Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow with the the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, is one of the leading global warming skeptics. Back in 1994, when his media profile as Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virgina and a global warming skeptic was taking off, Michaels founded New Hope Environmental Services.
The firm, which he wholly owns, describes itself as "an advocacy science consulting firm." These days, New Hope's main activities are publishing the firm's blog, World Climate Report, and helping anonymous clients to publicize "findings on climate change and scientific and social perspectives that may not otherwise appear in the popular literature or media."
While both Michaels and New Hope Environmental Services are secretive about who their clients are, a little piece of their funding jigsaw is tucked away in the backblocks of the 2006 and 2007 (pdf's - see page 10) annual returns of the Cato Institute. In its returns, Cato reports that since April 2006 they have paid $242,900 for the "environmental policy" services of Michaels' firm. (In preceding years, New Hope Environmental Services was not listed amongst the five highest paid independent contractors supplying professional services to Cato.)
In response to an email inquiry, Michaels stated that the Cato funding "largely supported the extensive background research for my 2009 book, 'Climate of Extremes,' background research on climate change, mainly in the areas of ice melt and temperature histories, and background research required for invited lectures around the world." (Climate of Extremes was published by the Cato Institute in January of this year.) Asked whether the funding came from a specific company, donor or foundation, Michaels wrote via email that there wasn't "for this or for any of my activities." (In case the Cato Institute knew of dedicated funding sources for Michaels work that he was unaware of, I also emailed an inquiry to the think tank's media office. They did not respond.)
Stalled on the Starting Grid
The funding sources of New Hope Environmental Services have long been the subject of controversy. Back in 2007 Michaels was slated to be an expert witness for a number of auto companies and lobby groups, including General Motors and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in a legal bid aimed at preventing the government of Vermont from regulating greenhouse gases. But before Michaels got to take the stand, the case took a dramatic twist. Greenpeace intervened in the case and sought to have the clients of New Hope Environmental Services made public. Faced with the choice of disclosing his firm's client list or dropping out of the auto lobby's legal case, Michaels decided to retreat.
In an affidavit (pdf) explaining his move and opposing the Greenpeace application, Michaels stated that "public disclosure of a company's funding of New Hope and its employees has already caused considerable financial loss to New Hope. For example, in 2006 Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc., an electric utility, had requested that its support of $50,000 to New Hope be held confidential. After this support was inadvertently made public by another New Hope client, Tri-State informed me that it would no longer support New Hope because of adverse publicity. Also, in 2006, when a $100,000 contract between New Hope and electric utility Intermountain Rural Electric Association to synthesize and research new findings on global warming became public knowledge, a public campaign was initiated to change the composition of the board of directors so that there would be no additional funding. That campaign was successful, as Intermountain has not provided further funding."