Michaels on lukewarming and the funding of science

The paper that Patrick Michaels contributed to Climate Science: The Facts 2017 contains scientific analysis and a penetrating appraisal of “normal science” and the political economy of research. This is a very important and incisive contribution at several levels of analysis.

At the technical level he explains how the computer models and cherry-picking of data have been used to exaggerate the amount of warming that we can expect.
He notes that the pathology of science that Thomas Kuhn described as “normal science” has become distressingly common.

He provides a thumbnail sketch of the social/institutional pressures related to publication, government funding and career advancement that perpetuate bad science.

Patrick Michaels is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute in Washington. We met briefly after I lunched with Dan Mitchell (our man in DC) when he was working at Cato. Pat advocates the “lukewarming” scenario: the surface temperature is about 0.8C above the level at the turn of the twentieth century with a small human contribution from CO2 emissions. He is not alarmed about this. Bjorn Lomborg in contrast can be described as a “lukewarm alarmist” because he considers that warming will cause problems in the somewhat distant future.

Michaels made his case in Lukewarming: The New Climate Science That Changes Everything and a summary of some key points can be found in his contribution to Climate Science.

Defending the paradigm

The climate community, which is defined by models and modellers, is engaged in the kind of behaviour predicted by Thomas Kuhn in his classic book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This community generates data in support of a paradigm that may violate basic physics, blatantly cherrypicking to support to policy science. The incentive structure in modern science requires that practitioners largely support the high-CO2 sensitivity model-based paradigm in warming to remain employed and to advance in their careers. The result is a polluted canon of knowledge. This disorder is systemic across most areas of science that are difficult to replicate, climate science being a prime example.

The following are some of the examples that are sketched in the paper:

Ignoring studies that show the sensitivity of warming to increasing CO2 is much less than 3 degrees for doubling CO2 that is used by the IPCC.

Ignoring the serious and growing mismatch between projections and the measured numbers for the global temperature.

Cherrypicking start and end dates for data series.

Adjusting away the pause in warming by correction and “homogenization” of raw data.

The political economy of research and publication

The paper does not stop with the science but goes deeper to provide some insights into the social-political-institutional features of postwar Big Science driven by government funding. He points out that the academic reward structure demands a body of individual research starting in graduate school and achieving a “tenure track” position as an assistant professor. In climate science this demands a massive amount of research funding in the order of US$5 million for a scientist to publish enough papers to make the grade to tenure track in a tier-one research school.

The government provides the money and the funding is driven by the politics of the time as described by Butos and McQuade. They wrote during the Obama administration and it will take a long time to drain the swamp and correct the situation.

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14 Responses to Michaels on lukewarming and the funding of science

  1. Pat Michael’s chapter is an important contribution. Much thanks for drawing attention to it here.

    Of course, it was way back in 1996 that Pat Michaels first detailed concerns with work by Santer et al.; even getting this published in Nature! Indeed, Pat Michaels clearly showed how the ‘hot spot’ in the troposhere was an artifact of the time interval chosen – with Santer et al. choosing to omit data from 1957 to 1962 and data from 1988 to 1995. Yet Ben Santer continues to be promoted, and Ben Santer’s blatant misrepresentation of the thermal structure of the troposphere denied – to the extent his faux result has been incorporated into key foundation texts. This, and more is detailed on pages 272 etc of CCTF 2017.

    Also, thanks for mentioning Thomas Kuhn – and I suggest everyone read his relatively short book ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’. While it was first published back in 1962 – it is so relevant to understanding modern climate science.

  2. Entropy

    The fundamental,p problem is that modelling is not science. It is art.

    Art does not have to match reality.

  3. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Sounds like a clear account of what might be called the runaway funding model, Rafe. In genetic evolution sexual selection runaway models are hard to correct once they’ve started, ending in a peacock’s tail. I suspect the same may be said of ‘climate science’. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though, politically with some sharp policy reversals such as Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, and academically by carrying on a slow war of attrition against the more outrageously fraudulent elements of the climate madness research.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle

    The mismatch between the projections of the climate models and what has been happening in the real world is best shown in John Christy’s graph, which formed a part of his evidence to the US Congress.


    The real global temperature data in the graph is the AMSU satellite data – which unlike all the other datasets is cross-validated with an independent dataset (direct balloon measurements).

    I suspect the climate models would be much better at emulating the real world if they included the solar modulation of cloud cover and the ~60 year thermohaline cycle. Those two contributed about three quarters of that 0.8 C temperature rise last century. Which is why real world climate sensitivity is most likely to be a quarter of that IPCC figure of 3 C – ie only about 0.7 C/doubling. Which is harmless.

    Unfortunately if the climate modellers ever included these two significant variables in their models, their output might be better, but they’d then prove CAGW isn’t happening. And they’d be defunded shortly thereafter.

    That is a wicked penalty for honesty.

  5. struth

    It’s called lying.
    Anyone can do it.
    Even “scientists”

    Especially looking at their prospects if they don’t.

    I’ll say it again.

    Even Scientists.

  6. RobK

    I agree with the post and particularly with BoN.
    The science is skewed and the communication reinforces this to a political end.
    West Antartica is an example, where anomalies in volcanism are routinely ignored in the analysis of why a relatively small portion of ice is declining whilst the remainder is gaining mass.

  7. Roger

    At the technical level he explains how the computer models and cherry-picking of data have been used to exaggerate the amount of warming that we can expect.


    He notes that the pathology of science that Thomas Kuhn described as “normal science” has become distressingly common.

    The good news is that if Kuhn was right, the AGW hypothesis will eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. The question is how long will it take and what damage its proponents will do in the meantime, some of which may not be able to be undone for a very long time (i.e. investment and industry flight).

  8. manalive

    Adjusting away the pause in warming by correction and “homogenization” of raw data …

    What justification there is for adjusting temperature data recorded decades ago is a mystery to me.
    The most egregious of adjustment made recently involves the RSS MSU satellite data from May 2015.
    It’s so-called ‘science’ Jim but not as we know it.

  9. thefrolickingmole

    Have you seen the latest fusge.

    Sea levels wont perform appropriately because the land they are lying over is “springing” back up.

    Climate change, melting glaciers make Iceland spring upward like a trampoline

  10. RobK

    “because the land they are lying over is “springing” back up.…….
    Or, is it being pushed from below?

  11. Iampeter

    I think the “lukewarming” position is the same as the alarmists position so its neither “new science” (or science of any kind) nor does it change anything.
    I think lukewarmers were skeptics originally but got the science as badly wrong as the alarmists and then couldn’t face up to it when those who actually know what they are talking about called them on it. You know basic things like how greenhouses actually work (hint: it is by preventing convection not IR or back-radiation), the fact that there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, no such thing as “greenhouse gasses”, no such thing as “back-radiation”, etc.
    I imagine this was a bitter pill to swallow for many lukewarmers which includes Phd’s in Physics. Nonetheless the intellectually honest thing to do would be to concede how totally wrong you are, have an embarrassed laugh at yourself and then get on the right side of the debate.
    But nooooo. Instead the lukewarmers opted to double down on the junk science and have helped distort and prolong a debate that should never have happened in the first place.

    Anyone talking about “the sensitivity of warming to increasing CO2” or some such, is not on the side of industrial civilization.

  12. Tim Neilson

    The good news is that if Kuhn was right, the AGW hypothesis will eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.

    Probably, if the solar physicists’ predictions are right.

    But climate change may occur for all sorts of reasons. The recovery from the Younger Dryas was a very rapid warming. If something like that happened again the alarmists would say “see we told you so” and no amount of theoretical critiques of their methodology would be effective.

    So we need to hope for sustained flatlining of temperatures.

  13. Fat Tony

    Science?? We don’t need no stinkin science.

    It’s never been about the science – never. So no point in arguing with “good” science.

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