Michael Mann
Climate scientist Michael Mann with a cross section of a tree showing its rings, which have been a focus of his research on climate change. (Photo from the Penn State website.)

Climate science denier group must pay damages for frivolous lawsuit against UVA, scientist

Virginia's highest court has ruled that the American Tradition Institute (ATI), a free-market think tank that promotes climate science denial, must pay damages to the University of Virginia and former professor Michael Mann for filing a frivolous lawsuit against them. The decision comes in a case that has sparked controversy about the abuse of public records laws to harass climate scientists.

Mann, who now directs Penn State's Earth Systems Science Center, has been a target of climate science deniers for his research showing that the recent spike in global temperatures -- the so-called "hockey stick" graph -- is linked to the burning of fossil fuels. A Facing South investigation found that ATI had connections to fossil-fuel interests. The group, which last year changed its name to the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (EELI), is a spin-off of the American Tradition Partnership, a dark-money group that has been embroiled in campaign finance controversies.

On July 8, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the ruling by the Circuit Court of Prince William County on appeal, ordering ATI to pay $250 in damages. For a copy of the order, click here.

In a post to his Facebook page, Mann acknowledged that it was a small fine. "The important thing is that it is a slap in the face of ATI," he wrote.

The case can be traced back to 2010, when then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) filed investigative demands ordering UVA to produce documents related to Mann as part of a widely criticized investigation into whether the scientist violated the state's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act by allegedly falsifying data -- a charge that has been discredited by several investigations by Penn State and other institutions. UVA initially said it intended to cooperate with the investigation but decided to fight after objections from its own faculty and many scientific organizations. That August, a Virginia judge dismissed Cuccinelli's case, at which point he issued a new demand for the materials. In March 2012, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in the school's favor.

Meanwhile, in January 2011, ATI submitted a Freedom of Information request to UVA for emails sent by Mann during his tenure at the Charlottesville school. The university and Mann fought the release of the documents on the grounds that they were proprietary materials generated as part of his research, sparking ATI's lawsuit. In September 2012, the Virginia circuit court ruled against ATI. The group appealed to the state Supreme Court, which in April of this year unanimously upheld the lower court's ruling.

After taking aim at Mann, ATI also sought records from climate scientists at Texas A&M and Texas Tech, focusing on their communications with journalists. The group was also involved in lawsuits over state renewable energy standards. A ruling in a case ATI/EELI brought against Colorado's renewable energy standard led to what one wind power industry group called "the most comprehensive affirmation of a [renewable energy standard] from a federal court to date."

Mann has not only been a defendant in lawsuits related to climate science, however: He has also turned to the courts to fight defamatory statements made about him in the conservative press. In 2012, he sued National Review and its reporter Mark Steyn and the Competitive Enterprise Institute and its analyst Rand Simberg for "maliciously" attacking his personal reputation. The lawsuit was a response to their statements accusing him of academic fraud and comparing him to a convicted child molester. That case is still making its way through the D.C. courts.

"There is a larger context for this latest development," Mann wrote on his Facebook page at the time he filed the defamation suit, "namely the onslaught of dishonest and libelous attacks that climate scientists have endured for years by dishonest front groups seeking to discredit the case for concern over climate change."

Image: 
Climate scientist Michael Mann with a cross section of a tree showing its rings, which have been a focus of his research on climate change. (Photo from the Penn State website.)
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The issue here is not wether

The issue here is not wether there is global warming and/or if CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The issue is why Michael Mann will not reveal the details behind how exactly he deduced the Hockey Stick. In all science you should be able to confirm various results by doing them all over again if necessary. Those who have tried have been forced to use dubious statistical methods to be able to mimick the results of Mann. That is of course not the same as saying a result is fraudulent. But the combination of not revealing in detail how the stick was created in combination of the apparent difficulties of recreating it, raises some rightful questions. Since taxpayers payed for this why shouldn´t they be allowed to see what they get for the money? Personally, I think the whole affair has been blown completely out of proportion. There are more interesting issues in climate science such as why is there a temperature stasis for more than 17 years now when CO2 emissions are at all time high? Why is the ice extension around Antarctica increasing every year? (record level increase this year!) Why does the sea level increase rate remain largely constant and certainly not higher than for times when a human impact on the atmosphere was negligable? Why did the latest IPCC-report (AR5) lower the climate sensitivity AND thereby abandoning 95% of the climate model results? If CO2 is such a big player in the climate system why is the global temperature changes so tightly connected to natural phenomena such as AMO and ENSO? If the "missing heat" has gone into the ocean, how should that be assessed when we are talking about tenth of degrees in increase in temperature? Why is the average cloud coverage of Earth going down? (This alone can explain ALL warming observed from 1850 and onwards, i.e 2-3% cloud coverage decrease).

I could go on for ever. Drop the Hockey Stick, it is not interesting, if it ever was.

Scientists Shouldn't Hide Their Motivations

An op-ed by a former EPA scientist in July 9's Wall Street Journal, "Confessions of a Computer Modeler" (http://online.wsj.com/articles/confessions-of-a-computer-modeler-1404861351), makes clearer still what has been clear to any thinking person for quite some time: Climate models can be tweaked to produce just about any outcome the modeler seeks, such as Mr. Mann's hockey stick. So one needn't be a "denier" of climate change -- Earth's climate has been changing forever -- to question fairly climate scientists' motivations. Evidence of those motivations is what was sought by the plaintiffs in the case against UVA. And if the professional motivations of Mr. Mann and his colleagues were/are pure, why have they fought so furiously to keep this evidence hidden? Finally, when one considers that Mr. Mann was employed by a state institution, how can one with a straight face argue that the taxpayers who fund that institution should not have access to this evidence? After all, the plaintiffs weren't seeking national security secrets.

Wrong

First of all, it might be nice for people here to know that Caprara is not a climate modeler, nor was he ever a climate modeler. Second, you yourself can download a climate model and check what they do. That's right, you yourself. Heck, you can make one yourself! While your own model will likely be very simple and not have the spatio-temporal options of a climate model, it is better than to just blow smoke.
Second, it is libelous to claim that Mann sought to obtain a "hockey stick". You are aware it is, right? After all, you have absolutely no proof whatsoever that this was the desired end goal.
Third, Mann didn't use a "climate model". Others have repeated his analysis with the same proxy data but other models, and got essentially the same results.
Fourth, the supposed 'evidence' the ATI was looking was nothing but a fishing expedition for e-mails, most likely with the hope that Mann somewhere at some time said something that could be interpreted as potentially damaging.

Bullshit. (Am I allowed to

Bullshit. (Am I allowed to say that on this web site? Persons as ignorant and/or as feckless as Mr. McKinney in continuing to attempt to cast doubt upon settled science that has been explained publicly over and over and over have no basis for a claim to have it explained to them again.)

And that's what "peer review"

And that's what "peer review" is for: scientists check each other's work for accuracy and relevance. Even paranoiacs like yourself have to face that fact.

That earth's climate has been "changing forever" doesn't address the concern of human activities affecting a change in climate. The climate may be changing faster now than is possible for life forms to adapt to, and survive.

You automatically fail from

You automatically fail from referencing Wall Street Jorunal op ed piece as your source of info. Wall Street Journal is very much in bed with News corp and therefor in bed with Koch industries. A producer of oil and coal energy. So completely biased in their reporting.

They found a person who does computer modeling to explain that you can make a graph using any data. This avoids the fact that where the data comes from has much to do with it. Wall street journal is vehamantly against acknowledging the verifiable reality of man made climate change. their paid to do so.

How about you go to a news agency who doesn't have a stake in what they are reporting.

http://america.aljazeera.com/topics/topic/issue/climate-change.html

You should be very afraid and being part of the solutions, not aiding the problem.

"Climate models can be

"Climate models can be tweaked to produce just about any outcome the modeler seeks, such as Mr. Mann's hockey stick."

Dr. Mann's hockey stick is not a climate model. It's a paleoclimate reconstruction of past temperatures.

"And if the professional motivations of Mr. Mann and his colleagues were/are pure, why have they fought so furiously to keep this evidence hidden?"

What evidence, specifically, has he hidden? Specifically. What data do you want that you think you aren't allowed to get? Specifically.

$$$

The first of MANY checks climate deniers will be writing now that the battlefield has moved to the courts. As with the effort to deny that tobacco smoking causes cancer, we have witnessed a long cynical campaign to deceive the public, but once things move into the court system the lies fall away and the deniers find themselves without a leg to stand on. The tobacco companies eventually had to pay billions for their deception. For the fossil fuel industry it will likely be trillions. It will likely take more than a decade to get there, but the outcome is inevitable. Propaganda just doesn't play as well in court as it does in the media.

"UVA initially said it

"UVA initially said it intended to cooperate with the investigation but decided to fight after objections from its own faculty and many scientific organizations."

No transparency...but keep sending us your tax dollars anyway. UVA and Penn State have as much interest in keeping this scam going as they did keeping Sandusky's child-raping covered up, in order to keep their very profitable football program going.

Okay, so could you send me

Okay, so could you send me your tax records so I might publish them online and find out whether or not you've been evading taxes?

No?

No transparency there, then.

Scientific obliviousness

"Believers" in the power and worth of science never give 100 percent certainty for any future occurrence -- not even that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. Because it's impossible to rule out all yet unknown factors that might affect any predictable event, it's impossible to predict all events with 100 percent certainty.

This fact of reality is being shamelessly exploited by all kinds of deniers -- from those who still insist tobacco smoke doesn't kill nearly half a million Americans each year to those who put their fingers in their ears (and feet in their mouths) in order to deny the global warming effects of rising atmospheric levels of C02.

I can understand why this person wants to remain anonymous -- I would too if I wanted to post such a scientifically ignorant comment.

I don't think anyone apart

I don't think anyone apart from Dr Mann has used the word "frivolous" to describe the lawsuit, so is it correct to state that "must pay damages ... for filing a frivolous lawsuit"? Isn't it they must pay damages only because they lost?

The loser can pay court

The loser can pay court costs, but in a 'frivolous' lawsuit can be directed to pay the attorneys' fees and all the attendant costs.

The point was did the court

The point was did the court actually defined this as a 'frivolous suit'?

The point was, it WAS frivolous

ATI's FOIA request was turned down for properly legal reasons as defined in the law. So when they sued to overturn that, there was no basis in law on which the suit rested. That makes it frivolous.

Although called a fine, it is

Although called a fine, it is not a penalty nor is it damages. It is the rough cost of printing briefs for the court. Neither Mr. Mann nor the University sought damages and could not. This posting only demonstrates the lack of familiarity of the "reporter" with common appellate law terms.

32 years of science's 95% certainty is anything you want.

The "believers" claim science never works in certainties and absolutes and can't say a climate change crisis is 100% certain? So why do they play the percentages game saying that for 32 years 96.7% of all scientists have been 95% certain that it just "could be" a crisis? Science can't be certain but you fear mongers of climate blame can tell our children they are doomed because science isn't able to say it?

Probabilities

Because, given that it is very probable that crossing a trafficked highway at night will result in my injury or death, I choose to avoid such behavior.

But you go ahead: cross a highway at night, jump from a high bridge, or shoot yourself in the head. It is not 100% sure that you will die or get injured.

It is all about probabilities an likelihoods, my friend.

Magnets

You're the reason juggalos exist. Go elsewhere with your drivel.

Jesus Saves. Go to church on

Jesus Saves. Go to church on Sunday and all your problems will disappear.

absolutes

You can't be 100% sure that you won't get hurt or die in a car accident, so why drive anywhere? You have to go with the odds, don't you?

Because the stakes are far

Because the stakes are far too high to rely on that 5% chance that they're wrong.

Science can't be certain

Science can't be certain you'll get cancer if you smoke but you fear mongers of smoking can tell our children they are doomed because science isn't able to say it?
Time to tell the kids to light em' up!

In saying that scientific

In saying that scientific conclusions are not certain, and in attempting to quantify that uncertainty, scientists are simply being honest. You seem to be angry with them because they won't lie to you.

Meanwhile in the real

Meanwhile in the real world... nothing is completely certain, no. If a group if engineers survey a bridge and determine its construction was faulty, they won't say "I am 100% sure that bridge will fall down next Tuesday". They are more likely to give a probability of its failure. So, if 97% of those engineers said there was a 95% chance the bridge would collapse, you would still drive across it?

Science does not work on

Science does not work on consensus. Science is evidence and fact. The fact is that we've pumped greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at a rate of +2.2%/year, and those gasses are able to heat up whatever planet they are on. Basic physics and chemistry trumps dissent and confusion. Don't be on the wrong side of this issue when the final curtain is pulled back.

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