Cyberbullying Scientists: Using Threats in an Effort to Silence the Discussion on Climate Change

 Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Recently, the Wall Street Journal refused to publish a letter on the subject of climate change that was signed by 255 scientists—all of whom are members of the United States National Academy of Sciences. The WSJ chose instead to publish an opinion piece titled No Need to Panic about Global Warming that was written by 16 “other scientists.” It has been reported that the 16 “other scientists” include engineers, a physician, a retired airplane designer, a retired electrical engineer, and astrophysicists. Also included among the “No Need to Panic” authors are two men—one who questions whether smoking causes cancer (Richard Lindzen) and another who does not believe that asbestos is a health hazard (Claude Allegre).

According to Media Matters, most of the scientists who signed the WSJ op-ed do not publish peer-reviewed papers on climate research. In addition, more than a third of them have links to fossil fuel interests.

Peter Gleick, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a MacArthur Fellow, wrote an article for Forbes descrying the WSJ’s actions.

Gleick wrote:

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has long been understood to be not only antagonistic to the facts of climate science, but hostile. But in a remarkable example of their unabashed bias, on Friday they published an opinion piece that not only repeats many of the flawed and misleading arguments about climate science, but purports to be of special significance because it was signed by 16 “scientists.”

Serious doubt has been cast on the actual expertise on climate science of the signers and on the accuracy of the content, here and elsewhere, and the strawman arguments and technical flaws of their opinion piece are evident to anyone actually versed in the scientific debate. For example, their op-ed has fundamental errors about recent actual temperatures, they use false/strawman arguments that climate scientists are saying climate change “will destroy civilization,” they launch ad hominem attack on particular climate scientists using out-of-context quotes, and so on. Formal responses are in the works, and will be available from a variety of groups in the next day or so. [Just as an example, as pointed out here previously, and at the Union of Concerned Scientists: the authors claim there has been a “lack of warming” for 10 years. The reality? 2011 was the 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above the historical average and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record.]

But the most amazing and telling evidence of the bias of the Wall Street Journal in this field is the fact that 255 members of the United States National Academy of Sciences wrote a comparable (but scientifically accurate) essay on the realities of climate change and on the need for improved and serious public debate around the issue, offered it to the Wall Street Journal, and were turned down. The National Academy of Sciences is the nation’s pre-eminent independent scientific organizations. Its members are among the most respected in the world in their fields. Yet the Journal wouldn’t publish this letter, from more than 15 times as many top scientists. Instead they chose to publish an error-filled and misleading piece on climate because some so-called experts aligned with their bias signed it. This may be good politics for them, but it is bad science and it is bad for the nation.

Climate Change and the Integrity of Science, the letter that was signed by the 255 scientists, spoke of their concern about the recent escalation in assaults on scientists—especially climate scientists. They said that the assaults on both climate science and scientists came from climate change deniers who “are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence.” The scientists called “for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them.”

Not long ago, I was disheartened to learn that climate scientists in the United States and in other countries have become victims of cyber-bullying. In 2010, Douglas Fisher wrote an article for Scientific American titled Cyber Bullying Intensifies as Climate Data Questioned. Fisher spoke of how climate researchers have to purge crude and crass emails that they find in their inboxes every day. Some consider purging such correspondence as a task they must deal with as part of the job of being a climate scientist. Others, however, “see the messages as threats and intimidation—cyber-bullying meant to shut down debate and cow scientists into limiting their participation in the public discourse.”

Clive Hamilton, an Australian author and academic said, “The purpose of this new form of cyber-bullying seems clear; it is to upset and intimidate the targets, making them reluctant to participate further in the climate change debate.” Gavin Schmidt, a scientist who works for NASA, said that “organized, ‘McCarthyite’ tactics aimed at specific scientists by various groups can be stressful.” He added “‘Frivolous’ Freedom of Information Act requests can tie up considerable quantities of researchers’ time.” Schmidt claims that the worst things of all are the “‘intimidating letters’ from congressional members threatening dire consequences to scientists working on climate change.”

Last month, MIT scientist Kerry Emanuel, a Republican and the director of MIT’s Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate program, received a “frenzy of hate male” after a video that featured an interview with him was published by Climate Desk.


VIDEO LINK: Not all Republicans are climate deniers (In the run-up to the New Hampshire primary, former Rep. Bob Inglis, MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel, and other Republicans talk about why climate action is a conservative value)


Mother Jones reported that the emails contained “veiled threats’ against Emanuel’s wife—as well as other “tangible threats.” Emanuel said, “They were vile, these emails. They were the kind of emails nobody would like to receive.” He added, “What was a little bit new about it was dragging family members into it and feeling that my family might be under threat, so naturally I didn’t feel very good about that at all. I thought it was low to drag somebody’s spouse into arguments like this.”

The Guardian reported last June that Australian climate scientists had been receiving death threats. As a response to the large number of threatening emails and telephone calls, the Australia National University (ANU) in Canberra moved some of its “leading climate scientists to a secure facility…”

Ian Young, ANU’s vice-chancellor, said, “Obviously climate research is an emotive issue at the present time. These are issues where we should have a logical public debate and it’s completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this.” Young added that “scientists had been threatened with assault if they were identified in the street.”

Canberra Times reported last year that more than 30 researchers in Australia—including ecologists, environmental policy experts, meteorologists, and atmospheric physicists—told the paper that they had been receiving a “stream of abusive emails threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members.” Some of the scientists installed upgraded home security systems and switched to unlisted phone numbers because they were fearful that their homes and cars might be damaged.

One researcher even spoke of “receiving threats of sexual assault and violence against her children after her photograph appeared in a newspaper article promoting a community tree-planting day as a local action to mitigate climate change.”

One climate scientist, who did not want to be identified, told ABC News that a dead animal was once left on his doorstep. He said he now travels with bodyguards at times. David Koroly, a professor at the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Science, told ABC that he receives threats whenever he is interviewed by the media. He said, “It is clear that there is a campaign in terms of either organised or disorganised threats to discourage scientists from presenting the best available climate science on television or radio.”

Addendum: An Excerpt from Cowards in Our Democracy: Part 1, Written by James Hansen, Climatologist and Head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Today most media, even publicly-supported media, are pressured to balance every climate story with opinions of contrarians, climate change deniers, as if they had equal scientific credibility. Media are dependent on advertising revenue of the fossil fuel industry, and in some cases are owned by people with an interest in continuing business as usual. Fossil fuel profiteers can readily find a few percent of the scientific community to serve as mouthpieces — all scientists practice skepticism, and it is not hard to find some who are out of their area of expertise, who may enjoy being in the public eye, and who are limited in scientific insight and analytic ability.

Distinguished scientific bodies such as national science academies, using the scientific method, can readily separate charlatans and false interpretations from well-reasoned science. Yet it seems that our governments and the public are not making much use of their authoritative scientific bodies. Why is that?

I believe that the answer, and the difficulty in communicating science to the public, is related to the corrosive influence of money in politics and to increased corporate influence on the media.


Climate Change and the Integrity of Science (Science Magazine)

WSJ Publishes Op-Ed From 16 Climate Deniers, Refused Letter From 255 Top Scientists (ThinkProgress)

Climate Scientists Rebuke Rupert Murdoch: WSJ Denier Op-Ed Like ‘Dentists Practicing Cardiology’ (ThinkProgress)

The rise of anti-science cyber bullying (ThinkProgress)

MIT Climate Scientist’s Wife Threatened in a “Frenzy of Hate” and Cyberbullying Fomented by Deniers (ThinkProgress)

Price Of Truth: Limbaugh Operatives Encourage Abusive Hate Mail At Female, Evangelical Climate Scientist (ThinkProgress)

Climatologist James Hansen on “Cowards in Our Democracies” (ThinkProgress)

Cowards in Our Democracies: Part 1 (Columbia)

The Journal Hires Dentists To Do Heart Surgery (Media Matters)

Remarkable Editorial Bias on Climate Science at the Wall Street Journal (Forbes)

Cyber Bullying Intensifies as Climate Data Questioned: Researchers must purge e-mail in-boxes daily of threatening correspondence, simply part of the job of being a climate scientist (Scientific American)

MIT Climate Scientist’s Wife Threatened In A “Frenzy of Hate”: Kerry Emanuel’s inbox was flooded with menacing emails after Climate Desk’s video on Republican climate hawks. (Mother Jones)

The Inside Story on Climate Scientists Under Siege: Michael Mann reveals his account of attacks by entrenched interests seeking to undermine his ‘hockey stick’ graph. (Mother Jones)

While temperatures rise, denialists reach lower (Discover Magazine)

WSJ War on Climate Science continues with 16 prominent (but not in climate science) Scientists (Firedoglake)

Australian climate scientists targeted by death threats (Climate Science Watch)

ABC World News: Climate Scientists Claim ‘McCarthy-Like Threats’ (Climate Science Watch)

Think-tanks take oil money and use it to fund climate deniers: ExxonMobil cash supported concerted campaign to undermine case for man-made warming (The Independent)

Australian climate scientists receive death threats: Universities move staff into safer accommodation after a large number of threatening emails and phone calls (The Guardian)

Climate change denial’s new offensive: Global warming is wreaking devastation, but Big Oil won’t give up profits without a planet-destroying fight (Salon)

337 thoughts on “Cyberbullying Scientists: Using Threats in an Effort to Silence the Discussion on Climate Change”

  1. rafflaw,

    I believe it would be difficult to get them to stop drinking “denierade.”


    The inside story on climate scientists under siege
    Michael Mann reveals his account of attacks by entrenched interests seeking to undermine his ‘hockey stick’ graph
    Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent

    On the eve of his talk at Penn State, a coal industry lobby group calling itself the Common Sense Movement/Secure Energy for America put up a Facebook page demanding the university disinvite their own professor from speaking, and denouncing Mann as a “disgraced academic” pursuing a radical environmental agenda. The university refused. Common Sense appeared to have dismantled the Facebook page.

    But Mann’s attackers were merely regrouping. A hostile blogger published a link to Mann’s Amazon page, and his opponents swung into action, denouncing the book as a “fairy tale” and climate change as “the greatest scam in human history”.

    It was not the life Mann envisaged when he began work on his post-graduate degree at Yale. All Mann knew then was that he wanted to work on big problems, that resonated outside academia. At heart, he said, he was like one of the amiable nerds on the television show Big Bang Theory.

    “At that time I wanted nothing more just to bury my head in my computer and study data and write papers and write programmes,” he said. “That is the way I was raised. That is the culture I came from.”

    What happened instead was that the “hockey stick” graph, because it so clearly represented what had happened to the climate over the course of hundreds of years, itself became a proxy in the climate wars. (Mann’s reconstruction of temperatures over the last millenium itself used proxy records from tree rings and coral).

    “I think because the hockey stick became an icon it’s been subject to the fiercest of attacks really in the whole science of climate change,” he said.

    The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced a poster-sized graph for the launch of its climate change report in 2001.

    Those opposed to climate change began accusing Mann of overlooking important data or even manipulating the records. None of the allegations were ever found to have substance. The hockey stick would eventually be confirmed by more than 10 other studies.

    Mann, like other scientists, was just not equipped to deal with the media barrage. “It took the scientific community some time I think to realise that the scientific community is in a street fight with climate change deniers and they are not playing by the rules of engagement of science. The scientific community needed some time to wake up to that.”

  2. Climate change deniers: The science of intimidation

    According to an old legal adage, when the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. And when neither is on your side, pound the table.

    Today, conservative climate change deniers, faced with a growing and increasingly persuasive body of evidence supporting the theory of anthropogenic global warming have adopted a version of this approach. Except, lacking a table, they are pounding the scientists instead.

    In the words of one climate scientist, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, “[t]here’s a well-organized campaign, primarily in the United States but also in other countries, including Canada and Australia, of bloggers, of people in the media, of basically professional climate deniers whose main goal is to abuse, to harass and to threaten anybody who stands up and says climate change is real — especially anybody who’s trying to take that message to audiences that are more traditionally skeptical of this issue.”

    Dr. Hayhoe has experienced this bullying first-hand. A professor at Texas Tech., Dr. Hayhoe recently became a target due to a chapter on climate change that she had written for an upcoming book by Newt Gingrich.

    While on the campaign trail in Iowa, Gingrich came under attack by Rush Limbaugh for including Hayhoe’s climate change chapter in his book. These attacks were not limited to critiques of Dr. Hayhoe’s research; they were personal. Limbaugh, for example, taking a rather misogynistic approach, contemptuously dismissed her as a “climate babe.” For his own part, Gingrich raced to distance himself from the story, assuring conservatives that the chapter would not be included in the book.

    Dr. Hayhoe has been deluged with a torrent of angry and abusive e-mails since the story broke. As she told the Toronto Globe and Mail, “[i]t’s not easy opening your mail in the morning and seeing a hundred emails, each one more hateful than the last.”

    The intensity of the reaction to Dr. Hayhoe is due to the unique nature of her “sin.” As the Globe and Mail put it, she is “an evangelical Christian who is also a climate scientist trying to convince skeptics that climate change is for real.” She frames climate change as an ethical issue — one that speaks to our responsibility for the poor and towards future generations. She addresses it from a faith-based perspective emphasizing the need for prudential stewardship of the natural world. This makes her a heretic in the eyes of conservative climate deniers; and as we know from history, heretics always come in for the worst treatment.

    Regrettably, Dr. Hayhoe’s experience isn’t unique. For example, Dr. Kerry Emanuel, a Republican scientist at MIT, has been on the receiving end of a “frenzy of hate” from conservatives since video of a speech he delivered to a group of Republican “climate hawks” was posted on Climate Desk. The frenzy has gone beyond mere vitriol and abuse — it has included threats directed at his wife. Sadly, this isn’t the first time researchers, or their families, have been threatened — several Australian climate scientists sought police protection last year after being subjected to what The Canberra Times called “an unrelenting campaign” of vicious cyberbullying that included threats of “violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members.” Some of the threats even targeted children.

    The abuse directed at climate researchers sheds light on a tragic political truth — a cancer is consuming the soul of American conservatism. Conservatism is taking on many of the hallmarks of a cult — one in which information and doctrine are received, without question, from recognized authority figures or sources, and in which dissent cannot be tolerated. The conservative cult views the political process in apocalyptic terms, and sees its opponents as demonically evil. Sadly, climate denial is a key pillar in this cult’s ideology.

    Under these circumstances, conservative scientists like Hayhoe and Emanuel are particularly dangerous. They demonstrate that there isn’t a fundamental incongruity between religious faith, or conservatism, and accepting the science behind AGW. They are heretics, calling to other conservatives from beyond the walls of the cult compound. And that’s a mortal threat to the climate deniers, and perhaps to the very existence of the cult itself.

    In the end, the bullying and abuse of scientists is a sign of growing desperation. The cult must be defended, by any means. Dissenters must be intimidated into silence. With everything else against them, conservative climate deniers have only one option left – it’s time to get personal, and pound.


    (Michael Stafford is a former Republican Party officer and the author of “An Upward Calling.”)

  3. Behind the Controversy, an Effort to Rewrite Curriculum on Climate Change

    Focus on the contents of the internal documents leaked last week from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit known for attacking climate science, has been largely lost in the wake of the revelation of the leaker’s identity: Peter Gleick, a scientist.

    But beyond the controversy and the confession is the fact that Heartland does not deny what the two authentic documents obtained by Dr. Gleick reveal: that the institute is working to influence climate education in the schools.

    In its 2012 fund-raising plan, Heartland said that an “anonymous donor” had pledged the first $100,000 toward this end and that it hoped to use that gift to develop matching funds.

    Heartland is soliciting contributors for a “global warming curriculum” developed by a part-time Department of Energy consultant, David Wojick, which in Heartland’s estimation “appears to have great potential for success.”

  4. The shadowy world of IPA finance
    By Clive Hamilton

    Last week’s revelations about the Heartland Institute, probably the most important climate science denying organisation in the United States, raise some questions about the murky influence of think tanks on the climate debate in this country.

    Confidential documents from the Heartland Institute reveal how wealthy individuals have actively promoted the campaign to attack the credibility of the world’s top climate scientists and create the impression that there is a controversy about the main propositions of global warming science.

    In fact the bulk of Heartland’s climate science denial campaign – which includes plans to promote anti-science in schools – has been funded by one donor, whose name did not appear in the purloined documents.

    There is a direct Australian link in the Heartland Institute files. Bob Carter, an adjunct research professor at James Cook University, has a long-standing record of denying climate science. Now it is revealed that he is on the payroll of the Heartland Institute, to the tune of $1,667 per month for unspecified work. On his personal webpage, Carter declares that “he receives no research funding from special interest organisations such as environmental groups, energy companies or government departments,” a claim that on the scale of truth matches his reporting of climate science.

    Carter is also a fellow at the right-wing Melbourne think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which has for many years been the principal originator of anti-climate science propaganda in this country. The IPA is closely linked to the Heartland Institute, not least through its sponsorship of two of its recent conferences.

    The secret funding of the Heartland Institute once again focuses attention on the financing of the IPA and particularly it sustained attacks on climate science and all policies aimed at cutting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    The IPA is notoriously secretive about its sources of funding. Its senior staff have refused to answer journalists’ questions, although over the years enough information has leaked out to suggest that much of its funding has come from the oil and mining industries, including Exxon, Shell, Caltex and BHP-Billiton.

    The IPA’s executive director John Roskam, who used to work for Rio Tinto, has said that donors to the Institute want to remain anonymous because they “have been intimidated because of their supposed support for us”.

    The IPA’s coyness is all the more hypocritical because a few years ago it launched a sustained attack on NGOs by claiming they were unaccountable, unrepresentative and not worthy of charitable status. The demand for transparency applies to everyone but itself.

    Despite its refusal to divulge, we can make a good guess at where a large part of its recent funding has come from – right-wing mining billionaire Gina Rinehart.

    In August 2010 the Institute’s magazine carried a prominent article by one of its staff titled “Unleash the North”. It advocated the creation of a special economic zone to cover the northern half of the continent where companies would have lower levels of regulation, cheap labour could be imported from developing countries and tax rates would be cut.

    This proposal exactly parallels Gina Rinehart’s campaign for a special economic zone in northern Australia where companies like hers could enjoy special privileges. She has set up a lobby group called Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV) to promote the idea.

    Within months the Institute had established a new ‘North Australia Project’, with its own website, and from May 2011 began churning out media releases promoting the special economic zone, beginning with a “landmark Galaxy poll” that purported to show that 60 per cent of Australians “think Canberra is out of touch with Northern Australia”.

  5. rafflaw,

    I’ve posted this video before–but I think I should post it again:

    The Koch Brothers & Their Amazing Climate Change Denial Machine

  6. Elaine,
    I am shocked that the American Tradition Institute is backed by Big Oil! Who would have guessed that a climate change denier who is trying to stifle research could be funded by Big Oil? 🙂

  7. Americans for Prosperity’s Lisa Thrun faces public scrutiny in NY RGGI lawsuit [VIDEO]
    21 January 2012

    States participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

    “I’m not a scientist, I’m an event planner,” explained Lisa Thrun when I asked her if she believed burning coal and oil contributed to climate change. Oh really, Ms. Thrun? If you’re just an event planner, what are you doing giving a presentation on the economic impacts of a regional plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

    Lisa Thrun, the chair of grassroots for the New York Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, was invited by the Tompkins County Republican Committee to speak about the economic impacts of RGGI. Pronounced “Reggie,” the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a cap-and-trade program, which promises to reduce CO2 emissions 10% by 2018 among Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

    Thrun is the lead plaintiff in a New York lawsuit against RGGI – a serious conflict of interest since Americans for Prosperity was started and is still funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch is the chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, AFP’s sister group. It’s pretty ironic that the lead plaintiff in a suit against plant emissions works for an organization that is heavily involved in the ongoing orchestration of campaigns to sell doubt over climate science. When I asked Thrun about this conflict of interest, she responded, “You know what? I don’t know what the Koch brothers do. It just goes to show you our independence from the Koch brothers.”

    AFP’s ongoing suit against RGGI in New York is ironic for another reason: Koch Industries, which funnels profits to AFP through the Koch brother’s foundations, was involved in the very first trade of physical carbon allowances under RGGI. Thrun’s main argument focused on economic implications for states (and families) involved in the cap-and-trade program. One slide during the presentation demonstrated how initiatives like cap and trade can be detrimental to big business. The charts proudly boasted the logos of groups including the Heritage Foundation, the Competative Enterprise Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute – all three of which have been involved in Koch-funded scandals. Thrun continuously warned that RGGI is a costly program, even though the average residential bill increases less than 50 cents a month and RGGI participating states show $3-$4 benefits for every $1 invested. The invested money then goes into state-designed consumer benefit and strategic energy programs, like home weatherization which can reduce household heating energy needs by 15 to 30 percent. (source: RGGI Proceeds Report Press Release) In response, Thrun implied that winterizing homes helps to save us money and energy, but “we should be doing it on our own.”

  8. SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Who’s behind the ‘information attacks’ on climate scientists?

    This week, in a courtroom in Prince William County, Virginia, a hearing will take place that could have implications for the privacy rights of scientists at colleges and universities across the country.

    It’s part of a lawsuit brought by the American Tradition Institute, a free-market think tank that wants the public to believe human-caused global warming is a scientific fraud. Filed against the University of Virginia, the suit seeks emails and other documents related to former professor Michael Mann, an award-winning climate scientist who has become a focus of the climate-denial movement because of his research documenting the recent spike in earth’s temperature.

    By suing the university, the American Tradition Institute wants to make public Mann’s correspondence in an effort to find out whether he manipulated data to receive government grants, a violation of the state’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

    But a Facing South investigation has found that the Colorado-based American Tradition Institute is part of a broader network of groups with close ties to energy interests that have long fought greenhouse gas regulation. Our investigation also finds that ATI has connections with the Koch brothers, Art Pope and other conservative donors seeking to expand their political influence.

  9. Ken Cuccinelli seems determined to embarrass Virginia
    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    When Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II on Monday revived his anti-climate science crusade with a new, 30-page civil subpoena demanding boatloads of documents from the University of Virginia, we wondered what he might have discovered recently about the work of former U-Va. researcher Michael E. Mann, the object of the probe, that would justify further investigation. The answer: essentially nothing.

    Slapped down once by a Virginia judge in his effort to investigate Mr. Mann, the attorney general is trying again with a screed that rehashes a lot of the old arguments about Mr. Mann’s findings, including the complaint about his famous “hockey-stick” graph in 1998, which shows a spike in world temperature during the 20th century. What Mr. Cuccinelli doesn’t discuss is a 2006 inquiry from the National Academy of Sciences on reconstructing historical temperature data, which found that Mr. Mann might better have used some different statistical techniques but that his methods weren’t unacceptably poor. Instead, the academy stressed that his basic conclusions appear sound. Nor does Mr. Cuccinelli spend much effort discussing the fact that Penn State University, Mr. Mann’s current employer, also cleared the scientist of scientific malfeasance this year; or the fact that subsequent study has supported Mr. Mann’s essential findings; or the fact that, in response to criticism, Mr. Mann has refined his work since 1998 — the normal give and take of academic work.

    What’s particularly astonishing, though, is that Mr. Cuccinelli’s legal case against Mr. Mann seems unrelated to any of the controversial research the attorney general spends so much time attacking. Mr. Cuccinelli is supposedly investigating whether Mr. Mann committed fraud when the scientist applied for and received a state-funded research grant — to study what Mr. Mann describes as “the interaction of the land, atmosphere and vegetation in the African savannah.” The topic “has nothing to do with climate change or paleoclimate,” Mann says. The attorney general appears to argue that, since Mr. Mann listed his controversial papers on his curriculum vitae when he and two other scientists applied for the savannah research grant, he may have committed some kind of fraud.

    The attorney general’s logic is so tenuous as to leave only one plausible explanation: that he is on a fishing expedition designed to intimidate and suppress honest research and the free exchange of ideas upon which science and academia both depend — all because he does not like what science says about climate change. Among other things, the attorney general demands that U-Va. turn over any correspondence it may have between Mr. Mann and 39 other scientists. Mr. Mann points out that among those Mr. Cuccinelli did not list by name are the two other researchers on the African savannah research grant that the attorney general is supposedly investigating.

    What is this farce costing? To defend itself from Mr. Cuccinelli’s investigation into the distribution of a $214,700 research grant, the University of Virginia has spent $350,000, with more to come, and that doesn’t count the taxpayer funds Mr. Cuccinelli is devoting to this cause. Sadly, though, that’s the smallest of the costs. The damage to Virginia’s reputation, and to its universities’ ability to attract and retain top-notch faculty and students, will not be easily undone.

Comments are closed.