By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF
January 25, 2011, 12:58 pm
In February 2009, Patrick Michaels, a former climatologist at the University of Virginia who is now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, appeared before a House subcommittee to testify on the issue of climate change.
He stated that current climate models “can no longer be relied upon” in predicting future warming and that drastic action to curb emissions was unwarranted — conclusions welcomed by Republicans already disinclined to support the Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill, which was approved by the House that June.
Now Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat who served as chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce and co-sponsored the bill, is demanding answers on whether the scientist misled the committee on the sources of his financing.
Along with his written testimony for the 2009 hearing, Dr. Michaels submitted to Congress a document detailing roughly $4.2 million in funds he has received for his scientific work. Only 3 percent of the funding listed came from energy-sector sources.
After the hearing, Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont — citing reports that Dr. Michaels had received substantial funds from the coal, oil and gas industry — questioned him on the record about what he received from the energy sector, but he declined to amend his statements.
During an appearance on CNN last year, however, Dr. Michaels was pressed on the sources of his funding by Fareed Zakaria.
“Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?” Mr. Zakaria said.
“I don’t know — 40 percent? I don’t know,” Dr. Michaels responded.
The interview, which was recorded in August but appears to have only recently come to Mr. Waxman’s attention, elicited a sharp response from the former committee chairman. In a letter to his Republican successor as chairman, Fred Upton of Michigan, Mr. Waxman demanded an inquiry into whether Dr. Michaels deceived Congress about his financial background.
“It would be a serious matter if Dr. Michaels misled the committee about his financial backers and evaded Representative Welch’s attempt to seek clarification,” Mr. Waxman wrote.
“I hope you will agree that all witnesses need to provide accurate disclosures to the Committee and will work with me in resolving the issues raised by Dr. Michaels’s testimony,” he added.
Dr. Michaels did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
In an e-mail to Politico, a Republican committee aide wrote that under Mr. Upton’s leadership, the committee would “adhere to both the letter and the spirit of truth-in-testimony requirements and other committee rules and practices.”