Sloppy science at U.S. taxpayers’ expense predicts weather catastrophes

Many "scientific" papers predicting dire consequences from global warming are flawed, says Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute. Furthermore, doom-and-gloom research on global warming is motivated by the promise of U.S. federal research dollars.

According to Michaels, the latest paper which appeared in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences predicts that global warming will create numerous deaths in California and destroy the state's wine industry.

However, the paper is flawed for several reasons:

  • It uses 15-year-old research on heat-related deaths and a computer model that is incapable of predicting U.S. temperatures (much less California temperatures).

  • One of the models – from the British Meteorological Office – was used in a similar version by the Clinton administration, but it was shown to perform worse than a table of random numbers in predicting temperature changes by decade.

  • The paper down-scaled the original model (which covered a resolution of 36,000 square miles) to 56 square miles to predict California's temperature, in spite of the fact that it could not accurately predict surface temperatures.

    Moreover, a model that cannot accurately predict surface temperatures, says Michaels, cannot accurately predict precipitation either, even though the paper estimated that decreased rainfall would ruin California vineyards.

    Furthermore, the 15-year-old research on heat-related deaths did not take into account the ways since then in which people have adapted to heat, through air-conditioning, improved emergency care and new precautions. It instead assumes what scientists refer to as the "dumb people scenario" – that inhabitants will "fry and die" instead of adapting to changing climate.

    However, without sloppy science predicting the dire consequences of global warming, scientists might miss out on the $4 billion allotted annually to climate change research.

    Source: Patrick J. Michaels, Global Warming has Doomsayers Riding Federal Gravy Train, Investor's Business Daily, August 24, 2004, Kathryn Hayhoe, et al, Emissions Pathways, Climate Change and Impacts on California, PNAS 2004 101.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 7 September 2004

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