Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Union of Concerned Scientists to Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli: Back Off Dr. Michael Mann!

"[Cuccinelli] repeats misleading claims to justify his subpoena, despite the fact that the investigations he referenced debunked the claims he is making. Furthermore, he gets basic facts wrong about the content of the emails....

At best, Cuccinelli misread the emails. At worst, he is purposely and knowingly misrepresenting them. Cuccinelli's inability to get the basic facts straight about the stolen emails, which he says justify his investigation, is yet another reason he should drop his misguided campaign against Michael Mann."---Union of Concerned Scientists (7-1-10)

The Union of Concerned Scientists (7-1-10) has posted this press release:

Ken Cuccinelli Makes Basic Factual Errors About Mike Mann's Research, Stolen Emails in Response to UVA

On June 11, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli formally responded (pdf) to the University of Virginia's request that he drop his demand for documents related to climate scientist Michael Mann's research. The response is riddled with inaccuracies, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and undermines his case for obtaining documents pertaining to Mann's work at the school.

Cuccinelli's response acknowledges the existence of investigations that have cleared Mann and other scientists of misconduct charges stemming from emails stolen from a British university last year, claiming those investigations "speak for themselves." But Cuccinelli's response repeats misleading claims to justify his subpoena, despite the fact that the investigations he referenced debunked the claims he is making. Furthermore, he gets basic facts wrong about the content of the emails.

Cuccinelli's response contains three misrepresentations of the stolen emails, two of which have been discredited by previous investigations.

First, Cuccinelli incorrectly attributes a characterization of another scientist's research to research conducted by Mann. Cuccinelli wrote: "…[V]arious statements or methods have been attributed to Dr. Mann including the fact that he developed a 'trick' in order to 'hide the decline….'" But the latter phrase from the emails did not, in fact, refer to Mann's research. Those phrases were in an email from scientist Phil Jones, who ran the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. It was Jones who described an aspect of Mann's work as a "trick." Later in the same email, Jones also described an aspect of scientist Keith Briffa's research, calling it "hide the decline." Cuccinelli wrongly attributes this description to Mann's work. Given Cuccinelli is specifically investigating Mann, his inability to distinguish between references to Mann and Briffa is an egregious error.

Second, Cuccinelli's response continues to cite those two phrases of technical jargon out of context. Both phrases, and the science they reference, have been thoroughly examined. Multiple investigations have found that the phrases are informal references to techniques used in climate change research that were publicly known and available at the time of the emails. Investigations by Factcheck.org, Penn State University (pdf), the U.K. Parliament and an independent investigation commissioned by the University of East Anglia have concluded that climate contrarians have taken these phrases out of context and misrepresented climate science. In any case, reviews of Mann's research and other climate reconstructions have confirmed Mann's basic conclusions.

Finally, Cuccinelli's response quotes an email from Mann that stated: "As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its [sic] about plausibly deniable accusations…."

The meaning of this email turns on what Mann meant by the word "this." What was he talking about? The full email chain makes it fairly obvious that Mann was referencing inaccurate claims a blogger had made about Briffa's research, not Mann's own research.

At best, Cuccinelli misread the emails. At worst, he is purposely and knowingly misrepresenting them. Cuccinelli's inability to get the basic facts straight about the stolen emails, which he says justify his investigation, is yet another reason he should drop his misguided campaign against Michael Mann.

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