Climate skeptic Michaels refuses to disclose funding
Society of Environmental Journalists Watchdog Newsletter, Sept. 19, 2007
Patrick J. Michaels, one of the global warming skeptics most often interviewed by news media, withdrew as an expert witness in a high-profile
court documents show.
Moreover, Michaels told the court in July 2007, some funders gave him money on the condition that their identities remain secret -- and he is largely dependent for his livelihood on the money they give him.
Michaels' web publication, World Climate Report, and its skeptical predecessors have been heavily funded by coal and electric utility industries with a large financial stake in preventing regulation of greenhouse emissions. In the 1990s, he published World Climate Review without clearly disclosing in the publication itself that it was funded by the Western Fuels Association -- until after journalist Bud Ward brought this to light in the Environment Writer newsletter.
World Climate Report gives no indication on its Web site of who funds or publishes it. Michaels is listed as its chief editor.
Reached by phone, Michaels said the court documents largely speak for themselves.
MICHAELS' FUNDING INFORMATION KEPT SECRET IN
The just-decided case in federal District Court was an attempt by the auto industry to thwart efforts by
The automakers had hired Michaels, listed as a
GREENPEACE SEEKS DISCLOSURE
The key information -- a list of Michaels' funders and the amounts they paid him -- remains under court seal. Barely a hint of its existence -- or Michaels' non-disclosure -- would have ever come to light had not the environmental group Greenpeace moved on June 8, 2007, to intervene in the case for the specific purpose of getting the information disclosed. Judge Sessions eventually threw out Greenpeace's motion, because, with Michaels out of the case, it was no longer relevant to a fair trial.
But Michaels and his lawyers made some surprising admissions in the course of opposing Greenpeace's attempts to win disclosure.
Michaels in documents said he was dependent for his livelihood on the income he got through his wholly owned firm, New Hope Environmental Services, Inc. On its Web site,
"Public exposure of the funding will therefore result in the loss of some or all of
INTERMOUNTAIN RURAL ELECTRIC REVELATION
Michaels' court filings also brought to light the final chapter of a story begun in July 2006, when ABC News' Clayton Sandell and Bill Blakemore and the AP's Seth Borenstein revealed that the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), a coal-burning co-op utility in
The story was based on a July 17, 2006, letter from Stanley R. Lewandowski Jr., IREA's general manager, to members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). In that letter, Lewandowski said IREA fundraising had won additional contributions and pledges for funding support for Michaels from other utilities.
"Public disclosure of a company's funding of
Tri-State is another
"Also in 2006," Michaels told the Vermont court, "when a $100,000 contract between New Hope and electric utility Intermountain Rural Electric Association to synthesize and research new findings on global warming became public knowledge, a public campaign was initiated to change the composition of the Intermountain board of directors so that there would be no additional funding. That campaign was successful, as Intermountain has not provided further funding."
MICHAELS DENIES FUNDING COLORS RESEARCH
On CNN's Capital Gang in 2002, Michaels had said: "Well, you know, most of my funding, the vast majority, comes from taxpayer-supported entities. I would make the argument that if funding colors research, I should be certainly biased more towards the taxpayers, of which I am one, than towards industry. But the fact of the matter is, numbers are objective."
If Michaels was in fact mostly taxpayer-funded in 2002, that seems no longer to be true today. He told the
Michaels became a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the
In recent years, state general fund appropriations have amounted to barely more than 8 percent of the operating budget of U.Va. Michaels has also received research grants from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Michaels has argued in at least two books, The Satanic Gases and Meltdown, that federal funding has corrupted climate research.