We knew Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) had declared war on reality. Now he has declared war on the freedom of academic inquiry as well. We hope that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and the University of Virginia have the spine to repudiate Mr. Cuccinelli’s abuse of the legal code. If they do not, the quality of Virginia’s universities will suffer for years to come.
With a few exceptions, the Washington Post‘s editorial page has not been friendly to climate science. So it’s refreshing to see the paper take on the chilling McCarthyite witchhunt that Cuccinelli has launched again the much-vindicated climate scientist Michael Mann:
In his ongoing campaign to wish away human-induced climate change, Mr. Cuccinelli has targeted Michael Mann, a climate scientist who used to teach at the University of Virginia, investigating him for allegedly defrauding taxpayers by obtaining grants from the commonwealth to conduct research on global temperatures. The attorney general is demanding that the university turn over astonishingly vast numbers of e-mails and other documents relating to Mr. Mann, including all correspondence with a long list of other reputable scientists.
As ammunition for this chilling assault, Mr. Cuccinelli twists beyond recognition a statute designed to punish government contractors who use fake receipts to claim taxpayer funds and those who commit other such frauds. For Mr. Cuccinelli’s “investigation” to have any merit, the attorney general must suppose that Mr. Mann “knowingly” presented “a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval.” Mr. Cuccinelli’s justification for this suspicion seems to be a series of e-mails that surfaced last year in which Mr. Mann wrote of a “trick” he used in one of his analyses, a term that referred to a method of presenting data to non-experts, not an effort to falsify results.
Cuccinelli is an extremist even among the anti-science crowd, as CP has pointed out many times (see “Virginia AG mocks dangers of CO2, telling Tea Partiers to hold their breath and make the EPA happy” and “Refuting state AG’s anti-science petition, Virginia climate scientists see “great risk” from greenhouse gases“).
The facts are that Professor Mann has been exonerated — and the Hockey Stick replicated — many, many times:
- The Hockey Stick was affirmed in a major review by the uber-prestigious National Academy of Scientists — in media-speak, the highest scientific “court” in the land (see NAS Report and here).
- Penn State itself found no evidence for allegations against Mann, concluding its recent inquiry, “After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data.”
- Actually, it was Dr. Phil Jones who used the word “trick” — and as the House of Commons inquiry that exonerated Jones explained, “”Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the word ‘trick’ is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominately caused by human activity. The balance of evidence patently fails to support this view. It appears to be a colloquialism for a ‘neat’ method of handling data.”
- The Hockey Stick has not only withstood scrutiny but seen its conclusions expanded (see Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years). It has been replicated and strengthened by numerous independent studies. My favorite is from Science last year “” see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds, the source of the figure below:
The Washington Post makes many of these points themselves and then continues:
By equating controversial results with legal fraud, Mr. Cuccinelli demonstrates a dangerous disregard for scientific method and academic freedom. The remedy for unsatisfactory data or analysis is public criticism from peers and more data, not a politically tinged witch hunt or, worse, a civil penalty. Scientists and other academics inevitably will get things wrong, and they will use public funds in the process, because failure is as important to producing good scholarship as success. For the commonwealth to persecute scientists because one official or another dislikes their findings is the fastest way to cripple not only its stellar flagship university, but also its entire public higher education system.
That’s why the university should immediately challenge the attorney general’s “civil investigative demand” for documents, which the law allows, and which a university spokeswoman says it is considering. It’s also why Mr. McDonnell should condemn the attorney general and aid the university, making it clear that Mr. Cuccinelli speaks only for himself.
Kudos to the WashPost for this editorial.
Shame on Cuccinelli for launching this witchhunt. Both McDonnell and the university need to repudiate the AG’s anti-scientific efforts.
For some of the others who have condemned Cuccinelli, see DotEarth here.
- Climatologist Ken Caldeira: “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”
- Michael Mann responds to the “false and misleading claims” in the error-riddled, defamatory WSJ piece by Jeffrey Ball and Keith Johnson
- “Independent” critique of Hockey Stick revealed as fatally flawed right-wing anti-science set up