As New York is being warned to expect a hurricane that could wreak havoc on the city even at Category 2 strength, industry-funded skeptics are still spreading misinformation trying to convince us that hurricane intensity has nothing to do with global warming.
The latest attempt, by Patrick J. Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, was reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and picked up by the Drudge Report, so it'll probably get reprinted in other papers this week.
Michaels is one of a tiny but vocal group of skeptics who, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, still argue that global warming isn't a serious threat. Michaels acknowledges that the climate is changing, but not that it's serious or that we can do anything about it.
Michaels has been criticized by scientists for being selective and manipulative with data and is generally not taken seriously. One of the world's leading climate scientists, Dr. Tom Wigley, has referred to Michaels' statements on global warming as "inaccurate," "seriously misleading," and "a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation."
I wrote about another of these skeptics, Richard Lindzen, last month.
Harvard Professor of Environmental Science John Holdren told the Senate Republican Policy Committee in 2003 that "Michaels is another of the handful of US climate-change contrarians, but lacks Richard Lindzen's scientific stature. He has published little if anything of distinction in the professional literature, being noted rather for his shrill op-ed pieces and indiscriminate denunciations of virtually every finding of mainstream climate science."
So this story today that Michaels has (finally) gotten a paper published supposedly debunking the link between hurricane intensity and global warming begs the question: Didn't anybody bother to look into Michaels' conflicts of interest or to heed the warnings of respected scientists that he is not to be taken seriously?
Journalists, please do a little research! Stop printing this stuff without disclosing the serious conflicts of interest Michaels and these other "skeptics" have!
Simply typing "Patrick J. Michaels" in Google turns up plenty of warning signs in the first page of hits. Profiles of Michaels on websites like Exxon Secrets, SourceWatch, and Media Matters all document how he's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years from the oil and coal industries. And that's just the money he's taken directly, not even the huge funds his employers have taken from these groups (and passed onto him via salary) to cast doubt about global warming in the media.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, where Michaels serves as state climatologist (sorry VA), many residents are facing water shortages as drought continues to spread due to the state's lack of rainfall. With much of central and southern Virginia facing moderate to severe drought conditions, and the remainder of the state labeled "abnormally dry," it's going to be a long dry summer. Maybe Michaels' attention ought to be focused on his own state's crisis.