"Suppressed" Climate Report Cribbed From Patrick Michaels?

"Suppressed" Climate Report Cribbed From Patrick Michaels?
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The folks at Fox News were fuming this week that the EPA apparently suppressed an internal “scientific report” that questioned the rational for listing CO2 as a pollutant under the Clear Air Act.

The report, however, is neither secret nor scientific.

It’s not secret because it has been posted on the websites of the Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and several other think tanks with a record of using any excuse to deny climate change science. The full file is available here.

The person listed as the author of the report, Alan Carlin, is not a scientist, but an economist who works for National Center for Environmental Economics. But Carlin also had some help.

Several years ago, Ken Gregory of the Astroturf group Friends of Science compiled an eye-glazing compendium of pseudo science questioning climate change. Real Climate points out that Carlin has imported sections of this verbatim, crediting Gregory 20 times in the report.

Carlin also referenced Christopher Monckton and S. Fred Singer, a politician and a lapsed scientist, both of them darlings of the denial industry.

But what about un-referenced sources? Plugging Carlin’s report into Plagiarism Checker.com revealed a whole series of unreferenced sections lifted verbatim from one of the deans of the denial industry, Patrick Michaels, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.

Have a look: Page 79 of Carlin’s PDF states:

For instance, despite the overall rise in U.S. and global average temperatures for the past 30 years, U.S. crop yields have increased (Figure 3-1), the population’s sensitivity to extreme heat has decreased (Figure 3-2), and our general air quality has improved (Figure 3-3). Further, there has been no long-term increase in weather-related property damage once changes in inflation, population size, and population wealth are accounted for (an essential step in any temporal comparison). All of these trends are in the opposite sense from those described in the EPA’s Endangerment TSD.”

Small world. It seems that a November 19th op-ed piece on Michael’s website entitled “Why the EPA should find against Endangerment” has exactly the same wording and exactly the same graphs. In fact, the entire section 3 of Carlin’s report seems to be a very thin re-write of the anti-EPA piece from last November.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offence, particularly if it involves obviously biased sources. It is therefore ironic that Carlin’s unsolicited 85 page report, on a subject well outside his area of expertise, is devoted to criticizing the scientific community for their shoddy work.

This week an indignant Senator James Inhofe demanded an inquiry into this strange report. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. It might be interesting to find out who else Carlin cribbed and who paid for the report.

Recently revealed tax documents show that Michaels’ consulting firm was paid $242,900 by the Cato Institute since April 2006, during which year Cato Ihad accepted $612,000 from 26 corporate supporters including ExxonMobil, General Motors and the American Petroleum Institute.

Since neither Carlin nor Gregory are climate scientists, what do active climate researchers think of the “suppressed” report? Dr. Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies provides an amusing evisceration here, pointing out the numerous non-peer reviewed and discredited sources that have loomed into public view yet again.

The blog for Nature, the most prestigious scientific journal in the world also dismissed this report out of hand, calling it “rehash of old, scientifically dubious arguments.”

Hardly a bombshell, but you would never know that watching the hyperbolic media coverage. Have a look at this remarkable puff piece from Fox News that interviews the aggrieved Carlin himself.

Perhaps the next time Carlin is in the presence of the media, someone should ask him why his name is on a report that instead seems to be largely written by well-known members of the denial industry. 

I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions, but it does seem odd that this dubious story based on dubious sources appears in high media rotation just as the Waxman-Markey bill moves to the Senate.

Author’s note: One thing about muckraking on so-called “climate skeptics” – you always seem to find something stinky, unethical or dishonest. I love being the first to drag it up but have since learned that in this case I wasn’t. The good folks at Deep Climate.org first reported the apparent plagiarism from Patrick Michaels’ website last week and went further. I urge members of the media review this material and tell the other side of this important story.

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