Rosen falsely identified guest as "Virginia state climatologist," dispensed numerous global warming falsehoods

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In a discussion on climate change, Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen and his guest, Patrick Michaels, dispensed several falsehoods about global warming and smeared former Vice President Al Gore as having "extreme" views. Further, Rosen called Michaels "the Virginia state climatologist" but did not mention that Virginia officials have asked Michaels to stop describing himself as such, and he did not note Michaels' ties to the fossil-fuel industry.

During the March 30 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, Mike Rosen inaccurately described his guest, global warming skeptic Patrick Michaels, as "the Virginia state climatologist." However, Rosen failed to note that although former Virginia Gov. John Dalton once "appointed" Michaels to be the state climatologist, Virginia law doesn't give a governor the authority for that appointment. In fact, the current Virginia governor's office has asked Michaels to stop describing himself as "state climatologist" out of concern that Michaels' "views on global warming will be perceived as an official state position," according to an August 19, 2006, Associated Press article. Rosen also failed to mention that Michaels is funded by the fossil-fuel industry, as Media Matters for America has noted. Further, Rosen and Michaels dispensed several global warming falsehoods during the broadcast and labeled former Vice President Al Gore's work on climate change "extreme."

Rosen introduced Michaels by listing his various titles and calling him "certainly qualified" to discuss the topic of climate change:

ROSEN: I think that you might enjoy the comments of Dr. Patrick Michaels, who's with us this hour. The senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, he's the Virginia state climatologist, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia; he was program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society; he's a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, has a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. So he's certainly qualified in this area, and he's one of those who's been described as a global warming skeptic. Or at least that version of global warming that is hot right now in the pop culture. Dr. Michaels, thanks for joining us this morning.

Later in the broadcast, Michaels argued that it was "time to tone down the extreme rhetoric" about climate change, then pointed out, "[b]y the way, I do have to put in here that ... I am not speaking here as state climatologist for Virginia; I'm speaking as a private citizen under academic freedom." However, neither Rosen nor Michaels explained, as the AP article did, that Virginia's current governor's office asked Michaels "to refrain from using his title when conducting non-state business."

The state's request came after "a Colorado utility raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges to help Michaels analyze global-warming research by other scientists." The utility presumably was the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, which, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, has been criticized by some members for hiring Michaels to debunk the concerns over climate change. The AP noted:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's spokesman said that [the hiring of Michaels to debunk climate change] played a role in the request as well as the "perception" Michaels was speaking for the state on global warming issues.

"We have 100,000 state employees. To my knowledge, I am the only one recognized to speak for the governor," Kevin Hall said in an interview Saturday with the AP.

The state's concern about Michaels was relayed in a letter by Katherine K. Hanley, the secretary of the commonwealth, to University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III.

In her letter, Hanley asked that Michaels "avoid any conflict of interest or appearance thereof by scrupulously avoiding the use of the title of state climatologist in connection with any outside activities or private consulting endeavors."

Although during the broadcast Michaels argued that "there really is nothing that we can do immediately" about climate change, Rosen and Michaels failed to disclose that companies funding Michaels have a financial stake in opposing policies that seek to combat global warming by limiting carbon emissions. As Media Matters has noted, Michaels is the author of two books on global warming, The Satanic Gases and Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming; and editor of World Climate Report, a biweekly newsletter on climate studies funded in large part by the coal industry. According to a 1998 article by Institute for Public Accuracy executive director Noah Solomon, the libertarian Cato Institute has received financial support from energy companies -- including Chevron Companies, Exxon Company, Shell Oil Company, and Tenneco Gas, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Foundation, and Atlantic Richfield Foundation. His biography on the Cato Institute website states that Michaels "is one of the most popular lecturers in the nation on the subject of global warming." In February 2006 Michaels participated in a roundtable discussion at the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington, D.C., an organization Congressional Quarterly described on March 19, 2004, as "a Washington-based think tank supported by industry and conservative foundations that focuses primarily on trying to debunk global warming as a threat."

Further, during the broadcast Rosen and Michaels repeated several falsehoods about climate change.

  • Michaels: "In the first part of the 20th century it warmed about as much as it did in the last part, but the first part occurred because the sun got hotter." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, data presented by the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit show that "the last three decades (1976-2005) have seen a sharper rise in global air temperature than any other period since at least 1860, including the years preceding 1940."
  • Rosen: "They held a press conference in Washington just as Al Gore was testifying that the ... planet has a fever caused by carbon-spewing humans, but it seems that temperatures are increasing on Mars as well, and I don't think that human activity has been presented as the cause for that." In fact, numerous scientists have dismissed the claim that global warming on uninhabited planets suggests that global warming on the Earth is not likely caused by human activities. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded that both greenhouse gases and solar radiation are contributing to global warming, as Media Matters has noted. The report included a section titled "Human and Natural Drivers of Climate Change," which noted that "[c]hanges in the atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases and aerosols, in solar radiation and in land surface properties alter the energy balance of the climate system."
  • Rosen: "Bjorn Lomborg also testified before Congress in the same week that Al Gore did and he's written a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist looking at this practically, and looking at the cost of what we could do to scale back fossil-fuel use and have some impact on climate change, and its conclusion is, it just isn't worth the money." As Colorado Media Matters has noted, the Danish statistician Lomborg has been discredited by respected climate experts. In the Lomborg book Rosen referred to, the author purported to conduct a "non-partisan analysis" of environmental data in the hope of offering the public and policymakers a guide for "clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems." His conclusion was that the concerns of scientists regarding the world's environmental problems -- including global warming -- were overblown. But in January 2002, Scientific American published a series of articles from four well-known environmental specialists that lambasted Lomborg's book for "egregious distortions," "elementary blunders of quantitative manipulation and presentation that no self-respecting statistician ought to commit," and sections that were "poorly researched and ... rife with careless mistakes." A backgrounder by the Union of Concerned Scientists similarly reported that Lomborg's findings and methodology "fail[] to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis."

From the March 30 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:

ROSEN: I think that you might enjoy the comments of Dr. Patrick Michaels, who's with us this hour. The senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, he's the Virginia state climatologist, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia; he was program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society; he's a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, has a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. So he's certainly qualified in this area, and he's one of those who's been described as a global warming skeptic. Or at least that version of global warming that is hot right now in the pop culture. Dr. Michaels, thanks for joining us this morning.

[...]

ROSEN: What was your reaction to Al Gore's testimony in Congress?

MICHAELS: Well, it's extreme, and he says -- he has said, when his movie was coming out, that he thought it was appropriate to emphasize, essentially, the extreme scenarios on global warming. All that has done is to further polarize the discussion in this country into two camps, neither of which are correct. One side says there's no such thing as global warming. Well, that's not true; the planet's warmer than it was, and people have some influence on that in the latter part of the 20th century. And the other side says the world's coming to an end, and if you don't do something drastic in 10 years -- well, they've been making that argument for two years, so maybe it's now eight years, huh? -- then all the ice is going to fall off of Greenland and the sea level is going to rise 20 feet by the year 20, 2100. Neither of those are correct. And the reality obviously lies somewhere quite in between.

ROSEN: In the -- the recent summary for the IPCC report, which will be coming out in a month or two, some of the language that was used by the people who wrote that summary went along the lines of -- and I was surprised even from the IPCC to have them phrase it this way in the summary -- it said global warming is caused by human activity. Had they said "influenced" by human activity, then we could debate what the degree of that influence is, but they -- they stated it, I thought, much too strongly. What do you think?

MICHAELS: Well, I think it was -- you have to read very carefully what the words were that they chose. You know, there are two warmings that occurred in the 20th century. In the first part of the 20th century it warmed about as much as it did in the last part, but the first part occurred because the sun got hotter. Everybody kinda knows that. The second warming of the 20th century had more of a human component, but it turns out it's quite modest, and -- and that is what has not been shown, I think, in the IPCC report. They didn't say, hey, the warming that's been observed is at the low end of what was projected, and it didn't say, and yeah, our computer models tend to indicate once warming is established the rate does not change. So that means that this is not the end-of-the-world problem that extremists are portraying it as. I kind of wish it had said that, but if you read between the lines you can probably take it there.

ROSEN: And one wonders why you should have to read between the lines -- to say that global warming is caused by human activity certainly gives the clear impression that that's the principal cause. You don't believe it's the principal cause, do you?

MICHAELS: Well. No. In the latter part of the 20th century I think it is, but it's modest. And that's what people have -- have to realize. You see, one of the predictions of sort of global warming theory is that if you put CO2 in the air you will warm the winter more than the summer and you'll warm the coldest nights of winter more than the hottest days of the summer and you'll cool the stratosphere. Well, those things have been observed. Fine. Now, ask me the real question: What does it all mean? And the reality is that the rate of warming has been constant as is predicted, but it's at the low end of the projection ranges made. And so, anybody who says you have to do something, even though there really is nothing we can do immediately, really hasn't taken a good, hard look at these numbers.

ROSEN: NASA recently detailed new observations about solar explosions -- this was from a space telescope beaming back X-ray images of the sun's outermost layer. And the -- the sunspot activity surprised NASA astronomers. They held a press conference in Washington just as Al Gore was testifying that the, the planet has a fever caused by carbon-spewing humans, but it seems that temperatures are increasing on Mars as well, and I don't think that human activity has been presented as the cause for that.

MICHAELS: Yeah, that goes to show that a portion of the warming that has occurred since 1975 probably has some solar component. That doesn't mean the carbon dioxide doesn't have something to do with it. But, again, the important thing is, you're looking at a warming rate of, of 1.7 to 1.8 degrees per century. We had about a half of that in the 20th century. Are you dead yet, Mike? No.

ROSEN: Not yet.

[...]

ROSEN: An Inconvenient Truth is a good example of a documentary that doesn't even pretend, or maybe it does pretend, but certainly doesn't pass the test of even-handedness and objectivity, in that Al Gore cherry-picks the science. He tends toward more extreme and alarmist examples. And by -- by not including in the documentary some other factoids that would offset some of his more sensational charges, he -- he gives a very one-sided picture that I can't believe is inadvertent. That's why I say he cherry-picks. What do you think?

MICHAELS: Oh, it's true. And, and -- he -- he will admit to that. He said when the movie came out that he thought, you know, it was appropriate to emphasize the very, very violent scenarios when that's clear cherry-picking, because there's very, very little support for this notion of all this ice falling off Greenland, and, and computer models -- there is negative support for all the ice falling of Antarctica for a large amount. Most -- those models tend to increase the ice in Antarctica. By the way, in the IPCC report that we've been talking about, you might be interested to know that there is a model for Greenland, and it, it does have Greenland losing 60 percent of its ice in 1,100 years. Now -- do you think -- and, in doing so, we have to have the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere four times above where it -- where it was before we started burning fossil fuel. Right now we're about 35 percent above. OK. Now, do you really think, Mike, that we're going to be burning fossil fuel in the year 2500?

ROSEN: No, I don't.

MICHAELS: I don't think any reasonable person would say that's very likely. And -- but those, but those are the assumptions that are made. And still, it takes over a millennium for it to lose half of its ice. So -- so give me a break. I think it's time to tone down the extreme rhetoric. By the way, I do have to put in here that, that I am not speaking here as state climatologist for Virginia; I'm speaking as a private citizen under academic freedom. But I think the point of view that, that -- you know, we, we've got to tone down this ridiculous rhetoric on this, because it's going to get us some ridiculous policy. It's something that I think everybody would agree on.

[...]

ROSEN: There are so many variables involved here that we don't fully understand. There are so many influences on climate that are much greater than human activity, especially solar activity, to make predictions a thousand years out about what human activity will do to climate change strikes me as unreasonable.

[...]

ROSEN: Bjorn Lomborg also testified before Congress in the same week that Al Gore did, and he's written a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist looking at this practically, and looking at the cost of what we could do to scale back fossil-fuel use and have some impact on climate change, and its conclusion is, it just isn't worth the money. We can't have that much of an impact.

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