Dr. Patrick J. Michaels Guest Comments on his 1995 Encounter with Ross Gelbspan: “An Amusing Scene

I’ve already detailed critical problems with Gelbspan’s narratives about his ‘discovery of skeptic corruption odyssey’ in my January 22, 2014 and May 9, 2014 blog posts, regarding the way he supposedly found out that skeptic climate scientists were ‘paid industry money to lie’, and regarding the questionably short time frame in which this took place. In a nutshell, his narratives about the situation surrounding his attendance at the 1995 Minnesota Public Utilities hearings where skeptic scientists testified are crippled with unexplained contradictions. Now, in a pair of guest comments intended for GelbspanFiles.com courtesy of Dr Michaels’ recollection of his encounter with Gelbspan at those hearings, we have a new major problem.

To recap the situation in the simplest way, within a time frame a bit over nine weeks, Gelbspan changed from being unconcerned about the issue to becoming one of the fiercest critics of such skeptic scientists, basically a result of hearing sworn testimony from those scientists at the hearings where they disclosed receiving money from corporations. In the case of Dr Patrick J. Michaels the news that “Michaels disclosed under oath that he had received a $63,000 research grant from the Western Fuels Association” was so impressive that Dr Michael Mann (the IPCC scientist I mentioned here) repeated what Gelbspan said about it in his 2012 “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” book. Despite Gelbspan’s utter failure to prove that any such funding of skeptic climate scientists came under a directive to lie and fabricate false science reports, of course.

But notice the date of the hearing referenced in Dr Mann’s book, the same date seen in Gelbspan’s book about Dr Michaels disclosure:  March 15, 1995. What Gelbspan fails to mention is where this ‘disclosure’ came from, and that Dr Michaels did not appear in person until the May 8 to June 28 set of hearings. As seen in this related North Dakota state government file (full text here), the March 15 date pertains to the final day in which written material could be submitted. Our old “Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action” friends have a convenient copy of Dr Michaels’ submittal (thumbnail pg 4 here), including page 15 of Dr Michaels’ resumé. How do I know it was page 15? Assistant Attorney General Barbara Freese referred to it while questioning him in person at his May 23 hearing. The “financial support over $10,00” she refers to is the main heading on his resumé page, and his replies about the “Commonwealth of Virginia / Cypress / Edison Electric are line items 7, 8 and 11, respectively. The Western Fuels $63,000 amount is on line item #12, but Dr Michaels never mentions the amount directly, nor do any of the questioners.

This is where the big new problem for Gelbspan arises. In a 2013 email response to me about whether he recalled seeing Gelbspan during his stay at the Minnesota hearings, Dr Michaels replied,

Actually Gelbspan did attend the Minnesota hearing because that’s where I met him. He asked me for a copy of my CV and when I gave it to him he looked like a 14 year-old in 1963 with a Playboy Magazine.  You can quote me on that.

In a follow-up email inquiry with Dr Michaels last week about when this event occurred, he told me the following,

It was before I testified; I think we were listening to Bob Correll from NSF droning on about the evils of carbon dioxide.  I was in the audience section and he introduced himself and asked–after stammering a bit–if I could give him my CV. He then tucked it away into his shoulder bag as would an adolescent with Playboy in 1963. It was an amusing scene.

When people rummage through any variety of Gelbspan’s retelling of how he became involved in the global warming issue, they are not likely to misinterpret the meanings of versions like this one where the statement “Gelbspan discovered the funding sources for several of the more prominent skeptics while attending a hearing in Minnesota …. It was then he learned that a number of the coal and oil industry interests … were providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to these scientists” implies he perhaps did not know specific details before he arrived at the hearings. In other retelling variations such as this one or this one, readers are still likely to get the impression that he had no advance knowledge about specific details he would ‘learn about’ later. According to his narratives, he just had hints about suspect funding of skeptic climate scientists.

Or is it more plausible that Gelbspan not only learned from an assistant attorney general that four skeptic scientists were being flown in to the May hearings, but also that this individual or someone else related to the hearings process had also supplied him with Dr Michaels’ resumé out of the March 15 document submissions? And thus he didn’t learn about these funding disclosures from the public testimony, he knew about them in advance?

The bizarre reaction to receiving Dr Michaels’s CV is a big problem for Gelbspan, and it really is a bigger problem that he was aware he could ask for it prior to Dr Michaels’ scheduled public testimony. But the biggest problem of all is how there is nothing to see within Dr Michaels’s resumé when it comes to funding. I know of another publication of Dr Michaels’ 2007-updated resumé, where the same Western Fuels $63,000 amount was visible as late as 2007 (I don’t link to it out of courtesy to Dr Michaels since the resumé publication also shows his Social Security number). Plus, Dr Michaels openly disclosed how ‘40 percent of his work was funded by the petroleum industry’ in an 8/15/10 CNN interview. He readily discloses such funding because there is no sinister intent or undue motivation behind it. Skeptic scientist Dr Willie Soon succinctly pointed out the way such funding insinuations implode at the end of a 2011 Reuters interview.

Gelbspan, it might be safe to guess, had every appearance of being gleefully delighted to receive Dr Michaels’ resumé because he perceived it as something that could be exploited as a character assassination tactic against skeptic climate scientists….. and to make it stick, he needed something that resembled an explicit directive to lie and mislead about the global warming issue. The question to ask now is whether he knew of Western Fuels’ “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” phrase before he met Dr Michaels, and if he knew a full context disclosure of it and the memos directly associated with it would wipe it out as evidence of any sort of sinister top-down industry directive.