A victory has been won by climate change scientists in the US after a judge denied permission to a pro-industry think-tank to access private emails at the University of Virginia. The group alleged the scientists were falsifying data. By REBECCA DAVIS.
This verdict is not just good news for the science of climate change, it’s also good for academic freedom generally in the US. In 2010 the Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli – who happens to be a climate change denialist – sued the University of Virginia to gain access to the private papers of scientist Michael Mann. Cuccinelli hoped to find evidence that Mann was falsifying climate data. The reason why Mann was – and is – a particular target was because he helped to design the “hockey stick” graph, which very clearly and accessibly lays out exactly how extreme the shift in the world’s temperatures over the past millennium has been. The graph shows global temperatures as being remarkably consistent until about 1950, when they suddenly start spiking, and it’s all up from there.
The University of Virginia rejected Cuccinelli’s demand, and Cuccinelli lost his case. But it was promptly taken up by a think-tank called American Tradition Partnership. The think-tank’s stated aim is to battle “radical environmentalist junk science head on”. It is, not coincidentally, fervently pro-industry, and has fought for the right of businesses to opt out of energy standards, for instance. On Tuesday Judge Gaylord Finch smacked them down in court, a decision which Mann called “a good day” for academic freedom. The judgement was applauded by groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who said that lawsuits of the kind brought by the think-tank “have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas”. DM
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