I read with amusement Skepticalscience’s latest in their lineup of posts on climate scientists whose views diverge from the consensus. First it was the ‘Michaels Mischiefs’ series. Now he’s been turned into a ‘serial deleter’. Michaels’ probably getting off easy – John Christy is stuck with ‘Christy’s Crocks’. I guess if you run a website, you can call people whatever names you want.
The present story though goes to Pat Michaels’ ‘More Ice than ever‘, an article that appeared in American Spectator way back in February 2008. Michaels was then responding to a alarmist Washington Post news item on Antarctic ice loss reported by Rignot and co-authors. The article draws attention to increasing Antarctic sea ice, and how little information there was on whether the Antarctic land ice was really going down, or its significance.
Now direct your attention to this article at Skepticalscience.com. This is them trying to ‘debunk’ a supposed Antarctic myth.
It begins with a quote attributed to Pat Michaels, linked to the American Spectator article:
“The amount of ice surrounding Antarctica is now at the highest level since satellites began to monitor it almost 30 years ago. It’s simply too cold for rain in Antarctica and it’ll stay that way for a very long time. The bottom line is there is more ice than ever surrounding Antarctica.”
You can examine the Spectator article—the above passage does not appear at all. It has been created by pulling together sentences from two different places. Skepticalscience.com then provides the rebuttal, beginning as follows (emphasis in original):
“Skeptic arguments that Antarctica is gaining ice frequently hinge on an error of omission, namely ignoring the difference between land ice and sea ice.”
In his article, Michaels wrote:
So it’s not warming up, and the snowfall data are equivocal, yet the continent is experiencing a net loss of ice. How can this be, and is it even important? The current hypothesis is that warmer waters beneath the surface are somehow loosening the ice. That’s plausible, but again, there’s precious little proof of it.
And further, the bottom line is that there is more ice than ever surrounding Antarctica.
Whereas John Cook says Michaels wrote:
”The amount of ice surrounding Antarctica is now at the highest level since satellites began to monitor it almost 30 years ago. It’s simply too cold for rain in Antarctica and it’ll stay that way for a very long time. The bottom line is there is more ice than ever surrounding Antarctica.”
Cook makes Pat Michaels look like an ignorant stereotypical ‘denier’ who says that ice cannot melt because it is too cold to rain and craftily ignores the distinction between land ice and sea ice. Only Michaels did nothing of the sort. Indeed in the conclusion he says:
One of the tired tropes that reverberate throughout global warming reporting is that inconvenient facts get left out. In this case, it’s blatant. Midway through the Post’s page-long article comes a statement that “these new findings come as the Arctic is losing ice at a dramatic rate.” Wouldn’t that have been an appropriate place to note that, despite a small recent loss of ice from the Antarctic landmass, the ice field surrounding Antarctica is now larger than ever measured?
Which is what Cook puts down as well. Only Michaels said it before Cook/Skepticalscience did.
In other words, Skepticalscience.com creates an impression that ‘skeptic arguments’ are grossly wrong and simplistic, uses a manipulated quote from Michaels’ article to exemplify such a position, and then proceeds to provide a rebuttal which consists exactly of the same facts laid by him in the first place.
John Cook, who seems to have a need to create ‘skeptical myths’ out of whole cloth (in order to debunk them), has consistently had a problem representing what people say (see here, here and here). An earlier version of his Antarctic ice post carried a slightly different passage. Even then, Cook lopped off a crucial sentence about IPCC predictions on Antarctic sea ice from Michaels’ original.
Skepticalscience.com are free to nurture their delusions about skeptics, but it should not be at the cost of false representation.
Update: A Skepticalscience.com author dana ‘corrected’ the quoted passage by inserting ellipsis marks between the sentences. Quickly following the move, the whole Pat Michaels quote has now been taken down silently and replaced by an article summary from journalist Greg Roberts’ piece in The Australian. Unfortunately the Australian’s article too makes the clear distinction between land ice and sea ice. At this point, it is unclear which skeptic actually said anything resembling what John Cook and his cohort claim they do.
Further update: The Skepticalscience article now carries this at the end:
On 20 Jan 2012, we revised this article upon learning it referenced an incorrect quote. We apologize to Dr. Michaels and to our readers for the error.
Readers point out this is an useful graphic to show what was done: