In my August 20, 2013 blog piece, I briefly mentioned the role Minnesota assistant Attorney General Barbara Freese had in the May 1995 Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearings where skeptic climate scientists were called to testify, and I detailed her subsequent association problems with Ross Gelbspan. She had asked the skeptics at the hearing about their ‘industry funding’, which led me to ponder who could have prompted her to consider pursuing an otherwise irrelevant non-science tangent. Up until finding what I detail in this blog piece, I thought someone resentful of skeptic scientists might have done so while also alerting Gelbspan that one of the hearings’ top questioners was going to grill the skeptics. Well, it turns out I gave Gelbspan too much benefit of the doubt there……….
Gelbspan tipped one of the top people handling the hearing directly about that.
Word-for-word from Gelbspan’s own mouth in this January 2011 YouTube video interview, starting at the 11:36 point:
While covering an obscure utility hearing in Minnesota, Ross began to uncover the truth about the skeptics. Gelbspan: The coal industry flew in four skeptics to testify that global warming wasn’t happening. I spoke to the attorney general who was handling these hearings, I asked her to compel these witnesses under oath where their funding was coming from, I was the only reporter in the room, and out comes all this information that the coal industry had paid these skeptics about a million dollars in a three year period….
Which A.G. was Gelbspan speaking of? The official name list of questioners has the one female A.G. as North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, while the female Assistant A.G.s were Minnesota’s Barbara Freese, Joan Peterson, and Sarah DeSanto. More helpful clues are seen at Greenpeace’s scans of the May 22, 23 & 24 transcripts where the skeptics appear. Twenty six very dull scan pages from the May 22 transcript of testimony from other expert witnesses go by before Assistant A.G. Freese shows up to question the first skeptic, Dr Richard Lindzen. After numerous questions, she unsuccessfully attempts to score a hit on page 44 by trying to tie his name to Western Fuels. She continues questioning Lindzen the next day, then Susan Hedman, an attorney for a coalition of environmental groups prompts Lindzen to say Western Fuels gave him some travel money. Freese returns later to question Dr Pat Michaels, the particular highlight being her question about Western Fuels funding which was immediately followed up by Ms Hedman. Freese questioned Dr Robert Balling on the 24th, with her highlight concerning his ‘Kuwait funding’. Assistant A.G. Peterson only showed up to question skeptic Keith Idso, but left any attempt at character assassination to another lawyer who got very bogged down trying to tie Idso to the John Birch Society.
So it might be fair to say that, when it came to ‘handling’ the skeptics, it was apparently almost entirely in Ms Freese’s hands.
It might also be fair to say Gelbspan misrepresents his status at the hearings. His other repeated narratives about the period of time before the hearings, when he co-authored a Washington Post article with Harvard Medical School Dr Paul Epstein in March 1995, give no indication he was anything other than a retired reporter – no evidence I can find shows him to be employed with any news outlet at that time.
His various narratives tell how he fell into the investigation of skeptic climate scientists because a backlash to their article caused him to first doubt Epstein’s expertise and briefly take the skeptic side. But as one interviewer particularly emphasized, he spent his own money to attend the hearings because he “learned that some of the climate skeptics would be testifying—and be compelled under oath to reveal their funding sources” (full text here) Another re-telling of this tale only speaks of hints being given to him (full text here) about the suspect funding of skeptic scientists, nothing more. All of this, it should be noted, involving a time span of around eight weeks in the spring of 1995.
See the problem between what he says in the above video and the other narratives? It changes from a situation where he learns about skeptics’ suspect funding at the hearing, to one where he seemingly has enough knowledge about it beforehand to persuade an assistant Attorney General to act on it.
So now the question is no longer about what would have prompted questions about skeptic scientists’ funding to come up at ‘an obscure utility hearing in Minnesota’, it’s about why an assistant A.G. would insert material into a public hearing against some of its expert science witnesses concerning an industry corruption insinuation based on a suggestion coming from a private citizen who had nothing to do with the topic at all just eight or so weeks earlier.
It’s a worthwhile question, every bit as relevant back then as it is now. Why bring up funding when the funding behind any expert is irrelevant unless it is conclusively proven that it paid for false information from that expert? Neither Gelbspan nor anyone who repeats his accusation about corrupt skeptic climate scientists has ever offered anything more than the embarrassingly paper-thin guilt-by-association insinuation first seen at those 1995 Minnesota hearings.
If the reason why skeptic climate scientists’ funding continues to be brought up is because the pure science information they offer is so damaging to IPCC climate assessments that it needs to be buried via outright character assassination by elected officials, then we have a monumental problem.