The buck passing continues in the case of Pat Michaels and the office of Virginia State Climatologist. The State of Virginia has passed it back to UVa. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

Katherine K. Hanley, the secretary of the commonwealth, wrote University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III on Thursday, asking 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.” …

Hanley’s letter also addressed the question of whether Michaels’ position as state climatologist is an appointment of the governor or of U.Va. Hanley does acknowledge that Michaels was originally appointed state climatologist by Gov. John Dalton in 1980.

However, she said the code of Virginia “does not provide for the governor to appoint a state climatologist.”

She also asserted that the university assumed authority for the state climatologist’s office and title in the 2000 certification application to the American Association of State Climatologists. …

The governor’s office said Michaels could refer to himself as the “AASC-designated state climatologist.”

The Roanoke Times says

UVa can fix things only by asking Michaels to choose one boss: Virginians or power companies.

Removing him from the state climatologist’s office would not undermine his academic independence. He could continue to research, teach, accept funding from polluters and peddle climate whangdoodles, just without the implication that he speaks for all Virginians that his title conveys. Likewise, the conflict would end if he stopped taking cash from industry, something that creates at least the appearance of a state scientist for hire.

Via Judd Legum and Richard Littlemore


  1. #1 Scott
    August 23, 2006

    It’s a slow a work day today so for grins, I decided to look up Pat Michaels on my alma matter’s website. Here he is. Can’t help but laugh at the irony that because of the way the College organizes the hard sciences, this clown is in the Environmental Sciences department. I think I may write up a letter to the dean of A&S, who taught history when I was there, that I don’t appreciate this guy dragging down UVA’s reputation like this. What he’s been doing is extremely unethical to say the least.

  2. #2 Jeff Harvey
    August 23, 2006

    Thanks for the link, Scott.

    Michaels writes on his UVA web site: “My research also leads me to believe that the next decade will see the emergence of a paradigm of ‘robust earth’ as opposed to the fashionable ‘fragility’ concept”. This is an utterly outrageous assertion. To being with, few if any statured environmental scientists are arguing that the planet’s ecosystems are ‘fragile’ – this is straight out of a grade school textbook. Clearly, considering that they have withstood quite an anthropogenic assault already, these systems are far from ‘fragile’. I certainly would accept this as a given. What IS of great concern, however, is how rigid these systems are in delivering a range of critically essential ecosystem services that support human existence. There is already evidence that services such as detoxification of wastes, climate control, the generation and maintenance of soil fertility and nutrient cycling, that are often generated over large spatial and temporal scales, are already being negatvely affected by human actions Pollination services too are showing considerable wear and tear. The robustness of ecosystem services is the question that qualified environmental scientists are addressing now through their research programs, not this infantile straw man question posed by Michaels. Reading this I could only wonder how this guy has any credibility whatsoever.

    He started off his web site with an equally appalling assertion: “The core issue over the next ten years will not be “How much will the climate warm?” but, rather, “Why did it warm so little?” and then later states, “It is entirely possible that human influence on the atmosphere is not necessarily deleterious and that it is simply another component of the dynamic planet”. The bottom line is this: no matter how ‘deleterious’ human influence on atmospheric processes is found to be, you can be sure that people like Michaels will be up there arguing that we need ‘more research’ and that ‘the problem is overblown’. Mark my words.

  3. #3 JB
    August 23, 2006

    “It is entirely possible that human influence on the atmosphere is not necessarily deleterious” — Pat Michaels in his bio

    It would seem that “deleterious is in the eye of the beholder”:

    “We live in constant fear of the adverse impacts of climate change. For a coral atoll nation, sea level rise and more severe weather events loom as a growing threat to our entire population. The threat is real and serious, and is of no difference to a slow and insidious form of terrorism against us.”

    -Saufatu Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu,

  4. #4 pough
    August 23, 2006

    If Tuvalu get overwhelmed by the sea, what will happen to all the .tv domains?

  5. #5 Dano
    August 23, 2006

    It is entirely possible that human influence on the atmosphere is not necessarily deleterious

    It’s entirely possible that my influencing this hammer on the window is not necessarily deleterious.

    It’s entirely possible that my influence of using a vehicle while drunk is not necessarily deleterious.

    It’s entirely possible that Dick Cheney’s influence with a shotgun while drunkenly bird hunting is not necessarily deleterious.


    These people say this sh*t all the time.



  6. #6 Eli Rabett
    August 23, 2006

    Among the amusing subtexts in the article are: who is going to pay Pat, what is the AASC (hint: not what the Governor says it is), and could we have five or six Va State Slimatologists.

  7. #7 Robert P.
    August 23, 2006

    Hmm, this might be related to a claim made by one of Michaels’ faculty colleagues at U.Va. about a dozen years ago. In a post to the usenet group sci.environment dated 9 December 1994, he wrote:

    “a very expert climatologist who argues that the jury is not yet back on the global warming issue, and who has made his views widely known, speaking before congressional committees, etc. got a major “environmental” funding organization so upset that they tried to pressure the president of the university to have his position removed.”

    (While this particular post does not mention Michaels by name, the context of this and earlier threads in that group clearly points to him as the target.)

    At the time this claim struck me as curious, since I assumed that Michaels was regular faculty rostered in a Department. I wonder if, instead, it referred to the State Climatologist position, and if the “major environmental funding organization” had merely uncovered the same irregularities being discussed here.

  8. #8 JB
    August 24, 2006

    Eli asks: “Who is going to pay Pat?”

    A rhetorical question if ever there was one.

  9. #9 z
    August 24, 2006

    Nobody’s suggesting that the earth/ecosystem is not robust. The problem is our civilization/economy, that is not robust. As more than one event has gently hinted to us in the recent past. Still and all, I guess it’s OK; climate change won’t completely exterminate humanity, merely drop civilization back to somewhere between the 19th and 16th centuries (given that we’ve largely lost the ability to carry on 19th century technologies, you see, so the slide will continue on through until it reaches a level of primitivism which we can handle) and the concomitant loss of maybe tens or hundreds of millions of lives, mostly from the most technologically advanced nations. No biggie.

  10. #10 cytochrome_sea
    August 27, 2006

    I don’t generally read “Number Watch”, but came across this today before stumbling onto here and thought it barely relevant but slightly amusing (within the context of the above post):
    (was only thinking about the first “entry” (it’s about a ‘page’ tall at ~1024 vertical pixels)

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