Remembering Pat Michaels—Science Champion, Climate Realist, A Good Man
Climate Change Weekly #441
We at The Heartland Institute are truly surprised and saddened by the passing of Patrick Michaels, Ph.D., this past weekend. We enjoyed a long and productive relationship with Pat. More than that, he was a personal friend to me and many others at the institute. Pat’s death was brought to my attention last Saturday afternoon in a notice from the CO2 Coalition, where he served as a senior fellow. I reprint most of it below:
It is with a heavy heart that we report on the death of dear friend and colleague Pat Michaels on July 16, 2022 (born February 15, 1950).
Patrick Michaels obtained an A.B. in biological science in 1971 and an M.S. in biology in 1975 from the University of Chicago, and in 1979 he obtained his Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His doctoral thesis was titled Atmospheric anomalies and crop yields in North America.
Patrick J. Michaels was a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists and was program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society. He was a research professor of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia for 30 years. Michaels was a contributing author and is a reviewer of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
His writing has been published in the major scientific journals, including Climate Research, Climatic Change, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Climate, Nature, and Science, as well as in popular serials worldwide. He was the author or editor of nine books on climate and its impact, and he was an author of the climate “paper of the year” awarded by the Association of American Geographers in 2004. He appeared on most of the worldwide major media.
Dr. Michaels was Senior Fellow at the CO2 Coalition and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
He remained very active up to his last days. He had just completed his review and comments on the USGCR decadal plan and filed them on Thursday. He met with Coalition staff just the day before his passing to discuss his next venture looking at regional assessments of changing climate/CO2 on the Midwest.
He leaves a legacy of sound science and dedication to the scientific process. He will be missed terribly.
Numerous accolades and fond remembrances have come to my attention since Pat’s death was made public, a few of which I share below. From meteorologist Anthony Watts, a Heartland Institute Senior Fellow:
I worked on several projects with Pat, and I was always impressed with his depth of knowledge, quick wit, and character. For example, he often wore green tennis shoes to climate conferences because he said the oddity would engage people in conversations he might not have had otherwise.
He once said to me that his only regret was hiring/promoting Michael Mann while he was at the University of Virginia.
Roy Spencer, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, had this to say on his Facebook post announcing Pat’s death:
Pat was the one I would always point people to as the most up-to-date “skeptic” in terms of what has been published in the climate community (on both sides of the issue) and its significance.
When John Christy's wife died several years ago, Pat flew down from Virginia to Alabama to attend the memorial service.
Pat’s colleagues at CEI had this to say:
The Competitive Enterprise Institute and the entire policy community lost a friend and colleague last week. We mourn the death of Dr. Patrick J. Michaels (1950-2022), who joined CEI as a senior fellow in 2019. His contributions had an immediate and lasting effect on the intersection of science and climate policy. His work spanned careers in academia, government, as a private consultant, and in the non-profit sector. …
Pat was a straight shooter with a zeal and mastery of the policy details that we all strive to emulate. He was quick to share a mischievous sense of humor. His passing leaves a hole in our hearts and we extend our deepest condolences to his wife Rachel, his family, friends, as well as a global network of colleagues and collaborators.
Pat’s good humor and insight will be greatly missed.
Pat was one of the leading lights among researchers in pursuit of the truth about climate change. Pat was also among the best and most engaging communicators about the current state of climate science and why climate doomsaying is not just unwarranted but misleading. Pat’s research and his review of the research of other climate scientists led him to believe that although humans are contributing to the current climate change, it is not a catastrophe or a serious danger to the environment or human civilization. Pat referred to this position as “lukewarming,” and to himself as a “lukewarmer.” After looking at the data, Pat also argued the solutions being proposed by politicians to fight climate change were likely to produce worse outcomes for humanity than any harms that might reasonably be expected to result from climate change itself.
At one time Pat had a fairly regular feature in Environment & Climate News, and he served as an expert reviewer for the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change’s Climate Change Reconsidered series of books.
Pat was a speaker at 11 of The Heartland Institute’s 14 International Conferences on Climate Change, missing only those held overseas. His presentations at these events are all worth watching, and some of them can be viewed (listed most recent to first) here:
As indicated in the CO2 Coalition’s note above, Pat received many awards for his climate research. The Heartland Instituted was proud to award Pat the Courage in Defense of Science Award in 2019.
As hard as it is for me to believe, I’ve known and worked with Pat off and on for 26 years. That time seems way too short now.
Although I’ve worked outside of the D.C. area for most of my career, I enjoyed many informative and entertaining conversations with Pat, over drinks and meals and at conferences and meetings. More often our exchanges were in the form of emails back and forth, discussing this or that study or bill. Despite having conducted more than 360 podcasts since I joined Heartland, I was surprised to find I had interviewed Pat only twice, although a keyword search shows he or his work was discussed by other interviewees on a number of occasions. In light of his passing, this seems a gross and unfortunate oversight on my part.
I’m sure much more can and will be said about Dr. Patrick Michaels’ life and work in the coming days and weeks. For now, I’ll close by saying I will miss Pat Michaels—his intellect, his jocularity, his wit, and his knowledge—in both a professional and personal capacity.
My prayers are with his friends and family.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., Director, Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, The Heartland Institute
Pat Michaels: Engaging, Unpretentious, Kind, and an Influential Climate Scientist
Pat Michaels is one of a select club of people who can plausibly claim to be the most influential person in the history of the Climate Realism movement. Moreover, Pat was endearingly engaging, unpretentious, and kindhearted.
My initial introduction to Pat Michaels was through his groundbreaking book Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming. As a student at Syracuse University College of Law, I was editor-in-chief of the SU Law Federalist Voice. With all the reports of a global warming crisis, I was motivated to make the case to my fellow conservatives and libertarians that with a planet on fire, we have to check our political and ideological dispositions at the door and do whatever it takes to fend off climate Armageddon. I wanted to go deeper than CNN and USA Today to obtain and present material for my argument. Exercising due diligence, I read Pat's book. Sound and Fury opened my eyes to the true nature of the global warming issue and the way climate activists and leftists were politicizing it for their own benefit. With Pat's book as the starting point, I discovered a mountain of scientific evidence casting extreme doubt on the asserted climate crisis.
Approximately 10 years later, soon after joining The Heartland Institute, I was attending a conference in which Pat was a speaker. I nervously introduced myself and told him how he had made such an impact on me. Pat immediately began talking to me like I was lifelong friend, making it a point to treat me as his equal in all respects, which I decidedly wasn't. Over the years, whenever we would attend the same event, he would always make it a point to find me and begin each conversation, in a playful, semi-conspiratorial tone, with, “Taylor, did you hear the latest about …?” Seeing Pat was always one of the highlights of such events.
Pat's knowledge of climate science was unsurpassed. Moreover, Pat's ability to present in-depth scientific information in a compelling, entertaining, and understandable manner set him apart from most others. Whenever Heartland hosted a climate conference, people would ask me—with great anticipation—whether Pat would be delivering one of the keynotes. No matter how many times people watched a Pat Michaels presentation, they always wanted more.
The scientific world suffered a great loss with Pat's passing. So, too, did the human condition.
James Taylor, President, The Heartland Institute
Pat Michaels: Climate Change Iconoclast, Science Champion
Pat Michaels was one of a kind: brave, smart, and independent—even down to his penchant for wearing loud green sneakers with his suit when attending Heartland's climate conferences.
Of the many excellent keynote addresses Pat delivered at our conferences, one that has always stuck with me was his exposure of the corruption of academia. No young scientist just starting out at a university could dare look at the climate data and state publicly that something looks fishy. If a scientist wanted to stay long in his academic profession, he had to go along 100 percent with the alarmist narrative. Not only is that the only way to keep grant money flowing, Pat said, it is also essential to getting published in the scientific literature. And if you don't get published, you don't get tenure. And even after you achieve tenure, you can't then question the narrative or you’ll risk a hit on your reputation for undermining what you previously submitted as sound research.
Pat was among the few scientists with the experience and insight to point out just how corrupt the professional climate science industry is. He sacrificed jobs in academia and his position as the state climatologist of Virginia, and he was subjected to relentless personal attacks. But, through it all, Pat never lost his fire for the truth or his sense of humor.
Pat’s death leaves a big void in the world of climate science and in the hearts of all his friends.
Jim Lakely, Vice-President and Director of Communications, The Heartland Institute