Dr. Patrick J. Michaels and the Ordinary Citizen

In my April 17, 2020 blog post about the death of Dr S. Fred Singer and my experiences with him, I began by noting how readily accessible he was to even ordinary citizens like me who genuinely expressed uncritical interest in the overall global warming issue. Dr Michaels, whose death unfortunately was just last week, (more memorials here, here, here, and here), was no different that way. Regarding Dr Singer, I first began emailing with him simply because I wanted to let him know that I was exchanging emails with the Seattle mayor’s office on the global warming issue, but I also wanted to know if I had it right about my Viking ancestors being able to farm in Greenland. With Dr Michaels, my first inquiry to him was at the beginning of my efforts to undertake a due diligence job which the mainstream media should have done, concerning the troubling accusation that he, Dr Singer, and others were paid and directed by fossil fuel executives to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.” Back in 2009-2010, that accusation was all over the internet, but not a single person or group on the Al Gore side of the issue had the guts to show the full context of the ‘leaked industry memos’ containing that awkwardly-worded ‘directive.’

Dr. Michaels ultimately ended up providing some specific bits about that, under a broader examination, which look quite damaging to his accusers.

I exchanged around 40 or so emails with him from 2009 to just last year, predominantly to find out what his side of the story was when it came to being accused of being a paid participant in fossil ‘fuel industry-orchestrated ‘disinformation campaigns.’ But one of those email replies from him illustrated exactly what was wrong with mainstream media reporting on the global warming issue.

I need to set up the problem first by pointing to my ongoing count of the partly public-funded U.S. PBS NewsHour program, where my tally to this date in time shows that they have never once had a skeptic climate scientist on their program to either discuss pure science points from the skeptic side, or to rebut face-to-face with any pro-global warming scientist associated with the IPCC, NASA or NOAA. However, Dr Michaels did actually appear on their program one time, he just was not permitted to relay any deep science details to their viewing audience. It’s why I do not count his appearance in my tally as one where viewers could fully comprehend that there was another side to the science they were not otherwise being told about.

The occasion was the NewsHour apparently feeling compelled to broadcast some “CYA spin” concerning a monumental blunder within a then-current March 2010 IPCC climate assessment report, where the blunder concerned a prediction of Himalayan glaciers completely melting by 2035 was spun within just the third sentence of the segment as “some mistakes.” The taped-elsewhere responses about this IPCC wipeout came from IPCC-associated climate scientist Dr Stephen Schneider, and from Dr Michaels.

PATRICK MICHAELS, climatologist, Cato Institute: Individually, they care[sic] not particularly serious, but it is the mechanism that they imply that is very serious.

… The problem with the Himalayan glaciers was that it was such an obvious error that the — the climatologist who was listed as the first author for that particular chapter would have clearly picked it up if his eyes saw the number. So, we can only assume that his eyes didn’t see the number. And that is very telling. It shows that the process, IPCC process, was allowed to get very, very fast and very, very loose.

… I don’t see why we needed a fourth assessment report. I mean, the purpose of the IPCC was to provide the background for a framework convention on climate change. It morphed into a totally different purpose, so far as I can tell, which was to — to cheerlead for policies on climate change. And don’t tell me that they were not doing that.

See that? Not a thing from him to rebut any major overarching climate assessments in IPCC reports. If uninformed NewsHour viewers did not know any better, the only thing they gleaned from his appearance is that he had some kind of gripes about they way the IPCC system worked. But I know from firsthand experience that Dr Michaels could provide fine details at considerable length on the way IPCC climate models and other related climate assessments are hugely questionable. I was simply amazed to find out that he appeared on the NewsHour in any manner. So I emailed him at the first opportunity to ask more about his appearance and why it was that he did not go into details from the skeptic side of the issue. His response was as follows, verbatim:

They edited me very heavily. My main point is that the way public science works necessarily results in the introduction of bias.

It’s a safe bet that what was edited out probably undermined the prior decade+ reporting by the NewsHour on this issue.

We kept in contact about other matters, too. In 2011, I ran across a disturbing development concerning his resumé appearing in an online page complete with his social security number on display for all the world to see. He wasn’t pleased about that. For his posthumous security, I won’t show who it was who displayed that.

But the situation right there also led to more problems for Dr Michaels’ accusers …. one in particular, surrounding Dr Michaels’ resumé: Ross Gelbspan.

For the sake of brevity here, I covered that specific – and as it turns out – oddball situation in my October 22, 2014 “Dr. Patrick J. Michaels Guest Comments on his 1995 Encounter with Ross Gelbspan: ‘An Amusing Scene” blog post. The nutshell of it all is that back in 1995 when he was years-retired from being a reporter, he somehow knew that Dr Michaels would be testifying at an obscure public utilities hearing in Minnesota, and also somehow knew that Dr Michaels would have a resumé to hand out, and he was inexplicably gleeful to be given a copy directly by Dr Michaels.

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.

All I did to prompt that response from Dr Michaels was mention within an email about a related topic that I was wondering how it was possible for Gelbspan, who touted himself as “the only reporter in the room” at that Minnesota hearing (despite not employed by any news outlet in any capacity at that time that I can find or that he fully discloses), to actually be attending that meeting, considering what I knew of (and later wrote about) concerning the timeline problems in Gelbspan’s narratives about attending the meeting.

Not only did Dr Michaels confirm Gelbspan was there, Gelbspan also made the occasion unmistakably memorable as he took away the resumé.

Do an internet search for the specific words & dollar figure of “Patrick Michaels” “$63,000” “Western Fuels” and you will see just how far and wide Dr Michaels’ 1995-era resumé was spread afterward. But the first place the $63,000 Western Fuels figure from his resumé is seen is at the Ozone Action organization (the little group that John Passacantando merged into Greenpeace USA, hence Greenpeace’s url addresses on the Ozone Action scan copies) circa early 1996, in which its report about Dr Michaels also says,

According to documents obtained by Ozone Action and by Ross Gelbspan, several ICE strategies were laid out including: the repositioning of global warming as theory, not fact

That’s the worthless-as-evidence-of-industry-disinformation-campaigns strategy phrase (an item I asked Dr Michaels about as a matter of basic due diligence in 2009) that launched Gelbspan’s second career as a slayer of ‘Big Coal & Oil-funded skeptic climate scientists‘ (oh; oops).

When people only hear the tale of Ross Gelbspan being a simply hugely fortunate reporter who just so happened to present at a time when ‘skeptic climate scientists were forced to reveal their illicit sources of funding,’ he looks like a major hero.

It isn’t just me who is indebted to the late Dr Michaels for apparently revealing a whole other very damaging angle to that account, it is also the rest of the population, if it is ultimately revealed that the effort to frame skeptic climate scientists as corrupt via worthless leaked memos and pure guilt-by-association was nothing more than an orchestrated effort to distract the public away from seriously considering the science-based climate analysis from those scientists.