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Moran to Cooch: Stop Intimidating and Harassing Scientists

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The following letter is from Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) to Attorney General Ken Kook-inelli. Bolding is added by me for emphasis.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II

Attorney General

Commonwealth of Virginia

900 East Main Street

Richmond, Virginia  23219

Dear Mr. Cuccinelli:

I am troubled by your order to the University of Virginia to provide you with documents related to Professor Michael Mann, an Earth scientist involved in climate change research. Based on the editorial in the Washington Post on May 7, 2010, I am not alone in my concerns over your inappropriate use of government resources to intimidate and harass scientists whose findings conflict with your view of the world.

Clearly, we fundamentally disagree on the issue of climate change and the merits of legislation and regulatory policy to reduce the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  But our Constitution and our democratic process afford us multiple opportunities to influence federal policy and our response to climate change.  You have already availed yourself of the courts to overturn EPA’s endangerment finding and also have petitioned EPA to reconsider its findings. These are legitimate means by which to address your disagreement with the Obama administration’s response to the threat of climate change.

It is entirely inappropriate, however, to harass and intimidate scientists whose research supports EPA’s finding and the Obama administration’s policy response.  I find it incredible that you issued a civil investigative demand to the University of Virginia, seeking all documents and emails related to Professor Mann’s research based on your claim that fraud was perpetrated with state taxpayer dollars.  Your order singles out five grants – four of which were awarded by federal government agencies – that Professor Mann received while at the University of Virginia between 1999 and 2005.  If by fraud, you are alleging some deception on the part of Professor Mann in obtaining or using the funds, the scientific community through its peer review process and federal and state research grant oversight procedures would have uncovered it.  

Contrary to your accusations, Professor Mann has satisfied reporting rules by federal agencies and the scientific community has carefully reviewed Professor Mann’s work and supports his findings.  Congress even intervened, directing the National Research Council to convene a panel of scientists to review Professor Mann’s work.  While the panel found some statistical failings, they also concluded that the failings had little to no effect on the results.  Specifically the panel found that:   “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.”

One can only conclude that your investigation is motivated by the desire to silence those with whom you disagree under the threat of having their grants, or lives, scrutinized under the guise of government auditing.  Such action is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s initial response when Galileo Galilei defended his views that the sun was the center of the universe in his famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.  It was not until October 31, 1992 when Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled that the Catholic Church brought the controversy toward some closure.

Unfortunately, climate change does not afford us the luxury of time to amend our policies decades from now.  And, your cynical employment of the Commonwealth’s constitutional office to attempt to discredit these findings sets a dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on future academic freedom and scientific inquiry.  History will neither reflect kindly on those who reject science in the pursuit of short-term economic and political gain, nor will it look kindly on your attempt to tarnish the good name of Professor Michael Mann.

Sincerely,

James P. Moran

  • Peter 2010

    Kudos to Jim Moran for calling out Cooch–forcefully and decisively–for Cooch’s latest attempt to misuse his office to suppress academic freedom at Virginia’s colleges and universities. Virginia’s Attorney General needs to start acting like he knows the law not acting like an outlaw.