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David Doniger’s Blog

Mann Bites Dogged Attorney-General

David Doniger

Posted March 2, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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The Virginia Supreme Court today called off the witch-hunt against climate scientist Michael Mann by the state’s attorney-general, Ken Cuccinelli.  A staunch ultra-conservative and strident climate science denier, Cuccinelli used his office to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions to address carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, and to harass individual scientists.

Neither one is working out so well for him. 

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments against EPA’s scientific “endangerment finding” on behalf of a rogues’ gallery of challengers, including Cuccinelli, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and a dozen House members including Michelle Bachmann.  All observers seem to agree their attack on endangerment went nowhere with either the conservative or liberal judges on the panel. (See here and here, for example.  And listen to a panel discussion on the oral arguments.) 

And today, Attorney-General Cuccinelli’s own Supreme Court threw out his subpoena of Dr. Mann’s research papers from the University of Virginia, where he taught some years ago.  (Mann is now at Penn State.  He’s the author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front LinesRead his interview from today's Science Friday on NPR.)

Like Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe (see Dan Lashof’s post earlier this week), Cuccinelli trumpets the hacked “Climate-gate” papers as definitive evidence of a giant climate hoax.  He launched a sort of hacking expedition of his own by seeking Mann’s now decade-old papers from storage vaults of UVA.  The attorney-general attempted to dress up his naked harassment as an effort to make sure Virginia taxpayers hadn’t been “defrauded” by a researcher using state funds to investigate whether – oh, my – carbon pollution is dangerously changing our climate.

The Virginia Supreme Court did not comment on Cuccinelli’s climate theories, but it did tell him quite sharply that he had misread basic state law.  The Court held that UVA is not subject to the state law he had invoked to troll for Mann’s old research papers, and it dismissed his case “with prejudice.”

America is the only advanced country where politicians thrive, at least for a while, attacking science and scientists.  It’s time to stop rewarding this reprehensible conduct and make folks like these earn an honest living.

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