentation in “An Inconvenient Truth” is when he shows the correlations over the past 600,000 years between global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, as found in the 600,000 year deep ice in the Antarctic. The fluctuations have for all of that time been in a fairly narrow range — he has plotted them on a graph such that they are both within a range that is about two feet tall. It is striking that the fluctuations track each other fairly well over that long period of time — temperature rises some years after carbon dioxide levels rise. But in the last 25 or 50 years, the carbon dioxide levels have risen FAR above anything seen in the past 600,000 years (Gore has to get on a hydraulic lift to take him up high enough to show the present carbon dioxide levels on the same scale), and we can only wonder whether global temperatures will follow carbon dioxide levels up, as they have for the last 600,000 years. If they do, we are in big trouble, and there is nothing that we will be able to do about it except to hope we have another Krakatoa eruption every few years to cool things down.

    2. Michaels and Gray are a little like the guy who falls off the top of the Empire State Building. As he is falling past the 45th floor, someone leans out of a window and asks, “How’s it going?” And he answers, “So far, so good.” If we are in fact at the beginning of a trend of global warming on the scale that folks like Al Gore believe we are, we won’t be able to reverse things once it becomes apparent that we are in fact in deep trouble.

    How long can we afford to wait until we recognize that we’re in trouble?

  11. You seem to misunderstand the scientific process. All new ideas are subjected to rigorous criticisms. The study in question has been published, and the consensus seems to be that it’s with merit.

    Are you alleging a massive conspiracy that includes every peer-review process and scientific publication in the world? If so, do you have any evidence of such a conspiracy, or are you just making it up?

  12. Hmmm. Evidence of a conspiracy? No.

    Let’s enumerate the possibilities:

    1. No researchers are presenting papers for publication that dispute global warming assumptions, claims or conclusions.

    2. Of the papers being presented, none have merit.

    3. The two people, hand picked to review a submitted paper happen to agree with the institutional bias of the journal that selected them.

    4. The statistic of “no peer-reviewed papers critical of global warming” was created by selecting journals of a known bias, and defining “critical” in such a narrow way as to exclude all reports.

    Since I do not know any climatologists who have submitted papers that were rejected, I cannot prove #1.

    Since there is no publicly available information on rejected papers, I cannot prove #2. I have no doubt that any rejected paper, even one that clearly has no merit, given two favorable reviews would get published. So even if I could find a selection of previously rejected papers and found favorable reviewers for them, I would not accept this as proven, nor would I expect you to.

    While #3 seems likely, given that even in the scientific community, people tend to associate with others that have the same philosophies, yet without detailed noted by the editors showing why each reviewer was selected, I cannot prove #3. Again this information, if kept at all, is not publicly available.

    Despite the fact that this 862 peer-reviewed papers to zero statistic is reprinted everywhere, there is very little first hand information available about how the counting was done, which journals were included, and which papers were “critical” vice “supportive”. Nor can I find any discussion regarding a different category called “inconclusive”. Many of the studies I have seen in my own field are just that, so I am curious when other fields find unanimity. While I believe this is in error, again, I cannot prove it due to lack of information.

    I am not misinformed about the scientific process. I subscribe to two peer-reviewed journals and regularly read two others. It is my familiarity with them that causes me to be skeptical.

    While the peer review process is certainly the gold standard, it does not guarantee accurate results. No process can.

  13. Anyway,
    Without going into a long discussion of the merits of global warming theory, it still appears as if you object to Michaels because he does not agree with your position on global warming and you will not tollerate dissent on this issue.

    Your other reasons look like shallow attempts to find a reason to get rid of him.

  14. Despite the fact that this 862 peer-reviewed papers to zero statistic is reprinted everywhere, there is very little first hand information available about how the counting was done, which journals were included, and which papers were “critical” vice “supportive”.

    I found that information in about less than a minute. It was based on a review of all articles pertaining to global climate change in all journals in the Science Citation Index (SCI), as maintained by Thomson Scientific (nee Institute for Scientific Information). Given the statement “none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position,” there seems to be no gray area about which to be concerned.

    Your other reasons look like shallow attempts to find a reason to get rid of him.

    Yes, how “shallow” of me to believe that somebody who is not state climatologist ought not go around calling himself state climatologist.

    I’m so closed-minded!

  15. This abstract was found using the search criteria Dr Oreskes claims she used.

    After reading it, would you say it agrees with the consensus, disagrees, or does not bear in the issue? From the abstract alone, I cannot tell. I propose to you that neither could her student researchers.

    How about this one?

    Real research means more than just doing word-search on abstracts.

    BTW, I had found Dr. Oreskes article too but since I did not think of the Washington Post as a peer-reviewed journal, I gave it no credit.

    Unlike Oreskes, I am not being paid to do this research, nor do I have a staff of student-slave labor I can assign it to. But in just a few minutes I found two abstracts that are abmiguous enough to prove my point.

    My position is: there is insufficient evidence to accept your hypothesis.

    I suppose you want me fired too.

  16. Roci,

    The problem is that he’s drawing around $90,000 a year in pay for being the ‘state climatologist’ when in fact his term (if the appointment was ever legal in the first place) expired in the early 1980’s. I don’t really care much about his scientific views. That’s not the big issue here. The guy has been taking tens of thousands of dollars of our tax money every year in pay for an appointment that has long since expired. Intentionally or otherwise, he is a fraud in that sense.

    If you don’t believe in global warming and want to pursue that as a political issue then the last thing you want to do is defend Michaels on that basis. The facts regarding his bogus status are just so damning that there’s no good reason to let the political future of your issue get pulled down with him. It’s sort of like what happened with Duke Cunningham and Tom Delay. The GOP would have been so much better off if they had cut them loose early on instead of defending a couple of crooks and allowing their party’s image to be tied to the fortunes of a couple of guys headed for prison. Democrats would absolutely LOVE to use Michael’s fradulent status as a punching bag against the anti-global warming movement. Why give it to them? The only way out is for the GOP to join the pile-on against Michaels as early as possible.

  17. Roci, the first article you cite says this about induction of climate change by increases in greenhouse gase

    “Studies with simplified models have shown that this cold startrdquo error leads to a serious underestimation of the anthropogenic global warming. In the present study, a 150-year integration has been carried out with a global coupled ocean-atmosphere model starting from the greenhouse gas concentration observed in 1935, i.e., at an early time of industrialization.

    ” The global mean near surface temperature change in 2085 is about 0.3 K (ca. 10%) higher in the early industrialization experiment than in an integration with the same model and identical Scenario A greenhouse gas forcing, but with a start date in 1985.”

    The abstract clearly agrees with their being a real, human induced climate change.

    The second one agrees with the idea, and then asks what the effects of local changes in surface cover would be in addition.


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