The Heat Is Online

Virginia Governor: Michaels Does Not Speak for the State

Virginia asks state climatologist to limit use of title

The Associated Press, Aug. 19,  2006 

 

The governor's office has asked Virginia's climatologist to refrain from using his title when conducting non-state business because of fears his views on global warming will be perceived as an official state position.

 

Patrick J. Michaels, a University of Virginia professor and state climatologist since 1980, has been a leading skeptic of global warming theories. While he believes global warming is real and influenced by man, he contends it primarily is caused by natural forces.

 

Last month, The Associated Press reported that a Colorado utility raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges to help Michaels analyze global-warming research by other scientists.

 

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's spokesman said that played a role in the request as well as the "perception" Michaels was speaking for the state on global warming issues.

 

"We have 100,000 state employees. To my knowledge, I am the only one recognized to speak for the governor," Kevin Hall said in an interview Saturday with the AP.

 

The state's concern about Michaels was relayed in a letter by Katherine K. Hanley, the secretary of the commonwealth, to University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III.

 

In her letter, Hanley asked that Michaels "avoid any conflict of interest or appearance thereof by scrupulously avoiding the use of the title of state climatologist in connection with any outside activities or private consulting endeavors."

 

While Michaels could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press on Saturday, he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he has not represented himself as state climatologist when presenting his views as a private citizen.

 

In remarks published Saturday, Michaels said when he has been asked to "provide expert opinion in a private forum, I've always said it's not an opinion of the commonwealth of Virginia or of U.Va. but are the remarks of a faculty member given under the traditional protection of academic freedom."

 

"We have no reason to doubt his word on that," Hall said. "But that has been a source of confusion from time to time and the history has been murky."

 

The state also appeared to be putting some distance between itself and Michaels, contending his office was the domain of the Charlottesville university where he teaches.

 

While Hanley's letter acknowledged that Michaels was originally appointed state climatologist by Gov. John Dalton, she said the code of Virginia "does not provide for the governor to appoint a state climatologist."

 

She also wrote that the university assumed authority for the state climatologist's office and title in the 2000 certification application to the American Association of State Climatologists.

 

U.Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood said the university would clarify the way Michaels' position is described.

 

"In the past, I think we all believed it was a governor's appointment," Wood told The Daily Progress of Charlottesville.

 

Michaels' office provides information and conducts research on the impact of weather and climate on economic and ecological systems.

In 1998, Michaels criticized NASA scientist James Hansen, a leading global warming scientist. He said Hansen had been way off on his key 1988 prediction of warming over the next 10 years.

 

Hansen and other scientists said Michaels misrepresented the facts by selectively picking the worst and least probable of three possible outcomes Hansen presented to Congress. The temperature rise that Hansen said was most likely to happen back then was actually slightly lower than what has occurred.

 

Michaels is on a one-year sabbatical teaching for Virginia Tech at a satellite campus in northern Virginia. Michaels will teach a class on global warming, among other topics.

 

Climatologist request made

Kaine office asks that U.Va. professor not use his state title in his private research

 

The Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.), Aug. 19, 2006

 

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The governor's office has sent a letter to the University of Virginia requesting that Patrick J. Michaels not use his title of state climatologist when conducting his private consulting business.

 

The state is concerned that the U.Va. professor's controversial views on global warming could be mistaken for the state's views.

 

Katherine K. Hanley, the secretary of the commonwealth, wrote University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III on Thursday, asking that Michaels "avoid any conflict of interest or appearance thereof by scrupulously avoiding the use of the title of state climatologist in con- nection with any outside activities or private consulting endeavors."

 

Michaels, who has been the state climatologist since 1980, has come under fire after news reports last month said a Colorado utility raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges to help him analyze other scientists' global-warming research.

 

Michaels does private research, including that on global warming, outside his duties as a U.Va. professor and state cli- matologist. The office, which receives a little more than $90,000 a year from the state, provides information and conducts research on the impact of weather and climate on economic and ecological systems.

 

Michaels would not comment directly on Hanley's letter when contacted yesterday. But he said that whenever he has been asked to "provide expert opinion in a private forum, I've always said it's not an opinion of the commonwealth of Virginia or of U.Va. but are the remarks of a faculty member given under the traditional protection of academic freedom."

 

Michaels is a critic of scientists who claim that global warming is driven by man-made causes. Michaels believes that global warming is real and affected by man but is primarily caused by natural forces, a view considered controversial by many scientists.

 

The governor's office has repeatedly said that Michaels does not represent the state with his opinions about global warming.

Hanley's letter also addressed the question of whether Michaels' position as state climatologist is an appointment of the governor or of U.Va. Hanley does acknowledge that Michaels was originally appointed state climatologist by Gov. John Dalton in 1980.

 

However, she said the code of Virginia "does not provide for the governor to appoint a state climatologist."

 

She also asserted that the university assumed authority for the state climatologist's office and title in the 2000 certification application to the American Association of State Climatologists.

 

"Therefore, it is the prerogative of the university to make that appointment," Hanley wrote.

 

The university did not directly address that issue. But U.Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood provided this statement: "We are grateful to the secretary of the commonwealth for her letter about the state's relationship to the Office of the State Climatologist. As it has since 1978, the University will continue to operate the office as an institutional program in accord with the American Association of State Climatologists, the body that oversees state climatology offices nationwide."

 

The governor's office said Michaels could refer to himself as the "AASC-designated state climatologist."

 

Michaels would not comment on the donations given to him by the Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo. The company gave Michaels $100,000 and started a fundraising drive to pay for Michaels' private research. Michaels' critics have said the public should know that his private research on global warming is funded from sources they claim are opposed to strict environmental controls.

 

But Michaels, like some of his U.Va. colleagues, said his scientific work is solid.

 

"The irony of this is, that when I submit articles to peer-review publications, it gets a more rigorous review because everyone knows who I am," he said. "So you better believe it had better be good."

Michaels is on a one-year sabbatical teaching for Virginia Tech at a satellite campus in Northern Virginia.