Monday, August 15, 2011

Reporting from the War On Science frontlines: Ask U.VA to Protect Its Scientists from the Political Witch Hunt

Reading a recent post over at Scott Mandia's Global Warming: Man or Myth? blog I decided I needed to share an unabridged version over here.

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Ask U.VA to Protect Its Scientists from the Political Witch Hunt

Please read this Washington Post editorial and consider sending a message to University of Virigina officials.
I sent the letter posted here to President Teresa Sullivan,
Carol Wood (Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs),
Richard Kast (Associate General Counsel),
and Susan Harris (Secretary to the Board of Visitors).
Academic freedom is at stake and we do not want another climategate false controversy which is what I see coming.

Dear Dr. Sullivan:

I am deeply concerned about the agreement made between your institution and American Tradition Institute (ATI) which would allow ATI access to personal email correspondence and other documents from Dr. Michael Mann and more than thirty other scientists. I fully support the changes requested by Union of Concerned Scientists, American Geophysical Union, American Association of University Professors, and Climate Science Watch to better protect the private correspondence between professional scientists and to prevent exempted documents from being released.

Dr. Mann’s temperature reconstruction that shows modern climate warmer than at any time in the past millennium (the hockey stick) has been duplicated by many international scientists using different types of data and different types of data analyses. There is no reason to suspect any wrong-doing on his part or the others.

There is more at stake here than just academic freedom. Human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are warming the planetary system and increasing risks to public health, national security, and financial stability. There is no scientific debate about this. The United States National Academy of Sciences (2010) stated “a strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems…. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

Unfortunately, the general public is not getting this message because those that oppose pricing carbon are sewing doubt in order to delay action. Leading the charge of manufactured doubt are political think tanks such as Chris Horner’s ATI and Competitive Enterprise Institute as well as the anti-climate science media outlets such as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Their tactics are working. As the science grows stronger each year polls shows the public becoming less certain. It has gotten so bad that some Republican candidates for President have backtracked from their earlier positions that humans were causing most of the observed climate change.

The only reason that Chris Horner and Kenneth Cuccinelli wish to see private emails is because they hope to find something that, when taken out of context, could be spun to create a false controversy. Make no mistake about it. If they get their hands on private email messages from Dr. Mann and others, they will try to use those emails to manufacture a false conspiracy just like emails stolen from Climate Research Unit in November 2009. Those innocent emails were leaked out of context to sabotage the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference and they are still being referred to today by US Congressman in House hearings who wish to delay action. It would be a shame to see “climategate” replayed again two years later with this time University of Virginia being in the spotlight instead of University of East Anglia.

Please do not trust them to honor the gag order.


Scott A. Mandia
Asst. Chair/Professor of Physical Sciences
Suffolk County Community College
Selden, NY 11764

Cc: Carol Wood, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs
Richard Kast, Associate General Counsel
Susan Harris, Secretary to the Board of Visitors
The letter from UCS, AGU, AAUP, and Climate Science Watch I refer to in this post.

Please consider sending a letter. The contact info for these people can be located via their search page.
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If you share the concerns raised in the above letter, please heed Professor Mandia's request and send a message to the University of Virginia, letting them know you are concerned about protecting the integrity of science.

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