Remembering Pat

Ed. note: Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger was a longtime colleague and friend of Patrick Michaels (1950–2022). Knappenberger was co-author (with Michaels) of Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything (Cato Institute: 2016)

It was during the Fall of 1984 that I first met Pat Michaels. He was the professor of my Applied Climatology course during the first semester of my junior year at the University of Virginia. He entered class carrying a 3-ring binder over-stuffed with papers sticking out on all sides, pouring a Dr. Pepper over ice that was overflowing onto his khakis and sneakers, while fiddling with his tie and pushing in the tails of his button-down shirt.

He was brash and entertaining, but personable and approachable—qualities unlike any other professor I had experienced during my first two years at UVa.

The course, EVSC 447, was a whirlwind introduction to data sets, statistics, and how the two could be applied to modeling real-world processes—with an eye on all the associated cautions and caveats. It was exciting, hands-on, instructive, and insightful. It was my favorite class that I took as an undergraduate.

Afterwards, I signed up for every course Pat taught during my last two years of college and I changed my major from astronomy to environmental sciences with an emphasis on climatology.

Over the next 32 years, Pat went on to be my graduate advisor, boss, co-author, colleague, mentor, and friend. We co-authored 25+ papers on climate and climate change published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, penned hundreds of articles in the popular media, countless blog pieces, and together wrote a book—all providing evidence that the character of anthropogenic climate change was of a more modest, less extreme, nature.

We suggested that policy should follow accordingly. Pat took me from a graduate research assistant at UVa, to the lead researcher at his consulting firm, and ultimately to the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. He showed me generosity, guidance, dedication, and respect at every step along the way of my career.

The things I experienced, professionally, with him, or through him, run the gamut from rejection to acceptance, from snub to celebration, from blacklist to A-list. The stories I could tell are endless, every interaction with him seemingly lent itself to an entertaining retelling. He was a one-of-a-kind character. A hero to many, a villain to many others.

Outside of work, Pat also left his mark on me. In addition to his enthusiasm for applied climatology and public policy—the arenas where his legacy will be found—Pat delighted in travel and the telling of the resultant stories (and yes, there were *always* stories). He was a fanatic gardener, meticulously keeping records of the production of each of his tomato plants. Arguments broke out among the staff whenever Pat brought in tomatoes, asparagus, or corn for us to divide up.

Pat loved collecting daily weather data (which he could/would then accurately recite back years later), and was a life-long baseball buff pulling hard for the Chicago Cubs or the Washington Nats.

But, perhaps the activity that Pat loved above anything else was playing softball. He was at his proudest when recounting to me, a fellow baseball fan, his exploits and achievements on the field the night before—about how “the old guy” surprised them all.

I’m going to miss the home-grown tomatoes, the baseball stories, and the phone calls that began “Hey Chipster, it’s me.” But most of all I am going to miss the man who helped shape the better part of my life. Rest in peace, Boss, and thank you for everything.

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July 21, 2022 at 01:08AM

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