The Washington Post, surprisingly, recently had a good story on the ongoing harassment of climate scientists, Harassing climate-change researchers. It starts out:
“FREEDOM OF information laws are critical tools that allow Americans to see what their leaders do on their behalf. But some global warming skeptics in Virginia are showing that even the best tools can be misused.”
Well, I think our readers have known that for awhile.
Lawyers from the Environmental Law Center at the American Tradition Institute (ATI) have asked the University of Virginia to turn over thousands of e-mails and other documents written by Michael E. Mann, a former U-Va. professor and a prominent climate scientist. Another warming skeptic, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), recently demanded many of the same documents to determine whether Mr. Mann somehow defrauded taxpayers when he obtained research grants to study global temperatures.
A judge quashed Mr. Cuccinelli’s chilling “civil investigative demand.” But even though Mr. Mann wasn’t an agent of the commonwealth in any practical sense when he worked at U-Va., the university hasn’t been able to dismiss ATI’s requests, since Mr. Mann’s e-mails are public records in a technical sense. U-Va. agreed last week that it will hand over all the material that state law obliges it to release by Aug. 22….
Going after Mr. Mann only discourages the sort of scientific inquiry that, over time, sorts out fact from speculation, good science from bad. Academics must feel comfortable sharing research, disagreeing with colleagues and proposing conclusions — not all of which will be correct — without fear that those who dislike their findings will conduct invasive fishing expeditions in search of a pretext to discredit them. That give-and-take should be unhindered by how popular a professor’s ideas are or whose ideological convictions might be hurt.
Going after Mann does a lot of things. It falsely make it seem as though climate scientists need to be investigated. (Half a dozen investigations following the false scandal or framing of climate scientists known as “climategate” should have shown by now that they are doing their job correctly and no one needs to babysit them.) It also makes these researchers nervous — who wants someone with an axe to grind going through years upon years of emails? And, furthermore, it wastes everyone’s time. There are one million and one other things that need our attention — not this.