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Judge Quashes Subpoena of UVA Research Records 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the closing-the-climategate dept.
esocid writes "An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann. Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a 'reason to believe' that Mann had committed fraud. He also set aside the subpoena without prejudice, meaning Cuccinelli can rewrite it to better explain why he wants to investigate, but seemed skeptical about the underlying claim of fraud. The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005. 'The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia,' Peatross wrote. The ruling also limited Cuccinelli to asking about only one of the five grants issued, which was the only one using state funds."
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Judge Quashes Subpoena of UVA Research Records

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  • by Goonie (8651) <robert.merkel@benamb r a . org> on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:52PM (#33421018) Homepage

    It appears that Ken Cuccinelli is a partisan hack who's using his position as Attorney-General primarily to advance right-wing interests, and thus further his own political ambitions.

    Last week he was going after abortion clinics [theatlantic.com].

    This week it's Michael Mann.

  • by the gnat (153162) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:23PM (#33421262)

    It is interesting (and very bigoted of you) to assume anyone who is a AGW skptic is anti-science and pro-intelligent design.

    I realize that this isn't universally true, but I've noticed a large overlap - specifically, the vast majority of creationists appear to be "AGW skeptics", and they are certainly anti-science, and very militant about it. When I see the cretins from the Discovery Institute reading from the same script as the anti-AGW crowd, I'm naturally suspicious of the latter. This may seem unfair to you, but it's no more unfair than accusing climate scientists of wanting to force society back to a pre-industrial state.

    Which brings up a more accurate point: while the "skeptics" may not all be anti-science, they definitely come across as anti-scientist.

  • by hondo77 (324058) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:29PM (#33421314) Homepage
    A far bigger story? How? A review panel finds that the UN's climate panel could be doing a better job but "...the way the United Nations panel goes about its work has 'been successful overall.'" That's big news?
  • by Kernel Kurtz (182424) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:54PM (#33421520) Homepage
    As Carl Sagan once said, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.

    Yes. And when neither side has any, then what?
  • by jfengel (409917) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:26PM (#33421804) Homepage Journal

    to attack the speaker of the idea, instead of the idea itself is just wrong.

    It's just turnabout. Every time you talk with a denier, sooner or later they will accuse scientists of either deliberate deception for personal gain, or abject stupidity. I have never, not once, met one whose argument did not fundamentally rest on one of those two options.

    When faced with such an argument, no amount of rational persuasion is going to be effective. When faced with somebody prone to consider such an argument, showing them papers and math is never going to be effective. It has passed out of the bounds of science, and into rhetoric.

    That's unfortunate. And for rational, coherent, genuinely skeptical people, you don't have to go there; it's a matter of science. For everybody else, it's a matter of politics, which scientists are well advised to stay away from, except that they too have to live with the results.

  • Re:Politics aside (Score:3, Informative)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:38PM (#33421906)
    State Freedom of Information Acts tend to be a lot less broad than the federal one (which only applies to the federal executive branch). Using Michigan as an example, you cannot request all documents relating to a given subject. You have to identify what documents you want, and be specific. In that regard, I highly doubt that you could say "I want all of the email sent by this professor to any of these 40 other people, for the last 5 years". That's absurdly broad. You probably could request all of the documents used to support a research grant application. But, that was to the state. I would think that therefore, the state would already have those documents, so requesting then seems more like harassment. (Unless you can get away with citing but not submitting papers with your grant? That would be weird to allow in the first place...) They also request a list of all documents that have been destroyed, and documents verifying the legitimate reason for their destruction. That one is almost insulting. It's like asking somebody to please list the times they have beaten their wife, and their reasoning for those beatings. Sounds pretty accusatory.
  • by budgenator (254554) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:49PM (#33421988) Journal

    The Annals of Applied Statistics is publishing a paper, A STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF MULTIPLE TEMPERATURE PROXIES: ARE RECONSTRUCTIONS OF SURFACE TEMPERATURES OVER THE LAST 1000 YEARS RELIABLE? [e-publications.org](McShane and Wyner 2010) that says things like.
    "On the one hand, we conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a ”long-handled” hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data. "
    "Consequently, the long flat handle of the hockey stick is best understood to be a feature of regression and less a reflection of our knowledge of the truth."
    "Climate scientists have greatly underestimated the uncertainty of proxy based reconstructions and hence have been overconfident in their models. "
    "The real proxies are less predictive than our ”fake” data. "
    which to me sounds about as close to call Mann a baldfaced liar as your going to hear in a professional journal. The gauntlet has slapped Mann in the face, his response will be interesting.

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:49PM (#33421994) Journal
    "until something is found or nothing is found."

    As you are well aware, Mann has been repeatedly investigated by political hacks and repeatedly cleared. This is just another politically motivated fishing expedition amoungst the constant stream of FOI requests, death threats, and political investigations he and his team are subjected to on a daily basis.

    We've talked before and I have a fair idea of your political views, I strongly suspect that if it was not about climate change you would be screaming about government oppression and Mann's right to be left alone.
  • Re:Good (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:20PM (#33422200)

    Oh, it is politicians bloviating. This guy is a right wing nut. Since he took office less than a year ago, he has issued opinions prohibiting universities from considering sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination and requiring clinics providing abortion services to meet unreasonable hospital -like regulations.

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:24PM (#33422244)
    Similarly, most city-council politicians I know tend to work very hard to keep in touch with their voter base and to enact seemingly sane policies.

    In my experience, it's the city council politicians who run based on personal agenda and then push that agenda as much as they can while in office. They also know that they can pass all kinds of stupid "pronouncements" with little to no real meaning other than making themselves look great to the loudest nutcases, so they don't have to worry about what they pass.

    They can also schedule all their meetings so that no sane person could possibly attend them all, thus creating a lack of competition for the next election. Ours meets on the first and third Monday at noon AND at 7PM, and has commissions they are part of that meet on various weekdays at 7:30AM or 8PM. If you are in any way employed you are almost certain not to be able to attend all the meetings, so even if you did get elected you'd get kicked off the council for failing to attend meetings. Except for one council favorite who keeps taking time off to make illegal trips to Cuba and displays a Cuban flag pasted to the top of his city-funded laptop, he gets excused whenever he asks.

  • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:55PM (#33422430) Homepage Journal

    People may appoint Judges for political reasons but they should never bow to those reasons.

    Yeah, that's why Judges should be appointed. But local ones tend to be elected, so they need to run for office every so often etc.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:56PM (#33422442) Journal
    ""deny" implies that there is no shadow of a question about the factuality AGW"

    No, "deny" implies the denier is unwilling to participate in the normal scientific process. It's the same as sticking your fingers in your ears and saying "I don't believe you". The denier often does not have a competing theory let alone a better one, does not comprehend the current theory, and refuses to apply his "skepticisim" to his own ideas.

    The above applies honest deniers, however (as with high profile historical deniers) I find that most high profile AGW deniers are not that honest, they are expert propogandists motivated by politics and/or money. If you doubt this then look up any anti-AGW group in the US and determine their geographical distance from K street. Most, if not all, are within a one mile radius.

    If you dont understand or agree, it may be helpful to recall that observations of natural phenomena are facts, the difference between those fact and historical facts is that the former are repeatable. One such fact is that CO2 converts IR radiation into atmospheric heat.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:18PM (#33422574) Journal
    The term denier probably is a link to the holocaust. In all likelyhood it's because the main anti-AGW proponents are using similar propoganda methods. If we take their advise and continue to burn the known coal reserves over the next 100-200yrs then we will have a change similar to the prehistoric vulcanisim event that turned the oceans acidic and wiped out 90% of extant species. Such a significant change could be seen as a global gas chamber, it would take millions of years for the biosphere to recover and would have a much greater effect on humanity than the gas chambers of the second second world war.
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:42PM (#33423098)

    The funny thing is that the paper ends up with a hockey stick that doesn't look that different from Mann's.

    Here's some discussion about what that paper does and does not show [realclimate.org]

    "The real proxies are less predictive than our ”fake” data. "
    which to me sounds about as close to call Mann a baldfaced liar as your going to hear in a professional journal.

    Actually, Mann was trying to do something that had never been done before, pulling together indirect data from a wide variety of sources to get an idea global climate history. Very rarely is the groundbreaking work on a scientific problem absolutely perfect--usually there are errors and omissions that are corrected in subsequent work. But that doesn't make the pioneer a liar. Both Mann and others have improved upon Mann's original methods, but his general conclusions have held up pretty well over the years. For example, a 2006 peer-review by the National Research Council of the US National Academies concluded,

    It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies.

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:50PM (#33423156)

    The result was that if you put any red noise through Mann's filters you get identical data. Basically it is all a con

    Actually, you don't. You can get it to turn up a bit at the end, but nobody has managed to reproduce the magnitude of Mann's hockey stick blade with red noise. So if you think that, you have yourself been the victim of a con. Reanalysis using other methods still yields a hockey stick. That's why the 2006 NRC peer review ended up concluding

    It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @12:15AM (#33423286)
    No one has disallowed publication of papers inconsistent with AGW. O'm not stick my fingers in my ears. I have asked several times in this very thread for evidence that AGW is not happening or why we should not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and no one can seem to come up with anything. Where on Earth do you get this nonsense about the sun having no effect on Earth's climate? It's bunk!
  • Re:Good (Score:2, Informative)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @01:56AM (#33423678) Journal

    We've talked before and I have a fair idea of your political views, I strongly suspect that if it was not about climate change you would be screaming about government oppression and Mann's right to be left alone.

    Actually, I've pretty much ignored this situation until this story posted and I saw people who don't know the difference between an investigation and a prosecution makes claims that aren't substantiated by the currently known facts.

    Your right, I probably would be objecting to this in any other venue except for the fact that court rejected the search because the reason wasn't on it warrant. If the AT doesn't provide another with a valid reason that stands against attempts to invalidate it, I will be be making the claims you suggest I would be. However, until that happens or that it becomes apparent that it isn't happening, I'm simply remaining neutral on this and that includes telling idiots that investigations does not equal prosecutions and they don't know any reasons because one wasn't given which is why the ruling was the way it was.

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @05:51AM (#33424452) Homepage Journal

    The inquiries were summarized as exonerating Jones from the (rightfully false) charges of lying. Did you even read what the panels actually said, or did you just read the Slashdot article summaries?

    From your own first reference:
    "37. CRU's refusal to release the raw data gave some the impression that it was deliberately
    keeping its work private so that its studies could not "be replicated and critiqued".50 The
    Peabody Energy Company said of CRU that "they appeared to be particularly concerned
    that putting their information in the public domain would expose their work to
    criticism".51 Even an effort to conduct a simple quality check was said to be thwarted by
    CRU's unwillingness to share the data it had used.52 In contrast, NASA has been able to
    make all its raw data available as well as its programmes.53

    38. We recognise that some of the e-mails suggest a blunt refusal to share data, even
    unrestricted data, with others. We acknowledge that Professor Jones must have found it
    frustrating to handle requests for data that he knew--or perceived--were motivated by
    a desire simply to seek to undermine his work. But Professor Jones's failure to handle
    helpfully requests for data in a field as important and controversial as climate science
    was bound to be viewed with suspicion. He was obviously frustrated by other workers
    in the field trying to "undermine" his work, but his actions were inevitably
    counterproductive. Professor Jones told us that the published e-mails represented only
    "one tenth of 1%" of his output, which amounts to one million e-mails, and that we
    were only seeing the end of a protracted series of e-mail exchanges. We consider that
    further suspicion could have been allayed by releasing all the e-mails. In addition, we
    consider that had the available raw data been available online from an early stage, these
    kinds of unfortunate e-mail exchanges would not have occurred. In our view, CRU
    should have been more open with its raw data and followed the more open approach of
    NASA to making data available.

    39. We are not in a position to set out any further the extent, if any, to which CRU
    should have made the data available in the interests of transparency, and we hope that
    the Independent Climate Change Email Review will reach specific conclusions on this
    point. However, transparency and accountability are of are increasing importance to
    the public, so we recommend that the Government reviews the rules for the accessibility
    of data sets collected and analysed with UK public money.
    "

    Read what they actually say. They excoriate him for hiding his data and methods. Well, excoriate in the British sense, meaning they were at least polite about it. But they used a bold font to convey the words as a very-stern talking-to.

    The other panels likewise found Phil Jones' culture of secrecy to be bad.

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @12:04PM (#33426206)

    Actually, Mann's original "hockey stick" went back only to 1400, and a subsequent paper extended it to 1000.

    From the NRC report

    Presently available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. The uncertainties associated with reconstructing hemispheric mean or global mean temperatures from these data increase substantially backward in time through this period and are not yet fully quantified.

    This is basically in agreement with Mann's published reports, which acknowledge greater uncertainty as the reconstruction is pushed back further in time, with error bars expanding greatly for dates before about 1600.

    Nevertheless, the NRC report found it

    plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @03:37PM (#33428932)

    Mann's hockey stick has recently been completely falsified, even assuming all of his data and methods are sound, by professional statisticians.

    This is simply untrue. While the original statistical approach that Mann chose was not ideal, and is subject to certain types of error, multiple subsequent studies have shown that his approach did not invalidate his conclusions.

    The paper that you cite comes up with larger error bars using a different method of analysis which has not previously been tested or validated for this kind of data, so it logically cannot falsify the hockey stick. The authors do not compare their method to that used Mann or by others who have carried out reproduced his conclusions, and provide no evidence that their approach is in any way superior.

    In short, the error bars are so large that we _cannot_ say that we're currently warmer than during the MWP.

    We also cannot say that the MWP was as warm as today, or even that the MWP was a global phenomenon rather than a regional one. It has been known all along that the error bars get large when you try to extend the analysis that far back, and this was acknowledged in Mann's work.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @08:45PM (#33431578) Homepage
    1998 was the hottest year despite the rising population and therefore, the increase of the greenhouse gases. CO2 is a greenhouse gas - that's proven scientifically, but that does not mean it is the sole factor in the climate systems.

    Have you been asleep for a decade? 2009 was the second hottest year in the hottest decade on record. 2010 has, thus far been the hottest year on record. I think you took a few years of relatively stable temperatures in the early parts of the 2000-2009 decade as a trend, and haven't looked since. AGW does not predict continuous monotonic temperature increase. That's because one or two years temperature isn't climate.

    Of course these points (1998 being warmest, hockey stick being "falsified") have been refuted again and again, but AGW skeptics seem to think that saying them again like they are true "unrefutes" them. But what can you expect from an AC.

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