A respected state climatologist resigns his post citing inability to do his job due to political pressure. Sounds exactly like the "inconvenient truth" scenario that Al Gore complained about in his book and documentary. Only thing is in this case it's a Democratic governor, Tim Kaine of Virginia, arguably silencing a climatologist who believes the globe is warming, but that the Gore-ian forecasts of doom are overwrought.
So how did the Washington Post report Dr. Pat Michaels's complaint of political pressure infringing on his academic freedom? By penning an article downplaying an arguable intrusion of political influence in the sanctuary of scientific inquest.
While the Post has been keen on furthering the meme that President Bush and his administration have conducted a campaign to silence scientists who believe in man-made global warming, staffer Jackie Spinner spun out an article on page B3 of the Saturday Post that found no substantial loss to the Old Dominion's citizens in Michaels's resignation.:
The University of Virginia's climatology data center is seeking a lower profile after its former top official, the state climatologist, resigned this past summer amid questions over whether he should use the position to promote his doubts about theories on global warming.
The Climatology Office has been renamed, dropping a formal reference to the state in its name. The office receives half its $183,000 operating budget from the state and half from U-Va. and is the main outlet in Virginia for information on the impact of weather and climate on economic and ecological systems.
The former state climatologist, Patrick J. Michaels, has been on sabbatical from the university for the past year, said Joseph C. Zieman, chairman of the school's Department of Environmental Sciences, which houses the center. Zieman said Michaels resigned the post this summer and was replaced by U-Va. research scientist Jerry Stenger, who has been running the center without the formal state title. Stenger has worked at the center for more than 20 years.
The university is considering eliminating the title of state climatologist, Zieman said.
But wait: if global warming is such a pressing issue as Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) insists -- and Spinner noted that Kaine has testifed before the Virginia legislature about the supposed impact of warming on the Chesapeake Bay -- then why is the state climatology office being downgraded? Spinner reports that Michaels has had run-ins with Kaine and other governors, but isn't that something to be prized and safeguarded when scientists produce research not to the liking of partisan politicians?
Apparently there's a double standard when it comes to global warming science and political independence for scientists.
What's more, Virginia's decision to downgrade the state climatology post is a grave mistake, at least one colleague of Michaels insists. Spinner noted that objection, but buried it at the end of her article:
But Paul G. Knight, the state climatologist for Pennsylvania and president of the American Association of State Climatologists, which Michaels once headed, decried the developments.
"They're throwing the baby out with the bathwater," Knight said, referring to Michaels' departure and the possible elimination of the title. Most states have a state climatologist. "The state tended to focus on his opinions instead of what the people of Virginia were getting, which was better than most places."