Appearing on Hannity & Colmes, global warming skeptic Michaels falsely suggested Gore endorsed exaggerating threat posed by global warming

››› ››› KURT DONALDSON

On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick J. Michaels distorted comments made by former Vice President Al Gore to falsely suggest Gore endorsed exaggerating the threat of global warming.

On the May 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Patrick J. Michaels, a University of Virginia professor and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, distorted comments former Vice President Al Gore made to falsely suggest that Gore endorsed exaggerating the threat of global warming. According to Michaels, Gore "says it's appropriate to over-represent the danger" of global warming. In fact, Gore simply said that in order to get people to engage in a discussion of the possible methods of countering global warming, it is appropriate to initially devote more time to outlining the dangers posed by global warming than to discussing possible solutions.

Michaels made his comments during a discussion with co-host Sean Hannity about the upcoming documentary film An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics, May 2006), which chronicles Gore's travels speaking about global warming. When Hannity asked Michaels whether the film is "more Al Gore hysteria and fear mongering," Michaels responded that "global warming is a very real thing," but that "what people do on this issue is they exaggerate it." To back up his claim, Michaels pointed to a comment Gore made during a recent interview with Grist Magazine, in which Gore stated: "I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous [global warming] is." Michaels highlighted the quote to assert that Gore "says it's appropriate to over-represent the danger on this issue."

In fact, as the website News Hounds noted, Gore's use of the term "over-representation" referred to the amount of time spent informing people about the dangers posed by global warming (at the expense of discussing possible solutions to the problem); it did not amount to an endorsement of exaggerating those dangers. In the Grist interview, Gore was asked whether the "best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated" is to "scare people or give them hope." Gore replied that, given that "[n]obody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem," it is "appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it [global warming] is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are." He added: "Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there's going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions."

Michaels is the author of three books critical of global warming theory, all published by the Cato Institute -- Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media (November 2004), The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming (May 2000) and Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming (January 1992). In a review for Meltdown, Publishers Weekly noted that Michaels "acknowledges that the earth is warming because of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but he insists that the warming will probably be modest and that nature and humanity will easily adjust to it."

Publishers Weekly further noted:

[Michaels] sometimes allows his own agenda to intrude. Advocates of the precautionary principle will note that he fails to demonstrate his claim that "there is no known, feasible policy that can stop or even slow these climate changes." And while he chalks up global warming alarmism to an unholy alliance of climatologists hungry for grants and media sensationalism, his remedy for biased science is not better science but a "wider source of bias" in the form of more funding of climatology by the fossil fuel industry.

Indeed, Michaels's ties to the energy industry are many. For example, in an October 11, 2005, article, The Seattle Times reported that "Michaels has received more than $165,000 in fuel-industry funding, including money from the coal industry to publish his own climate journal." As Media Matters for America has noted, Michaels is chief editor of the World Climate Report, a biweekly newsletter on climate studies funded in large part by the coal industry. Michaels participated in a February 24 roundtable discussion at the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington, D.C., an organization Congressional Quarterly described as "a Washington-based think tank supported by industry and conservative foundations that focuses primarily on trying to debunk global warming as a threat." According to an Exxon Mobil report, the Exxon Mobil Foundation donated $80,000 to the institute's Climate Change program in 2002.

This is not the first time misinformation originating with Michaels has surfaced on Fox News. As Media Matters has documented, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume apparently relied on a misleading article by Michaels that attacked the credibility of a World Bank scientist in order to discredit a recent United Nations report on world ecosystems written by a panel the scientist co-chaired.

From the May 9 article in Grist Magazine:

Q.: There's a lot of debate right now over the best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated. Do you scare people or give them hope? What's the right mix?

A. [Gore]: I think the answer to that depends on where your audience's head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there's going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions.

From the May 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

GORE [clip]: We have to act together to solve this global crisis. Our ability to live is what is at stake.

HANNITY: That was the trailer for Al Gore's new film about global warming called An Inconvenient Truth. Gore says the film exposes the misconception about what he calls "an environmental crisis."

But what is the real scientific truth behind the film? Does global warming exist, or is this just a liberal scare tactic? Joining us now is University of Virginia professor, Cato senior fellow of environmental studies, Patrick Michaels. Patrick, is that more Al Gore hysteria and fear mongering?

MICHAELS: Well, it's an exaggeration. Global warming is a very real thing. People have something to do with it in the last several decades of the 20th century. But what people do on this issue is they exaggerate it. I have a quote from him, from Grist magazine recently.

He said, "I believe it's appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is."

HANNITY: Yeah.

MICHAELS: He says it's appropriate to over-represent the danger on this issue. You have to realize what he said and take that as you see this movie.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Patrick J. Michaels
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
Stories/Interests
Al Gore, 2008 Elections
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