Dear University of Virginia: fire Pat Michaels!

Sat, 2006-12-02 23:25Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Dear University of Virginia: fire Pat Michaels!

In Laurie David's great new quick read book, The Solution is you! , she pens a letter to the University of Virginia regarding Pat “the coalman” Michaels:

To: University of Virginia, Department of Environmental Sciences

Numerous media outlets reported that one of your professors, Dr. Patrick Michaels , has accepted upwards of $150,000 from coal interests and coal-burning electric utility companies for his advocacy against the overwhelming consenus on global warming.

Is this solicitation of funds from industries that pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases in line with the university's mission?

Is it your policy to allow your science professors to openly solicit and then accept industry funds to promote a viewpoint that is in conflict with the vast majority of the worldwide scientific community?

Clearly, a conflict of interest such as this deserves immediate attention and a swift repsonse. On behalf of the students at the University of Virginia and the questionable future that global warming holds for them, nothing short of his resignation will do.

Given the coal industry's deep pockets to continue funding lies while record heat waves sweep the country, I'm quite certain Michaels will have no problem finding a job within that industry.


Laurie David

(Man, I wish I had written this letter! As a second-best, DeSmog will be doing it's own letter to the University of Virginia and I hope you will too).

If you need the address or the fax number for the University, here you go: 

Department of Environmental Sciences University of Virginia,

Clark Hall 291 McCormick Rd PO Box 400123 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4123

FAX:(434) 982-2137

Previous Comments

Since when has private funding of university research programs been unusual? Most science and engineering research in universities is privately funded. Perhaps Laurie David would know that if she had a degree in science or engineering.

I hope that UVA sets her straight that without private funding of university research, our universities would not be able to employ faculty at today’s level. Furthermore, without private funding, we would have significantly fewer PhD and Masters program graduate students.

“private funding of university research” is one thing and you are missing the point entirely. This money was destined for Michaels pockets NOT the University and it was for a PR campaing NOT research. Read the memo here.

Actually, the money is for Dr. Michaels’ consulting group. Like most professors, he is allowed and encouraged to devote a certain amount of his time to outside consulting endeavors. The mission they are being funded to do is to critique the science of climate change articles. With a thousand right-wing misinformation sites out in cyberspace trying to talk down climate change with nonsense, Dr. Michaels is the one voice I can count on to stick to the science. His viewpoints are often unpopular and sometimes proven wrong, but science needs skeptics and people like him keep the well-funded “majority” from simply printing whatever they please.

“With a thousand right-wing misinformation sites out in cyberspace trying to talk down climate change with nonsense, Dr. Michaels is the one voice I can count on to stick to the science”.

Strange comment since Michaels is allied with a large number of right wing misinformation (when it comes to science) sites. Michaels is well known for his distortion of the truth.


If you are going to use an ad hominem, at least reference it with a link.

“…well known for his distortion of the truth”

By whom? In what context?

Anyone who has done any researching at all on the politics and big business influence on the climate science dabate will have found out that Patrick J Michaels is not to be trusted. Google “misinformation by Patrick Michaels” and you will get close to 500,000 hits.

A good starter if you are serious about finding out the truth is here:

Ian, I can type in “banana cream pie” on Google and get 1,500,000 hits! Big deal. The number of “hits” one gets on Google is an awfully poor indicator of anything. Is that the best you have???

Looking at the link you posted:

No truth there! No proof, just a baseless, unsubstantiated allegation. Maybe one of your 499,999 other Google hits has some real info. Regards,

Do we have a tag team operating here. Seems like they take turns in uttering more nonsense.

Your grasp of logic appears to be just as lacking as your grasp of climate science. If you google “banana cream pie” you get 250,000 hits, if you google banana cream pie you get lots more. You need to hone up on your googling skills. And if you replace Michaels’ name with mine you get ZERO hits, does that not say some thing?

Congrats Ian, You are proving that if you can not carry on an intelligent argument, you just resort to the use of logical fallacies.

I typed in “misiformation by Ian Forrester” on Google. I got 729 hits. You’re toast Ian. ;) Regards,

That couldn’t be possible as you spelled misinformation wrong.

Attacked by the Internet Spelling Nannies. When will the harassment end? :)

While Ian posts bogus Google searches as “proof”, the best the two of you can come back with is a nitpicky spelling mistake?

Really, I’d expected better. Regards,

You have just shown that you don’t know how to use google (as well as not being able to spell). You must include your search in quotation marks (“…”) to actually find “misinformation by Ian Forrester”, which leads to zero hits. If you just put in a string of words without quotation marks you get hits for any hit that contains these words anywhere in the web page, not neceassarily in that particular phrase. Nice try but wrong again.

You are hopeless Ian.

Type in “”misinformation by Patrick Michaels” into Google. Make sure you include the quotation marks. Number of “hits”???

ZERO. How much of a hypocrite are you? Regards,

I checked my google searches and found that I had mistakenly typed a single quote instead of a double quote at the start of the string thus changing the scope of the search.

None of this changes the fact that Michaels consistently distorts the truth in his articles. He seems to have a favourite in Jim Hansen since he has misquoted him on a number of items.

Michaels has a long histroy of scientific obfuscation since he is mentioned in the documents on file in the tobacco fraud lawsuits.

I appreciate your mea culpa Ian. At the same time, I think we can safely ignore your claims that Michaels “distorts” and is guilty of “disinformation”. The links you provided, or the one anyways, provided no factual or verifiable data.

Let’s fire that pompous, self-sanctimonious blowhard Laurie David instead. :) Regards,

Pat Michaels. Try this post, where Ross dug up a leaked coal industry memo identifying Michaels as their favourite faux-scientific lobbyist. The Google lessons notwithstanding, Ian's original point stands.


The memo talks of a contribution, but it does not state what it was for or how it was contributed. One could infer nefarious motives from this just as easily as someone else could infer that it was funding his research. There is insufficient information to determine the facts.

I noticed in the link that Ross Gelbspan resorted to the same sort of ad homenim arguments from which I have been defending him in another thread.

…who have long been laughingstocks in the community of mainstream climate scientists

Ross was speaking of scientists with whom he disagrees. The fact that these scientists are at odds with other scientists simply means that this is science as usual. Disagreements are normal and expected in science. Ross’ use of a pejorative is uncalled for here.

Ian’s original post appeared to stand on ideological prejudices only. Factually, it was, and remains, a house of cards.

As for the memo, I have read it fail to see the incrimination in it. This is the smoking gun??? You must have something more significant then that. Regards,

Re: ‘At the same time, I think we can safely ignore your claims that Michaels “distorts” and is guilty of “disinformation”.’

Paul, give me a break! Everything Michaels says is refuted in Coby’s excellent blog here:

Check under “How to Talk to a Sceptic” and here:

Michaels is one of the biggest perpetrators of obfuscation on the planet. He plays on the layman’s lack of education to say things which seem to make sense to those who do not know any better. That’s why his kind is so successful in creating controversy where there is none.

If the media were to actually do their jobs and have true balance, his voice would be virtually shut out as for every Pat Michaels there would be 200 Benjamin Santers, Michael Manns, or James Hansens. This is because the overwhelming consensus is that anthropogenic global warming is occurring and that little if any peer-reviewed studies have denied this. Paul, read Naomi Oreskes’ work!


Thanks for the link on “How to Talk to a Sceptic.” I read through it and I understand where the blogger is coming from. For people who have not looked into the issue in great detail, it would make sense. I am sure that many people would find these to be convincing arguments.

I have read Oreskes. Her recent article from July 24, 2006 states:

To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when the new evidence strikes at their core beliefs and values.

She is certainly correct here, but she seems to forget that this verbal sword has two edges. This could just as easliy be applied to Michaels as to Micheal E. Mann.

Brooks, Oreske’s comment makes on thing clear which you seem to have missed. She says “there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when THE NEW EVIDENCE strikes at their core beliefs and values”. All of the scientific results on AGW are anathema to Michaels and his fuel industry friends. However, there is no new evidence which contradicts Mann et al. If you know of any please let us know ASAP (and no, M & M’s papers provide no new evidence so please don’t quote them).


If you are of the opinion that all climate science stopped with the publication of MBH98 and MBH99, then there is not much point in trying to carry on an intelligent argument with you.

Perhaps the evidence that tree rings are not thermometers is not NEW, but it makes me wonder why there is no validation of proxies as thermometers. Dendrochronologist have been writing for years that tree rings are not linearly related to temperature, and in many cases they react negatively to increasing temperatures. Tree grown depends on temperature, and moisture, and fertilization. Therefore to use tree rings as thermometers, a scientiest should validate this rather than assume that this is true.

Brooks, your understanding of the English language appears to be as lacking as your understanding of the sceince behind AGW. Show me where I have ever stated that I am “of the opinion that all climate science stopped with the publication of MBH98 and MBH99.” You distort words and facts to suit your own twisted agenda. It is unfortunate that since people like you have become involved in this blog that “intelligent arguements” are sadly lacking.


That is good news. I will ignore the ad hominen arguments in your reply as well as the fact that you missed the first word in my previous post which was “if” and direct you to please read the second paragraph in the post.

I would be very appreciative of your assistance in alleivating my lack of understanding of the science behind AGW. Therefore, could you please direct me to the validation studies which show the influence of temperature on tree ring growth. I am particularly interested in validation of the proxies with the strongest signals.

Just because you dislike the message does not give you the right to attack the messenger. That is an ad homenim argument, a from of logical fallacy. Jeremy Bentham included it in his Handbook of Political Fallacies.

You disagree with Michaels. The Grist is hardly going to give Michaels a fair shake, because they also disagree with him. Going to the Grist for balanced opinion of Michaels would be like going to the Jo Son Tong Sin looking for a balanced view of North Korea’s nuclear program.

The Jo Son Tong Sin link is

Kevin, Your “memo” link was to an article by Ross Gelbspan. It does not state specifics but rather Ross’ interpretation. His interpretation may or may not be correct, but there is insufficient information to make an independent determination.
It's embedded in Ross's article. Here it is. Would love to get your independent interpretation. And by the way, your use of the Ad Hominem defintion is correct, however when we talk about Michaels recieving money from coal interests for PR, that is not “ad hominem,” that's context. Man, I hope my spelling is right in this comment, you guys sure are a bunch of sticklers!


I already had downloaded the memo. Just to be sure, I used your link to download it again. The terminology in the link is that they contributed $100,000 to Michaels. I could not find anything that said either the purpose or the method of the contribution.

The Gristmill article had much more in it than a statement that Michaels had received money from coal interests. It was these other comments that I was referring to as ad homenims.

Hey Brooks, you’re just bent on continuing the misinformation campaign with, more, well, misinformation. The money from the coal interests was for Michaels, the University of Virginia would never see one red cent of it. I hope you will set your own record straight and admit that you don’t know what the hell yer talking about!!!
The Pat Michaels story is a little bit more complex than your simple “Fire Pat Michaels” take on it. First of all, Dr. Michaels has been a skeptic of global warming doomsday scenarios well before he ever received a dime in funding from any energy interest. Clearly, his views are based on his interpretation of the science. He has received support from energy interests because of his viewpoints. He does not hold his viewpoints because of support from energy interests. There is a big difference. Secondly, Dr. Michaels openly supports greenhouse theory. However, he is very skeptical of what he perceives as wild exagerration of the impacts of the warming. Contrary to what many would have you believe, the science certainly isn’t “settled”. Meteorologists (like me) and other scientists are fighting like cats and dogs over the details and ramifications of climate change. The University of Virginia should welcome a distinguished professor who has unpopular but scientific viewpoints. Skepticism is the hallmark of good science and should be encouraged, not squashed. Thirdly, many of the scientists who support the “politically correct” view of devastating global warming stand to benefit from increased government funding and/or funding from leftist special interest groups such as Greenpeace or the the Sierra Club. Jim Hansen, one of the most vocal greenhouse doomsayers, is clearly aligned politcally and financially with leftist special interest groups. Do I think Dr. Hansen should therefore be ignored and fired from his job ? No, of course not. Like Dr. Michaels, he held these viewpoints long ago and has not compromised his scientitfic integrity. Fourth…do you really think we should fire qualified scientists because they have unpopular viewpoints ? Think about that. All researchers need money to proceed. The people who developed Lipitor were funded by “Big Pharma” and the people who developed the Prius were funded by “Big Auto” and a small portion of Pat Michaels funding comes from “Big Oil”. Much of the funding for those who disagree with Dr. Michaels comes from “Big Government” or “Big Environment”. Trust me, the whole global warming issue is extremely complex. Let’s encourage skepticism on every aspect of it.

Couldn't agree more about skeptcism being important. But again, you're missing the point. This money was not for Micheals to do research to prove, or disporve, his hypothses about climate change – this money was to get Michael's fringe science message out to the general public - this was money to run a PR campaign on behalf of coal industry interests, NOT for conducting scientific inquiry.

I agree that researchers need money to do their research, no doubt about it, and corporations do have a huge role in that. However, with your Lipitor example you are comparing apples to oranges; one was a company paying scientists to conduct research in a lab and the other was an organization who stands to lose financially if we address climate change paying a scientist (Micheals) to do public relations, not research.

And finally, please tell me the rationalization for “Big Government” to not tell the truth about climate change? I've never gotten my head around this one, that somehow the governments of the world are raising a false alarm about the realities of climate change, yet they are the ones who will have to fork out billions to deal with these realities!? Wow, that would probably make for the dumbest global government conspiracy ever. Of course, now that I've said this I will anxiously wait for the climate change denier talking points to be pasted below.

Kevin Grandia - 1. How do you know what the grant was used for? What evidence do you have that the money was used by Dr. Michaels for PR purposes? Is your statement based on fact, or are you attempting to distort the truth by intentionally blurring the lines between the researcher and the research sponsors? 2. Could any climate research that contradicts your views ever be considered objective or impartial? Are all climate researchers that support your views completely free of all potential conflicts of interest? 3. Is it wrong for people who disagree with you to try to actively compete in the marketplace of ideas? Should only failed presidential candidates have a right to promote the “truth”? Should anyone who disagrees just keep their propaganda to themselves? 4. Do you think other countries look at the US as an economic competitor? As the world’s largest industrialized economy, do you think the US could suffer a larger relative disruption from carbon restrictions than many less industrialized countries? Do you think other countries might see that as a net positive, even if they also incur some costs? Do you think this may explain why both sides of the aisle in the US Senate voted unanimously against endorsement? Do you have information they are unaware of that would change their vote? 5. You seem very willing to believe that people that oppose your views are willing to lie. Could the same ever be true of those that agree with you? 6. Of course, these questions probably qualify as canned “talking points” since there is no possibility for honest debate on this issue. After all, when your motives are pure and your certainty is absolute, anyone who disagrees with you must be evil or stupid.
Sorry for the double post.

My oh my, that's a lot to digest. I will repsond to a couple and then maybe pick up again in the morning.

3. Is it wrong for people who disagree with you to try to actively compete in the marketplace of ideas?

A: No, it's not wrong, not in the least. What exactly does “competing in the marketplace of ideas” mean?

4. Do you think other countries look at the US as an economic competitor? As the world's largest industrialized economy, do you think the US could suffer a larger relative disruption from carbon restrictions than many less industrialized countries?

A: the US (and Canada) is largely responsible for the increased C02 emissions, so they should be leading the fight to clean up the mess. As the world's largest industrialized country, the US is in the best economic position to lead the charge.

Okay, one more.

5. You seem very willing to believe that people that oppose your views are willing to lie. Could the same ever be true of those that agree with you?

A: you seem to know a lot about me, for someone who I've never met. I know lots of people who agree with me that are willing to lie, just not about the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change.

And finally, an “honest debate” can only occur if it is based on truths. So where is all of the scientific evidence to base this “honest debate” on? The truth is the “debate” in the scientific community on the realities and causes of climate change has been over for a long time. Unless of course there is new research I, or most of the world's climate scientists, haven't seen. If there are, please send them to me and I will pass them along; man will they be embarrassed!

Oh, and I don't think your stupid.

People blame these power producers for polluting as if customers have nothing to do with it. Environmentalists complain about coal-fired pollution, but then refuse to allow nuclear power. And everyone refuses to pay more for energy. Look at the public reaction in recent years to natural gas and gasoline price increases. I’m sure an overnight skyrocketing of electric prices would be easily accepted as long it meant clean power. Because, after all, it’s for the children. If you feel that strogly that these guys are evil, why don’t you personally spend $50-100,000 for a solar system and stop buying the electricity from those dirty old power plants. It’s a lot of money, but we’re talking about your heartfelt principles here.
Breaking news… There are credible reports that Kevin Grandia is actually on the payroll of Jim Hoggan, the man who some have called an environmental wacko. Yes, Mr. Grandia’s role as so-called “operations manager” of may in fact be financed by that same Jim Hoggan. Certainly you might question whether that matters. After all, how important could that role be, given that blogs like Daily Kos and Instapundit manage to handle thousands of times more traffic than with no operations manager. Well, that’s not the end of the story. While Mr. Hoggan is likely way too smart to pay Kevin much at all for his so-called work as “operations manger”, we have sources that say that the real payoff may be delivered indirectly. Could kissing up to Mr. Hoggan’s extremism and outlier beliefs about global warming ultimately benefit Kevin’s career as a public relations flak? Developing…
Really? You have sources? I'm on pins and needles to see how this one develops. Keep me posted.
I guess I am interested in who you are. Why do you use everytime you come on the site? Wait a minute is that you DiCaprio?
The graph above shows the changing soruces of R&D funding over the past half century. 40 years ago, most R&D funding came from the US Government, however today private funding is responsible for more than 2/3rds of overall R&D funds. To look at the change in funding over 50 years; US Governement funding has increased 4 fold whereas private funding has increased roughly 20 fold.

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