Climate contrarian Pat Michaels refused to disclose funding in Vermont court case

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Patrick J. Michaels, one of the global warming skeptics most often interviewed by news media, withdrew as an expert witness in a high-profile Vermont court case rather than disclose his funding sources, 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.

For more on Pat Michaels see our previous postings:
(October 1, 2006) Pat Michaels, Virginia “State Climatologist”? A critical perspective on the issues
(November 6, 2006) Anticipating the denialist attack on authors of the IPCC climate change assessment
(April 2, 2006) Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job?

The Society of Environmental Journalists WatchDog TipSheet reported in its Lead Story on September 19:

Climate Skeptic Refuses to Disclose Funding

Patrick J. Michaels, one of the global warming skeptics most often interviewed by news media, withdrew as an expert witness in a high-profile Vermont court case rather than disclose his funding sources, 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 VERMONT CASE

The just-decided case in federal District Court was an attempt by the auto industry to thwart efforts by Vermont and other states to regulate the greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles. Judge William K. Sessions ruled in Burlington September 12, 2007, that Vermont could regulate auto emissions in the case, known as Green Mountain Chrysler v. Crombie. Major carmakers and auto industry associations joined the case, which is likely to have fallout in other states.

The automakers had hired Michaels, listed as a University of Virginia professor, as an expert witness. During the discovery phase of the case [in 2006], Michaels had produced financial records and given an affidavit about his funding with the understanding that he could keep the information from being publicly disclosed. That information was pre-emptively sealed by an order from Judge Sessions. When lawyers for the automakers told him the funding information might have to be disclosed, Michaels in April 2007 withdrew as a witness in the case.

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….

[Read the full article here.] 

The Burlington (VT) Free Press reported on September 13 (“Vermont wins big in car emissions case”): 

In a major victory for states’ efforts to combat global warming, a U.S. District Court judge in Burlington ruled Wednesday that federal law does not bar Vermont from imposing tougher greenhouse gas emissions limits on cars and light trucks starting in 2009.

Judge William Sessions also rejected automakers’ arguments that the standards—written in California and adopted by Vermont and 11 other states—are technologically impossible and financially impractical to meet.

The California rules would require automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 37 percent by 2016.

During a 16-day trial in April, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler testified they would simply stop selling most models of cars and pickup trucks in Vermont, California and the other states if the emissions limits take effect.

Sessions was unconvinced….

Sessions’ decision is the first court ruling on the California regulations….

Vermont and its allies were jubilant Wednesday.

“This is a huge win. If you are concerned about the environment in general and global warming specifically, it is a great day,” said Attorney General William Sorrell, whose office defended the case with the help of New York state and a number of environmental groups….

ExxonSecrets Fact Sheet on Michaels

 

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