Virginia Attorney General Harassing Climate Scientist

May 7, 2010

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli hates many things, but few more than the idea that human beings are causing climate change and global warming. In the past he has filed documents seeking judicial review of the EPA’s determination that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to public welfare. In addition, he is also seeking judicial review of the EPA’s March 2010 gas mileage standards, which are designed to reduce vehicle emissions under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

If that wasn’t enough, however, it seems that Cuccinelli has nothing better to do these days than harass individual climate scientists over any involvement they may or may not have had in the so-called “Climategate” scandal. On April 23rd, Cuccinelli’s office sent to the University of Virginia a “civil investigative demand” requesting documents related to state grants that Michael Mann—a climate scientist who was on the faculty there between 1999 and 2005—received. The letter demanded that the university turn over a wide range of documents, including email and print correspondence between Mann and other climate scientists whose names appear in the emails stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain last year.

While many, including Cuccinelli, cite the emails as proof that a great fraud is being perpetrated on the world regarding the legitimacy of manmade climate change, every investigation done so far into the contents of the emails has found that the scientific foundation of climate science remains quite robust. Many of the studies have also vindicated Mann personally, stating that his research methods and results were sound.

It is unclear why a state attorney general would take such a personal interest in the scientific work of one man at one university. Using a position of political power to personally attack the credibility of one researcher’s findings is also dubious, at best.

Many groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists have condemned the investigation, with Timothy Donaghy, a scientific integrity analyst at UCS remarking, “It is unacceptable to go after Dr. Mann and other climate scientists simply because you don’t agree with their research results. The public would be better served by an attorney general who refrains from distracting and intimidating scientists and confusing the public about climate change science.”

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