A self-described skeptic on the issue of global warming, he is a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He has written a number of books and papers on climate change, including Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming (1992), The Satanic Gases (2000), and Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media (2004). He's also the co-author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know (2009). Michaels' viewpoint, as argued in a 2002 article in the journal Climate Research, is that the planet will see "a warming range of 1.3–3.0°C, with a central value of 1.9°C" for the 1990 to 2100 period (an analysis far smaller than the IPCC's average predictions).
Patrick Michaels obtained an A.B. in biological science in 1971 and an S.M. in biology in 1975 from the University of Chicago, and in 1979 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.
Michaels has said that he does not contest the basic scientific principles behind greenhouse warming and acknowledges that the global mean temperature has increased in recent decades. He is quoted as being skeptical of global warming, and is described by Michael E. Mann as a "prominent climate change contrarian." He contends that the changes will be minor, not catastrophic, and may even be beneficial.
He has written extensive editorials on this topic for the mass media, and for think tanks and their publications such as Regulation. He stated in 2000:
[S]cientists know quite precisely how much the planet will warm in the foreseeable future, a modest three-quarters of a degree (C) [in 50 years]
All this has to do with basic physics, which isn't real hard to understand. It has been known since 1872 that as we emit more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, each increment results in less and less warming. In other words, the first changes produce the most warming, and subsequent ones produce a bit less, and so on. But we also assume carbon dioxide continues to go into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. In other words, the increase from year-to-year isn't constant, but itself is increasing. The effect of increasing the rate of carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with the fact that more and more carbon dioxide produces less and less warming compels our climate projections for the future warming to be pretty much a straight line. Translation: Once human beings start to warm the climate, they do so at a constant rate.
Michaels has stated in the Wall Street Journal:
Why is the news on global warming always bad? Perhaps because there's little incentive to look at things the other way. If you do, you're liable to be pilloried by your colleagues. If global warming isn't such a threat, who needs all that funding?
A 2002 article published in the journal Climate Research by Michaels and three other scholars has predicted "a warming range of 1.3–3.0°C, with a central value of 1.9°C" over the 1990 to 2100 period, although he remarked that the "temperature range and central values determined in our study may be too great." He made the argument that the climate feedback system involving current warming trends was weaker than generally asserted, coming to a conclusion that set his views apart from that of the IPCC's estimates.
In 2009, Michaels authored a Cato report arguing that "Congress should pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide, repeal current ethanol mandates, and inform the public about how little climate change would be prevented by proposed legislation."
In May 1994 Richard Lindzen, Michaels, and Robert Balling served as expert witnesses on behalf of Western Fuels Association in St. Paul, Minnesota to determine the environmental cost of coal burning by state power plants. Western Fuels Association is a consortium of coal producers that uses collective advocacy to represent industry interests.
In May 1997 Ross Gelbspan made a presentation in Minneapolis discussing his concerns, documented in his 1997 book The Heat is On, that some climatologists were involved in a "disinformation campaign" to counter the scientific consensus on global warming. The Minnesota Star Tribune ran an editorial praising this as a public service exposing undue credit given to the "unsubsantiated opinions" of a handful of contrarian scientists, and naming Michaels and his colleague Robert Balling as skeptics whose views had been examined and dismissed by numerous other scientists. Michaels and Balling took a complaint against the Star Tribune to the Minnesota News Council, and at a hearing in April 1998 by a 9–4 decision the council "voted to sustain the complaint that the Star Tribune editorial unfairly characterized the scientific reputations of Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling."
The World Climate Report, a newsletter edited by Michaels was first published by the Greening Earth Society, a public relations organization. Greening Earth Society was funded and controlled by the Western Fuels Association (WFA), an association of coal-burning utility companies. Greening Earth Society shared an office and many staff members with Western Fuels Association. It has been called a "front group created by the coal industry" and an "industry front". Fred Palmer, a society staffer, is a registered lobbyist for Peabody Energy, a coal company. WFA founded the group in 1997, according to an archived version of its website, "as a vehicle for advocacy on climate change, the environmental impact of CO2, and fossil fuel use."
Office of Science and Technology Policy director, John Holdren, told the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee in June 2003, "Michaels is another of the handful of U.S. climate-change contrarians … 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." In 2009 Michaels responded in a Washington Examiner Op-Ed, saying that the IPCC had subverted the peer review process, and adding the IPCC had "left out plenty of peer-reviewed science that it found inconveniently disagreeable."
Michaels was one of hundreds of US reviewers composing the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group in 2007.
Although the Greening Earth Society was generally skeptical of the impact of climate change, it acknowledged some degree of global warming as real: "Fact #1. The rate of global warming during the past several decades has been about 0.18°C per decade". Note that the actual increase in the global surface temperature during the 100 years ending in 2005 was 0.74 ± 0.18 °C.
Climate scientist Tom Wigley, a lead author of parts of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has stated that "Michaels' statements on the subject of computer models are a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation … Many of the supposedly factual statements made in Michaels' testimony are either inaccurate or are seriously misleading."
Michaels received praise for his book, Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know (2009) from University of Alabama-Huntsville Principal Research Scientist Roy Spencer, who wrote, "Michaels and [Co-Author Robert] Balling have provided a treasure trove of the latest global warming science." Will Happer, Professor of Physics and Former Chairman of the University Research Board at Princeton University, also praised the book and wrote it "...provides important and honest information about climate change that is hard to find elsewhere."
On July 27, 2006 ABC News reported that a Colorado energy cooperative, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, had given Michaels $100,000. An Associated Press report said that the donations had been made after Michaels had "told Western business leaders ... that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists' global warming research" and noted that the cooperative had a vested interest in opposing mandatory carbon dioxide caps, a situation that raised conflict of interest concerns.
Michaels acknowledged on CNN that 40 per cent of his funding came from the oil industry. According to Fred Pearce, fossil fuel companies have helped fund Michaels' projects, including his World Climate Report, published every year since 1994, and his "advocacy science consulting firm", New Hope Environmental Services.
A 2005 article published by the Seattle Times reported that Michaels had received more than $165,000 in fuel-industry funding, including money from the coal industry to publish his own climate journal.
Michaels is the author of several books including: Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming (1992), Satanic Gases (2002; as coauthor), Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media (2004), published by the Cato Institute, and Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming (2005; as editor and coauthor).
His writing has been published in major scientific journals, including Climate Research, Climatic Change, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Climate, Nature, and Science, as well as in popular serials such as the Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Houston Chronicle, and Journal of Commerce. He was an author of the climate "paper of the year" awarded by the Association of American Geographers in 2004.Michaels, P.J.; Singer, S.F.; Knappenberger, P.C.; Kerr, J.B.; McElroy, C.T. (1994). "Analyzing ultraviolet-B radiation—is there a trend?". Science. 264 (5163): 1341–1343. Bibcode:1994Sci...264.1341M. PMID 17780851. doi:10.1126/science.264.5163.1341.
Michaels, Patrick J.; Knappenberger, Paul C. (1996). "Human effect on global climate?". Nature. 384 (6609): 522–523. Bibcode:1996Natur.384..522M. doi:10.1038/384522b0.
Michaels, Patrick J.; Balling Jr., Robert C.; Knappenberger, Paul C.; Knappenberger, PC (1998). "Analysis of trends in the variability of daily and monthly historical temperature measurements" (PDF). Climate Research. 10: 27–33. ISSN 0936-577X. doi:10.3354/cr010027.
"Revised 21st century temperature projections", Patrick J. Michaels, Paul C. Knappenberger, Oliver W. Frauenfeld and Robert E. Davis, Climate Research, Vol. 23: 1–9, 2002.
Davis, Robert E.; Knappenberger, Paul C.; Novicoff, Wendy M.; Michaels, Patrick J. (2002). "Decadal changes in heat-related human mortality in the eastern United States" (PDF). Climate Research. 22: 175–184. ISSN 0936-577X. doi:10.3354/cr022175.
Davies, R.E.; Knappenberger, P.C.; Michaels, P.J.; Novicoff, W.M. (2003). "Changing heat-related mortality in the United States". Environmental Health Perspectives. 111 (14): 1712–8. PMC 1241712 . PMID 14594620. doi:10.1289/ehp.6336.
Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming. Cato Institute. October 1992. p. 196. ISBN 0-932790-89-5.
The Satanic Gases. Cato Institute. May 15, 2000. p. 224. ISBN 1-882577-92-2.
Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Cato Institute. October 25, 2005. p. 280. ISBN 1-930865-79-1.
Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming. Rowman & Littlefield. December 28, 2005. p. 304. ISBN 0-7425-4923-2.
Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know. Cato Institute. January 25, 2009. p. 250. ISBN 1-933995-23-8.
Climate Coup: Global Warming's Invasion of Our Government and Our Lives. Cato Institute. 2011. p. 304. ISBN 1-935308-44-0.