May 03, 2010
A Virginia official's reported investigation of a prominent climate scientist, Penn State's Michael Mann, has sparked complaints of a "witch hunt" from a science organization.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli "has demanded that the University of Virginia turn over documents related to a former UVa climatology professor," reports the Charlottesville Daily Progress. The documents involve five federal grants received by Mann, who taught at the University of Virginia from 1999 to 2005.
"This really looks like a witch hunt, with a politician going after a researcher," says Aaron Huertas of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group. "The people attacking Mann are sidelining discussion about climate science with personal attacks on scientists."
"The attorney general's office can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of a pending investigation," says Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Cuccinelli, by e-mail. Cuccinelli made headlines recently by appealing an EPA finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health.
Mann is best known for a 1999 Nature study he co-authored finding average surface temperatures in the 20th century higher than past centuries, leaping dramatically upwards in a "hockey stick" shape, resembling an "L" lying on its back. Following 2005 Congressional hearings over the "hockey stick" results, a 2006 National Research Council report found the Mann paper's conclusion, "has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence."
However, this has never satisfied his critics, such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who in a February letter to the National Science Foundation cited e-mails purloined last year from the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia climate research team to suggest Mann and colleagues "manipulate data and research." (In his challenge to the EPA finding, Cuccinelli similarly cited the e-mails.)
The e-mails included notes to and from Mann critical of climate science naysayers. Subsequent Penn State investigation and two United Kingdom investigations have found no wrongdoing by the climate researchers, with at least two more reviews still underway.
"I haven't been contacted about this," Mann says, by telephone. "This looks like some sort of end-run at old e-mails for another politically-driven attempt at diverting the public from thinking about what we ought to do about climate."
By Dan Vergano
The VA voters sure elected some old time Christian dialogs. If I lived in VA I would be embarrassed by these guys. Next moved these guys plan is to indite Galileo, Brahi, and Kepler in an attempt to prove that the earth is the center of the solar system, or at least that the theory of a sun centered solar system is in doubt.