Score Another Victory for Scientists, Michael Mann and the Freedom of Inquiry

by Chris Mooney, in a DeSmogBlog cross-post

Yesterday in a Virginia courtroom, Michael Mann — who is quickly becoming the Galileo of climate science — triumphed over the conservative American Tradition Institute, and ongoing attempts at scientist-harassment.

More specifically, Prince William County Circuit Court Judge Gaylord Finch both allowed Mann to join the case that ATI is pursuing against the University of Virginia to get Mann’s emails, and allowed UVA to back out of an agreement with ATI to let it review some of Mann’s emails that the university is nevertheless claiming are exempt from disclosure.

This is a bit technical, as is often the case in ongoing court proceedings, but let’s remember why it matters.

The ATI lawsuit is a follow-on to Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli’s outrageous harassment of Mann. And protecting Mann’s emails from disclosure is critical for ensuring that ideological fishing expeditions that attack and harass scientists aren’t permitted. The contrary result, as many scientific groups have asserted, could have a chilling effect on academic research and freedom of inquiry in controversial areas.

Mann has been greatly supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Geophysical Union, and other organizations, and by grassroots fundraising efforts to support his legal expenses. To contribute see here.

Let us also add that there is no reason to think Mann has done anything wrong, scientifically or otherwise, or that his emails will reveal some malfeasance. To the contrary, Mann and other scientists involved in the pseudo-scandal of “ClimateGate” have been repeatedly vindicated by independent investigations.

Meanwhile, the connections between ATI and various other conservative and industry groups and funders have now been extensively documented.

I called Mann the “Galileo of climate science,” and increasingly, I think this is not mere hyperbole.

I’ve been following climate science, and political attacks on it, for nearly a decade. Throughout that period, conservatives have been relentlessly attacking Mann because of the hockey stick graph. And starting in 2005, there have been attempts — first in Congress, then using the legal process — to wrest information from Mann, information whose disclosure would simply allow conservative motivated reasoners to come up with new reasons to criticize and attack him.

This is a beast that, at all costs, must not be fed.

At the same time, all of this has surely exacted a serious toll on Mann himself in the form of personal stresses and, perhaps, legal expenses.

Mann has risen to the occasion, however, and fought back admirably and courageously.

In the process, he has become a hero and a role model for standing up against the forces of ideology and unreason.

And in turn, as this long and completely unnecessary legal process continues, we must continue to give him our full and absolutely unwavering support.

Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed magazine, senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and author of the bestselling book The Republican War on Science. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog.

JR: The figure at the top and the caption is not from Mooney. I just like to lead with the science and end with it too.

Recent Studies Vindicating the Hockey Stick:

  1. Temperatures of North Atlantic “are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming” — Science (2011)
  2. GRL (2010): “We conclude that the 20th century warming of the incoming intermediate North Atlantic water has had no equivalent during the last thousand years.“
  3. JGR (2010): “The last decades of the past millennium are characterized again by warm temperatures that seem to be unprecedented in the context of the last 1600 years.”
  4. Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds (2009)
  5. Unprecedented warming in Lake Tanganyika and its impact on humanity (2010)