State Climatologists: The Last Bastion Against Global-Warming Orthodoxy?

Patrick Michaels, Virginia’s state climatologist, is not alone in questioning global warming hysteria. He has allies among other state climatologists in departing from the putative “consensus” among climatologists regarding the severity and urgency of the global warming crisis. Now, according to the Washington Post, the “irregular system” of state-supported offices of climatologists is coming under criticism. Writes the Post:

A root of the conflict is that, although state climatologists and atmospheric scientists study “climate,” they can attack the same problems very differently. State climatologists often are trained to rely on past weather data — records that show how much the Earth has already warmed.

State climatologists’ critics in the scientific community study much broader periods and use computer models to determine how much warmer the Earth will become if pollution isn’t curtailed. The view of critics often is simple: State climatologists are behind the times.

Ah, that’s it. The state climatologists are rustic simpletons who can’t keep up with the times. Rubes that they are, they deal with real-world data rather than computer models that often fail to replicate that data when projected backwards in time. Although the Post article was generally fair toward Michaels, the authors left out what is perhaps his most controversial argument of all: how the political economy of global warming distorts the science of global warming.

Critics have sought to delegitimize Michaels’ scientific arguments by pointing to the fact that he has obtained some of his funding from the fossil fuel industry, presumably biasing his findings. But that argument cuts two ways.

As Michaels argues in his book, “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media,” most climatologists in the United States get their research funding from the federal government. In an environment in which the mass media fan the flames of hysteria — systematically hyping evidence that supports the global warming paradigm and ignoring the evidence that doesn’t (a phenomenon that Michaels documents copiously) — and in which politicians respond to public opinion informed by that bias, the only scientists who will get federal funding are those who tout the party line. Professional advancement follows funding. To win big federal grants, win tenure and rise in the academic establishment, aspiring professors must support the tenets of the prevailing paradigm. To go against the tide of global warming is to court professional suicide.

State climatology departments are independent — their funding comes from states, not the federal government. State climatologists don’t court professional suicide by speaking truth to power. Little wonder that state climatologists have been among the more outspoken critics of global warming hysteria. How ironic: Those who point to a supposed scientific “consensus” in regard to global warming enforce that consensus by stigmatizing and driving out through political means those who do not conform to that consensus!

(For the record, I believe that global warming is a real phenomenon, but it is far from clear how much is due to human causes and how much the consequences are to be feared. There are many other environmental threats — deforestatation, erosion, loss of habitat, and pollution as traditionally understood — where we should be focusing our attention.)

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8 responses to “State Climatologists: The Last Bastion Against Global-Warming Orthodoxy?”

  1. Bill Garnett Avatar
    Bill Garnett

    Thanks Jim, I agree one has to question any underlying bias of these researchers – whether it is conscious or not.

    I do think that humans have a stewardship for the planet, now that they are in a position to so impact it. And with such large populations in the world rapidly moving towards industrialization, and higher resource consumption, I have to think that eventually there will be consequences. I just hope the “canary” gives us sufficient advance notice – and that we then have the political will and the technology to deal with it in time.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    We just went through a summer with some major “heat storms” and nowhere in Virginia was there an ozone alert — efforts made to date to clean the air are working and the benefits will continue to compile and compound. The good news is never reported. There is value in forcing similar efforts on the other parts of the world, China, India, etc. but all the pressure is on the West. That’s why I tend to dismiss the Global Warming Hysteria for the leftist political front that it is — it is intended to hamstring the west, but makes no efforts to bring similar pressure on the real sources of pollution. It is B..U..N..K.

  3. Bill Garnett Avatar
    Bill Garnett

    Just one question. What is the motivation of the “leftist politcal front” to “hamstring the west”?

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It seems to me that just about every environmental issue that becomes a concern.. starts with a claim that harm is resulting from some activity.. denials from those whose personal finance interests would be affected if the activity would be banned or restricted.

    Then… essentially – the demand for absolute PROOF before any restrictive actions are imposed.

    We saw this with Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring… then PCBs, Agent Orange, etc, etc. Remember.. even the cigarette companies and supporters were demanding absolute ‘proof’ of the connection between lung cancer and cigarettes before anything resembling restrictions were to be implemented?

    In almost every case – huge harm was the result because the criteria was “absolute proof”.

    Tell me out of all the environmental restrictions – which ones turned out to be unwarranted and caused tremendous economic harm compared to the ones that did not.

    It seems to me.. we’ve almost always waited too long.. to convince ourselves that action was needed and we paid the price… look around at the toxins in our environment right now.. because we underestimated the risk and consequences.

    So.. let’s take something simple like the climate… let’s GAMBLE that what we are doing will NOT cause harm and demand absolute undisputable proof that even skeptics accept….

    What’s the downside of that approach with respect to our climate?

    Well.. of course.. keep doing what we are doing… until it’s crystal clear that the impacts are massive and undeniable to even the skeptics.

    Now THAT’s a sensible approach. 🙂

  5. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I was reading an article in a magazine that discussed an effort being made to start a market in emissions credits, similar to what has been done with air pollution credits. Sounds to me like a good start.

    The establishment of a market “for parking space” credits in areas such as Tysons Corner should also be considered. If a company can devise ways for its employees to use mass tranist or telecommute, for example, why shouldn’t it be permitted to sell credits? Ditto for a condo resident who elects not to have an automobile.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    what … seems to be lacking… is a prudent policy that is not at either end of the spectrum… not … “do absolutely nothing (pretend there is no problem at all)” and not… “pull out all stops and create very costly regs that do hurt”

    somewhere in the middle… would be nice… keep our options open to pull back or move forward.. as the evidence accumulates.

    skeptics seem to get hung up on the “what if we are wrong and we kill the economy for nothing” concept… (tell me when we have done this previously.. please).

  7. Hi Jim, As an observer from the other side of the world, noting our first thin upper atmosphere ozone sunburn alert came this past weekend prompting front page newspaper warnings, I expect that Al Gore’s entry into the debate will cause Democrats to sing his song, and Republicans to seek every contrarian view they can find.

    Down here, a conservative doctor friend of mine went to see Gore’s film. He has a seaside home, and figured if there was global warming melting the polar ice caps he would notice the water rise. However, in the film, Gore apparently casually mentioned that ice cap melt over the sea has no effect, just like icecubed melting in a drink don’t raise the level. However, when the land caps melt (Greenland and Antartica) the sea would then rise 40 feet. That would give us waterfront propery provided erosion didn’t take out the hill. Delaware and the Eastern Shore would become an Atlantis Theme Park.

    The good doctor said the penny dropped. Down here in New Zealand Democrats and Republicans mean nothing. But the stakes on this debate are as high as anything mankind has bet on.

    Prudence would dictate both parties take a conservative view, ironical that the conservatives seem to be taking a liberal view, and the liberals are taking the conservative view.

    PS: To see a practical partial solution look at, inventor of an 85% efficient electric motor to replace the standard 20% efficient motors. Change out the half billion such motors in the USA alone, and electrical consumption is cut by 11%, with commensurate drop in coal-fired emissions.



  8. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Claude, I would reassure your doctor friend in N.Z. that a melting of the Greenland and Antarctica icecaps does not appear to be eminent. Global warming theory suggests that warming is going to be greatest in areas where the atmosphere is the driest. Basically, that means two places: deserts and… the polar regions during the winter when it’s so cold that all moisture precipitates out of the air. The predicted effect is that winter temperatures will rise disproportionately in these areas — from an average of, say, -30 degrees F. to an average of, say, -20 degrees F. (I’m making up those numbers for purposes of illustration). That’s a lot of warming. But it’s not enough warming to make the icepacks melt. Those regions would have to warm another 50 degrees F.

    As I understand it (and I will admit the limits of my knowledge)… Insofar as global warming increases the humidity of the earth’s atmosphere generally, it will lead to greater precipitation of snow in areas of extreme cold, and an accumulation of ice on the icepacks. That appears to be what’s happening in Antarctica. The ice mass in the interior is growing thicker even as parts of the ice plate are breaking off. (I’m not sure about Greenland.)

    The interactions are highly complex and our climate models, as sophisticated as they may be, do not come close to mimicking all the dynamics.

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