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Cuccinelli goes fishing again

Filed under: — group @ 4 October 2010

In keeping with our role as a site that tries to deal with the science of climate change rather than the politics, we have specifically refrained from commenting on various politically-motivated legal shenanigans relating to climate science. Some of them have involved us directly, but we didn’t (don’t) want to have RC become just a blog about us. However, the latest move by Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia, against Mike Mann and UVa is so ridiculous it needs to be highlighted to the widest audience possible.

For background, Rosalind Helderman at the Washington Post has covered most of the story. The last installment was that Cuccinelli’s attempt to subpoena 10 years of emails between 39 scientists and Mike Mann and ‘all documents’ residing at UVa related to four federal and one Commonwealth of Virginia grant, was thrown out by a judge because Cuccinelli did not provide any reason to suspect that fraud had occurred and that federal grants are not covered by the relevant statute. Without due cause, the AG is not allowed to investigate (and without such a restriction, there would be no end to politically motivated witch hunts).

Yesterday, Cuccinelli filed a new demand that takes this previous judgment into account. Namely, he attempts to give a reason to suspect fraud and only targets the Commonwealth grant – though still asks for 10 years of emails with an assortment of scientists. However, his reasoning should scare the bejesus of anyone who has ever published a paper on any topic that any attorney might have a political grudge against. For the two papers in question the fraud allegation is that the authors

… knew or should have known [that they] contained false information, unsubstantiated claims, and/or were otherwise misleading. Specifically, but without limitation, some of the conclusions of the papers demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data, meaning the result reported lacked statistical significance without a specific statement to that effect.

So in other words, if you publish a result that might turn out to be statistically weak or with understated error bars – even if this was in no way deliberate and regardless if you were aware of it at the time – Cuccinelli thinks that is equivalent to fraud. And any grant that you apply for that even cites this paper would therefore be a false claim under the statute. Cuccinelli is specifically not stating that deliberate scientific misconduct must have occurred, all you need to have performed is an inadequate (according to him) statistical treatment or you made an unsubstantiated claim. If you want “unsubstainted claims”, Soon and Baliunas (2003) (cited approvingly by Cuccinelli) would be a great example of course. But more generally, this would clearly open up pretty much the entire literature to ‘fraud’ investigations since one can almost always improve on the statistics. You didn’t take temporal auto-correlation into account in calculating the trend? Cuccinelli thinks that’s fraud. You didn’t fully characterise the systematic uncertainty in the “unknown unknowns”? That too. You weren’t aware of the new data that showed an older paper was incomplete? Too bad. This is not just an attack on Mike Mann, it is an attack on the whole scientific enterprise.

However, as appalling as this reasoning is, Cuccinelli’s latest request is simply bone-headed because the grant in question, entitled “Resolving the scale-wise sensitivities in the dynamical coupling between the climate and biosphere”, simply has nothing to do with the MBH98 and MBH99 papers! Even if one agreed with Cuccinelli about their quality (which we don’t), they are not referenced or mentioned even obliquely. The grant was to look at how climate variability impacted land-atmosphere fluxes of carbon, water and heat and doesn’t involve paleo-climate at all. So even if, for arguments sake, one accepted Cuccinelli’s definition of what constitutes ‘fraud’, nothing associated with this grant would qualify. We doubt there could be a clearer demonstration of the inappropriateness of Cuccinelli’s case.

Well, maybe one. In the attachment to the subpoena, Cuccinelli repeats his claim that since Mann used the word “community” in a blog post here on RC, he must therefore be using “Post Normal” jargon, and that might be “misleading/fraudulent” in the context of a grant application. Really? Scientists who use the word “community” regardless of context are therefore to be suspected of fraud? This is just embarrassing.

It might be worth pointing out that under the Virginia Bar ethics guidelines, it states that:

A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.

We can only wonder when this will start to be applied to the current AG.

444 Responses to “Cuccinelli goes fishing again”

  1. 251
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re 245 – Rather than repeat myself, I would refer to my previous comments (242, 228) to explain why I perceive the plagiarism charges to be relatively inconsequential, reflecting shoddy scholarhsip rather than deliberate dishonesty.

    I’m not sure it’s worth more column inches here for further exchanges of opinions on this issue. Readers can review what’s been said and make their own judgments. However, I will tentatively predict that the final result of the investigation will be to scold Wegman and/or his grad students for their bad scholarship but to find them innocent of deliberate dishonesty. In other words, I expect the conclusions to be, “You were careless and sloppy, but you’re not cheaters.” In any case, we’ll see what transpires.

    And how would the GMU Honor Committee be able to deal with the next plagiarism case that comes to them when the student charged says in his defense that “I was careless and sloppy, but I’m not a cheater”? Ironically I believe that Cuccinelli was chairman of the Honor Committee during his time at GMU.

  2. 252
    Snapple says:

    Well, here is the 250-page document. It is tough going. Dr. Mashey is a famous computer expert who may have compared original and plagiarized texts on a computer. He puts the texts alongside each other and shows the similarities and the changes with different colors.

    Sometimes the plagiarism is changed so it means something different. That’s probably the falsification.

    Mashey claims:

    “Of 91 pages, 35 are mostly plagiarized, but injected with biases, errors or changed meanings that often weaken or invert original results. Some might thus also be called fabrication.”

    These are not trivial errors. A teenager would know this was wrong.

    Probably many of these allegations will be put before the committe of professors.

    Wegman allegedly gave his name to this project to give it credibility, but a Congressional aid allegedly put the papers together.

    http://deepclimate.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/strange-scholarship-v1-02.pdf

    According to Dr. Mashey,

    “Congress and the DoJ should investigate the manufacture of the Wegman Report.”

    AND

    “Barton staffer Peter Spencer selected the team‘s papers or passed them from those behind the PR campaign, local ―thinktanks‖ or close allies.”

    What is really goofy is that the Report extensively plagiarized Bradley, who was an author of the two “hockey stick” papers that the Wegman Report is trying to discredit!

  3. 253
    Didactylos says:

    Eric: it was an article I read a year or two back, making the point that universities tend to deal with complaints, including plagiarism claims, quietly, internally, and with no visible effects.

    However, I think the article focussed on complaints that were dealt with at the department level. It may be unfair of me to imply that universities attempt a white-wash once an administrative enquiry has been opened.

    It is possible I misremember – I can’t find the original article. Obviously, these are blanket statements. They don’t apply equally to all institutions.

  4. 254
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Hal Lewis
    that would be Harold W., who recently resigned from APS over climate change; that resignation letter is copied all over the place; here’s one:
    http://qbit.cc/tags/harold-lewis/

    “This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it…. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst….”

    His work goes back a ways.
    http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v69/i3-4/p129_1
    http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v73/i2/p173_1
    Oral history (1986): http://www.aip.org/history/ohilist/4742.html
    He was part of the JASONs group

    [Response: Hmm. Yes, I found that he published a bit, 50 years ago. Not exactly evidence of his being up on current affairs.–eric]

  5. 255

    Fred Moolten: the alleged level of plagiarism is not a “technical” infraction. I’ve had a student expelled for less. And this is in Australia, where the academic code is less strictly enforced in my experience than in most top US universities. It is also possible in this country for an academic to be fired for this sort of infraction, a rare event here. To the public who are more concerned with whether the right policy decisions are made, it may seem “technical” vs. getting the facts wrong or citing a reference to make the opposite point to the original (and it seems he did those too), but to an academic, this is highly reprehensible conduct. If the charges stand, this is a firing offence.

  6. 256

    #254–On advice from my academic superior, the guilty students in two similar incidents for which I was instructor of record got by with additional work and loss of credit.

    But there’s a considerable difference between a minor paper for an elective course at the undergrad level, and a semi-official report for the minority Congressional delegation, with policy implications at the national level.

    Or so I would have thought.

  7. 257
    Deep Climate says:

    Here’s the latest on the George Mason University plagiarism investigation. Apparently, a full seven months after Ray Bradley’s initial letter of complaint, GMU has finally passed through the preliminary “inquiry” stage and has initiated a full-blown plagiarism investigation.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/10/08/wegman-under-investigation-by-george-mason-university/

  8. 258
    Bill DeMott says:

    In my view, Wegman’s former Ph.D. problems in their search for finding jobs. They may get hit both from their own involvement as well as their advisor’s reputation.

  9. 259
    Fred Moolten says:

    [edit]Never mind. We could argue this endlessly to no conclusion. Rather, I will repeat my prediction (admittedly tentative) that GMU will see things the way I have described, and will chastise Wegman and/or the grad students for poor scholarship but will clear them of dishonesty or cheating. In essence, we’ll find out how it ends sooner or later, and others can then decide whose perspective was shared within the GMU investigation, which will be an important source ultimately of the outside world’s perspective on the matter.

    I don’t know whether Wegman et al are guilty of infractions more serious than the cited examples of plagiarism. If so, then maybe these individuals deserve to be discredited. To me, this is less important than the need to discredit the vile behavior of Cuccinelli, who is a danger if left unimpeded. Whatever the Wegman outcome, I doubt it will be definitive, but the outcome of Cuccinelli’s machination could be disastrous, and I suggest we focus our attention on that danger.

    [Response: Fred: The point is that it is actually is quite clear that the issue here is not ‘simply’ plagiarism. Plagiarism is one thing. Changing the meaning of the plagiarised material so that it still sounds authoritative (Bradley is a very good writer) but supports an opposite (false) point of view is another level. That’s what the concern is. As for Cuccinelli — well, there we are clearly in total agreement. ’nuff said.–eric]

  10. 260
    MarkB says:

    Harold Lewis has written some books since his publishing days, notably one in 1990 that seeks to downplay human-caused environmental risks, while chastizing environmentalists. He lends praise to a contrarian biologist who believes pesticides aren’t harmful.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/25/books/environmental-books-what-we-fear-least-kills-most.html?pagewanted=1

    So he seemed stuck on the notion that most human-caused health/environmental were nil to minimal. A preview of his book online reveals that he believed the climate threat (if any) was many decades down the road and shouldn’t be addressed through mitigation.

    With the mounting evidence on global warming over the last couple of decades, he was faced with either conceding he may have been wrong, thus undermining past statements, or declaring everyone’s in on a grand scam. He’s chosen the latter. It’s sad.

  11. 261
    Edward Greisch says:

    How do you pronounce “Cuccinelli”? Is it Cukinelli or Cuchinelli with a c as in cello?

    Eric: It seems to me that a strategy would be helpful, if unscientific. For example, Moveon.org has a petition to sign to get the Department of Justice to investigate foreign money in US politics.

  12. 262
    John Mashey says:

    I am mystified that people offer opinions on a 250-page report, having only read about it elsewhere. Unfortunately, the intertangled problems were far too messy to do the Cliff Notes version.

    There is an odd comparison with surface temperatures, in that the overall *pattern* is far more important than any single issue, although some are pretty egregious standalone.
    Some of the errors are incompetence, because no one would purposefully change “statuses” to “statues” and even undergrad cut-and-pasters know to change “we” to “they.”

    The pattern only merged when I was part way through the Summaries, and started categorizing the issues. See the table on pp.193-195 of SSWR, and check out any of them in context, especially the capital B’s. There were more elsewhere, although I didn’t make a table of them. If I were to redo it, I’d have done Issues like Memes, so they showed up in the Index.
    On p.22 there is a section-by-section Summary, with Errors, mean changes and Biases at right. It’s a slight undercount, as I didn’t try to sort out the issues in DC’s pages (2.1-2.3), but then, people may disagree with any of them. Throw out the lowercase ones, there are still too many. The Summaries were laced with subtle to not-so-subtle bias, some of which may well rise to fabrication. On pp.193-195, see the items labeled both C and B.

  13. 263
    Deep Climate says:

    #257

    In his response, Eric Steig said “The issue is not simply plagiarism”.

    Exactly. Wegman et al recycled Bradley, mostly verbatim, but somehow key statements got changed. Here is possibly the most egregious example:

    Bradley on calibration:

    If an equation can be developed that accurately describes instrumentally observed climatic variability in terms of tree growth over the same interval, then paleoclimatic reconstructions can be made using only the tree-ring data.

    Wegman et al (immediately following passages clearly derived from Bradley):

    As pointed out earlier, many different sets of climatic conditions can and do yield similar tree ring profiles. Thus tree ring proxy data alone is not sufficient to determine past climate variables.

    I raised this issue from the beginning:
    http://deepclimate.org/2009/12/22/wegman-and-rapp-on-tree-rings-a-divergence-problem-part-1/

    It’s unconscionable that Wegman et al copied and then distorted Bradley’s text in order to attack him.

  14. 264
    caerbannog says:

    Just a quick heads-up. Congressman Joe Barton has just responded to Michael Mann’s WP column (linky http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/11/AR2010101105679.html)

    Well-informed folks are more than encouraged to wander on over there to set the record straight in the comments section.

  15. 265
    Marco says:

    Fred Moolten:

    I both agree and disagree with your comments on having to focus on Cuccinelli. Yes, he’s behavior is more appalling and dangerous than that of Wegman, but remember that Cuccinelli’s CID relies heavily on…the Wegman report!

  16. 266

    EG 260,

    It’s my understanding that in Italian, C followed by A, O or U is hard, but followed by I or E is a “tch” sound.

  17. 267

    Eric, in your comment in #258 Fred Moolten: what you say applies equally to Ian Plimer’s book, yet when I asked the University of Adelaide to investigate him for potential misconduct, I was favoured with this reply from the vice-chancellor (university president in the US system):

    The University acknowledges that individual staff members may express their
    opinions or interpretation of scientific data and research in their area of
    expertise. The University feels that this issue, which may be perceived as
    controversial, is an accepted part of the freedom of debate in higher
    education.

    No one is accusing him of plagiarism, but he certainly has been accused of wide-scale fabrication and mis-citing references.

    Contrast this with my earlier Australia stories.

    I have “grand-jury” in my captcha …

  18. 268
    Fred Lua says:

    caerbannog (#262): When you type a URL in comment, you need to add a space at the end of it. The blog software of RealClimate.org added an ending parenthesis to the WaPo URL you gave. The correct URL is

    Joe Barton’s lame comment on Dr Mann:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/11/AR2010101105679.html

  19. 269
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Barton’s comment is indeed sad, but it reflects the sort of idiocy that prevails in much of the American electorate.

    The peer-reviewed scientific journals are the appropriate venue for challenging any research, including that of Dr. Mann, as it insures that the questions are raised by those conversant with the science rather than by ignorant food tubes.

  20. 270

    #260, 264–

    Yes, if Cuccinelli follows regular Italian conventions (not always the case in Italian-American surnames), it should be “Cooch-i-nelly.” (Cf., “Puccini.”)

    But who’d want to be “kook-i-nelly?”

  21. 271
    caerbannog says:

    FYI, John Mashey has replied to Barton’s piece over at the WP. Here is his comment, reproduced in full:


    I allege that Joe Barton organized an effort to mislead Congress, 18USC1001, 18USC371 in manufacturing the Wegman Report.
    It was claimemd to be “independent, impartial, expert”‖ work by a team of “eminent statisticians.”

    It was managed by Barton Staffer Peter Spencer, it has numerous cases of bias, 35 of the 91 pages are mostly plagiarism filled with errors. More than half of it was put together by someone less than one year past PhD (Yasmin Said) plus help from grad students. The 2nd author, David Scott, wrote only a 3-page mathematical appendix, was barely involved. Basically, this “eminent” team was Wegamn plus his students. This was represented as being “like” an NRC report.

    See http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/10/wegman-plagiarism-investigation-/1

    George Mason University, despite every attempt to foot-drag, is finally starting to investigate the first of many problems for Wegman.

  22. 272

    OT – just a little heads up on the Hal Lewis non-story, but he appears to have his own wiki page now. Somebody with wiki editing privileges may want to go over and review and edit it for ‘clarity’. Thanks in advance.

  23. 273
    Some Body says:

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n9/full/ngeo932.html
    Short-lived greenhouse gases and black-carbon aerosols have contributed to past climate warming. Curbing their emissions and quantifying the forcing by all short-lived components could both mitigate climate change in the short term and help to refine projections of global warming.

  24. 274
    Ken Zaretzke says:

    Absolutely incredible. You have to wonder what motivates such people. Ignorance? Check. Lack of integrity? Check (in the case of the most vociferous deniers, like the ones at Planet Gore). Free market ideology? Check. Money interests? Check, check, and check. But maybe something else, at least unconsciously: The consequences of anthropogenic global warming refute, in effect, the last book of the Bible. There, the world ends with a bang, at the behest of the Antichrist. With unchecked global warming, the world ends not with a bang but a whimper, at the behest of Mother Earth. The whole endtimes scenario in the Book of Revelation (and only in that “outlier” of a book) rings false in the light of anthropogenic global warming and its planetary consequences.

  25. 275
    Snapple says:

    Ken Z,

    I don’t want to have to say this again!

    You must not attend church or you would not make such an uninformed and prejudiced comment about religion. Christians aren’t talking about Revelation in connection with global warming. They are talking about the Biblical injunction to be good stewards to the Earth.

    The leadership of major religous organizations, such as Catholics and Evangelicals, accept global warming. Cuccinelli, a Catholic, is going against the Vatican and what is taught in science in Catholic schools; and it wouldn’t hurt to mention this.

    Galileo was a long time ago, guys. In Catholic school, the science books have windmills on the covers, and posters of Al Gore’s movie are plastered on the wall.

    The denialists may have some success falsely claiming religious authority with ignorant people who don’t know their denomination’s stance on global warming. Does that mean you have to repeat denialist propaganda?

    Do not turn this into religion vs science.

    It might be smart–and also truthful–to emphasize that educated religious people support the scientific consensus on global warming because the Bible says that man is supposed to be a good steward of the Earth. That’s what clergymen say in church about global warming. They don’t say anything about Revelation!

    Fossil fuel interests are fooling people, especially in Russia where the big gas monopolies are owned by the old communist ATHEISTS who always owned everything!
    That’s why the Russians are singing the Libertarian tune about how great it is to be a selfish atheist like Ayn Rand.

    Here is the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations:

    “The scientific evidence for global warming and for humanity’s role in the increase of greenhouse gasses becomes ever more unimpeachable, as the IPCC findings are going to suggest; and such activity has a profound relevance, not just for the environment, but in ethical, economic, social and political terms as well. The consequences of climate change are being felt not only in the environment, but in the entire socio-economic system and, as seen in the findings of numerous reports already available, they will impact first and foremost the poorest and weakest who, even if they are among the least responsible for global warming, are the most vulnerable because they have limited resources or live in areas at greater risk…Many of the most vulnerable societies, already facing energy problems, rely upon agriculture, the very sector most likely to suffer from climatic shifts.”—Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, H.E. MSGR. Celestino Migliore (5-10-07)

    http://www.holyseemission.org/migliore.html

  26. 276
    Snapple says:

    I often ask Cuccinelli’s deputy W. Russell if the Holy Father, who believes in global warming, is a money-grubbing fabricator who is perpetrating a hoax.

    He doesn’t answer.

    Scientists should not be gullible and spread the denialist memes about religious people being in the denialist camp. You help the other side when you do this because then some religious people think you are attacking religion. And you are.

    Talk about how the churches and the scientists are trying to be good stewards of the Earth.

    Recently, when the Pope was in England, he took his global warming expert with him.
    Did anyone pay attention to this? The Vatican leaders are not a bunch of morons.
    Did you see what John Paul did with the Polish trade union Solidarity?

    The Guardian reports:

    The Foreign Office said the Vatican had “a proactive stance” on the environment the Pope’s visit would “reposition the issue of climate change not just as a matter of economics and energy security, but also one of social justice, stewardship of the natural world and of fundamental import to the peaceful coexistence of man”.

    During the visit, the climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne, met with Cardinal Turkson, the Vatican lead on climate change. However no announcements have been made about what was discussed…

    The Vatican has taken steps to green its energy supply. The roof of the Paul VI auditorium carries 2,700 solar panels – a gift worth $1.5m (£940,000) from the German company Solar World. Another wealthy donor paid for trees to be planted in a Hungarian national park to offset all of the Vatican’s carbon emissions.

    In 2014 the Vatican will open its €500m 100-megawatt solar power plant. This will make Vatican City, the world’s smallest country, the first in the world to be powered solely by renewables. Excess solar electricity will be exported across its borders into Italy, where it will be used to power 40,000 homes. Based on the current feed-in tariff, electricity produced by the plant could earn the Vatican €57m (£49m) a year, according to estimates by the UK firm Solar Century.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/05/pope-uk-environment-department-costs

  27. 277
    Snapple says:

    Between 271 and 272 I have a comment stuck in moderation.

  28. 278

    KZ 271: The consequences of anthropogenic global warming refute, in effect, the last book of the Bible. There, the world ends with a bang, at the behest of the Antichrist. With unchecked global warming, the world ends not with a bang but a whimper, at the behest of Mother Earth. The whole endtimes scenario in the Book of Revelation (and only in that “outlier” of a book) rings false in the light of anthropogenic global warming and its planetary consequences.

    BPL: You assume the population crash coming due to AGW will end the world. It ain’t necessarily so. The species will survive; just not advanced civilization.

  29. 279
    deconvoluter says:

    Very good comment by John Mashey over at the Washington Post
    TimothyChase has also written a couple of good acounts especially in his 2nd comment (12th.Oct.)

    Perhaps one day the Guardian and BBC comments sections will get comparable informed help.

  30. 280
    deconvoluter says:

    Snapple Re: avoidance of religious stereotyping.

    An even stronger example; John Houghton

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_T._Houghton

  31. 281
    Susan Anderson says:

    Sorry, I read all comments eventually but have been busy elsewhere. My original extract about self-interest departed from the point that interests me, which is that possessiveness and greed have come to be regarded as virtues and education and knowledge as obstacles in the path of the most acquisitive.

    Unfortunately, people less knowledgeable about history and the big picture, as well as science, have ready access to propaganda to confirm their bias. Money from the fabulously successful is being deployed to promote ignorance. Koch and Cuccinelli are just one tentacle of this monstrous beast.

    By quoting (and though I did attribute, I see I was a little too sketchy) a section of the article, I seem to have provided material for a different discussion.

    We are becoming deficient in the golden rule, empathy, compassion, and agape as unfettered materialism captures the prejudices of those who think tantrums will accomplish goals.

    Since religion has been mentioned (I hesitated to introduce this distracting area) it is important to note that a true reading of most religious texts does include stewardship and does not include wealth as an indication of spiritual accomplishment and approval. However, all too many people believe in a god made in their own image, no matter how often they claim it is the reverse.

  32. 282
    mike roddy says:

    I’m glad GMU is going after Wegman, and Deepclimate certainly did an excellent job here, but…

    Why haven’t you climate scientists debunked the Wegman Report more forcefully in the literature, and detailed Mr. Wegman’s rank incompetence and dishonesty?

    Denier think tanks and attack dogs write thousands of pages containing false attacks on the hockey stick, touting MWP, etc. A serious effort to deconstruct an obvious charlatan is called for here, rather than the cursory dismissals from scientists that we have seen so far.

    Is there a professional scientific organization willing to take this on? It’s not good enough to issue yet another report confirming the basic robustness of climate science.

  33. 283
    Septic Matthew says:

    Is it the considered judgment here that the state of VA does not have the right to investigate documents and works that result from its contracts?

    Or perhaps that the right does not reside in the executive branch, but only the legislature (e.g. the VA equivalent of the GAO) or courts?

    Or perhaps that the right resides in the executive branch but not under the control of the attorney general?

    Or perhaps the right resides in the AG’s office only if the AG has pure motives?

    Cuccinelli’s first suit was dismissed without prejudice because it was too broad, and requested documents pursuant to federal contracts. But surely someone in the state government has the right to investigate state contracts and grants in detail — don’t you think so?

    The federal government, when it wants to, can investigate research contracts and grants when it wants to, without an a priori showing of probable malfeasance; this has been shown when it has shut down research pending an investigation, as happened for example at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. I don’t remember the exact year, about 2000. Research conducted by UCLA faculty at the Brentwood VA was also halted pending the results of an investigation within a few months of that. John Dingle prosecuted several investigations in the 1980s-90s with little “probable cause” other than the complaints of disgruntled lab assistants. The most famous was the investigation of David Baltimore and Theresa Imanishi-Kari, who were vindicated after some years passed.

    [Response: The issue is not the right to investigate wrongdoing, but the abuse of state apparatus to harass and intimidate people for political gain without probable cause. If you think that is healthy for democracy, or academic freedom, or even basic freedom of speech, I will strongly disagree. Prosecutors are not allowed to demand unlimited information from anyone, regardless how removed it is from any actual case or probable cause. To support the contrary position is equivalent to supporting a state in which political opponents are routinely harassed purely for the ‘crime’ of speaking out. That is not somewhere I would want to live, and it is not representative of the country in which I do live. Please try and see the bigger principle at stake here. – gavin]

  34. 284
    Septic Matthew says:

    275, Barton Paul Levenson: You assume the population crash coming due to AGW will end the world. It ain’t necessarily so. The species will survive; just not advanced civilization.

    The quantitative scenarios written out in the IPCC AR4 “are consistent with” the survival of advanced civilization in nearly every place that it now exists. What is required of advanced civilization to survive is to follow the examples of USA in the 20th century and China throughout the growth periods of its history and build better flood control and other water works.

    The phrase “advanced civilization” is somewhat vague. Does “advanced civilization” still exist in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe? Nothing in the IPCC scenarios leads to an expectation that the entire world will be worse than those places in response to CO2. On the other hand, “advanced civilization” can disappear from some parts of the globe with or without AGW.

  35. 285
    Daniel Bailey says:

    Re: Ken Zaretzke (271)

    One can make a substantive case that AGW is a fulfillment of Revelation: we have already thrown a mountain (of carbon) into the sea, causing ocean acidification and warming leading to species loss (see 40% phytoplankton loss over the last 40 years).

    If we see a large-scale methane hydrate/clathrate release in the warming Arctic, a subsequent PETM-style extinction event would fulfill the other mass-extinctions found in Revelation, including that of the specified portions of humanity still alive.

    Just sayin’

    The Yooper

  36. 286
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    On the Lewis front, the APS has a response:

    http://www.aps.org/about/pressreleases/haroldlewis.cfm

  37. 287
    Steve Metzler says:

    Rattus, thanks for the heads-up on that press release from the APS. It is full of win!

    Turns out he was a grumpy old crank after all. Who knew? /sarcasm

    Unfortunately, this will not deter the deniers one single bit. They’ll still be waving Lewis’ resignation letter in our face years from now, till we’re sick of it. Everyone, keep a permanent link to that press release. We’re gonna need it. Of course, even *that* won’t keep the deniers ‘happy’. It seems that almost nothing can stop someone believing in something for ideological reasons…

    [Response: This letter will be forgotten as soon as they find some new distraction. You had not heard of Hal Lewis before last week, and you will be hard pushed to remember the case in year’s time. A new Martin Luther he is not. – gavin]

  38. 288
    Steve Metzler says:

    P.S. No doubt deniers will automatically read that as: “It is full of wind!” :-)

  39. 289

    I reiterate some here, but to get above the squabbling here is a way:

    Standing Forests Solve Global Warming At No Cost
    .
    .
    The game winning answer to global warming is to create standing forests, where every ton of newly existing forest mass, on a sustaining basis, compensates by CO2 capture for the burning of a ton of coal, approximately. Key to this solution is distribution of water in North America on a continental basis.
    .
    I have been dismayed by promotion of electric vehicles with implicit increased use of electricity and the associated increase in CO2. Viable, large scale solutions to this problem have been absent. But I have been shocked by the planning put forward by the US EPA ** regarding ‘carbon’ capture and sequestration (CCS), where the capture cost burden per ton of coal used would be up to $180-$320. This would be for capture of CO2 only, with additional costs for transportation and pumping it into caverns being not addressed, but acknowledged as additional expense.
    .
    Thus motivated, I looked for a better solution, and found that China seems to have taken the lead over our environmentalists in this very practical matter. A year ago, in a speech about how China was planning to react to the global warming problem, President Hu spoke of “forest carbon”. ***
    .
    It is not a big step to think that this kind of solution would be possible in North America, Brazil perhaps, and other places yet to be identified. It is a big step to think big about water distribution that would be needed to accomplish CCS on the needed scale, but in North America this is within reach, with the action of wise government assumed. Of course there would be a need for due diligence in protecting Northern ecosystems, as well as due deference to rights of others. The goal of CO2 mitigation is not just our concern, so there would seem to be motivation for Canada to lend their essential support to such a project.
    .
    Every ton of forest mass, that exists on a sustaining basis, sequesters CO2 sufficiently to compensate for the burning of a ton of coal, approximately. As it grows, it captures that CO2 from the atmosphere. Mature forests must be maintained and harvested wisely, and new forests must continue to grow.
    .
    Using minimally productive land in selected regions, a fifty year project should be possible, where fifty years of coal fired power plant operation would be supported. In this time we would need to solve the problems of nuclear waste, so that there could be an eventual transition to that form of energy. During this fifty years, we would also need to work toward minimizing the amount of energy needed for our vehicles.
    .
    This forest project, along with ancillary agricultural development, would be quickly self supporting. We know about the agricultural results from the latest California Aquaduct project implemented in 1963 through the California Central Valley. The forest part would be something new.
    .
    The immediate benefit of such a project would be high quantity job creation, but up front investment in the permanent forest infrastructure would be repaid over the long term of highly productive operation. A large cadre of trained workers for forest management, a large expansion of agricultural operations, and a long term flow of export products would lift us from our current employment debacle.
    .
    We see this as a public project that should appeal to all political strains, since it would create a backbone infrastructure that would set the stage for use of energy to continue functioning of our developed world without damage to the global environment.
    .
    Implementing such a concept would require much detail in its actual design, but feasibility in general is not in question. This would be a massive federal project that must be handled by government, both in regard to international water negotiations and financial arrangements.
    .
    Is there a political force that can handle such a project?
    .
    ** The announced plan by the EPA is to require ‘best available technology’ and the recent report by them (Sept 2010) said ‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2. Working this out in terms of the burden on the use of a ton of coal shows that the burden for use of a ton of Powder River Basin coal (half the element carbon by weight) will be about $180 per ton of that coal, and higher carbon coal would incur proportionately higher burden, up to around $320 per ton.
    .
    *** President Hu said, “— we will energetically increase forest carbon — we will endeavor to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from 2005 levels.” ( This was reported by Joe Romm at his ‘climateprogress’ web site. See – http://climateprogress.org/2009/09/23/are-chinese-emissions-pledges-a-game-changer-for-senate-action-president-hu-un-speech/ )

  40. 290
    Septic Matthew says:

    279, Gavin: To support the contrary position is equivalent to supporting a state in which political opponents are routinely harassed purely for the ‘crime’ of speaking out.

    Respectfully (or so I intend), I disagree. This is a point in contract law, not freedom to speak out. In other contexts it would be called “due diligence”, as when the GAO investigates military contracts, or when the feds investigated UIC (the example that I gave before.) I do not support the right of government (absent warrants upon probable cause) to investigate grants from philanthropic organizations or individuals: that right belongs to the grantors, depending on the wording of the grant contract.

    I used the phrase “due diligence”. When a company buys another the purchase or merger is usually contingent on “due diligence”, which entails an exhaustive search of facilities and (for research institutions) research results and documentation. The government, who are stewards of the people’s tax payments, should have a similar right to unfettered access to the contractor’s work.

    What other government contractors have the right, in your opinion, to spend the people’s money without oversight?

    [Response: Again you are completely missing the point. No-one is claiming that governments grants should be spent without oversight – and indeed, no academic grants are spent without oversight. If you put in claims for expenses, there are multiple levels of people who check that these expenses are within the parameters of the grant and that they reflect the grantors conditions (no wine for dinners paid for my NSF for instance, no first class travel, etc.). If the grantor feels that further auditing is necessary then they are perfectly within their rights to investigate the billing and disposition of the monies. But this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Cuccinelli. He is not alleging that anyone has taken the money that was supposed to be for a graduate student and used it to build a swimming pool with jaccuzi or the travel budget was spent on a holiday for the grantees parents to Tahiti. Each of these would be actionable (and should be), but Cuccinelli’s claims are far wider and more pernicious. He is aggregating to himself the power to intimidate and harass any researcher who he feels wrote a paper that he feels (with his in depth scientific expertise) was somehow problematic or controversial and accuse them of fraud without the slightest scrap of evidence. Today it is Mike Mann, but with this scope it could be anybody – someone who writes a paper discussing nuclear safety, or on an endangered species, or in evolutionary biology, or on stem cells. For anything that is controversial, you will be able to find some politically motivated AG to allege fraud and launch hugely burdensome investigative demands without the slightest evidence. And you don’t think that power will be abused? This is profoundly undemocratic, an abuse of due process and an affront to the open society the US purportedly stands for. – gavin]

  41. 291
    Steve Metzler says:

    No sooner were the words out of my mouth… predictably, Anthony Watts tries to ‘deconstruct’ the APS statement:

    APS responds! – Deconstructing the APS response to Dr. Hal Lewis resignation

    Depressing, but inevitable.

  42. 292
    Snapple says:

    To Deconvoluter #277,

    Thanks very much. I will probably put that on my blog.

  43. 293
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wait:

    “… every ton of forest mass … [carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen]
    sequesters CO2 … [carbon dioxide]
    to compensate for … a ton of coal” [carbon, ‘coal ash’]

    How much carbon by weight in a ton of coal?
    How much carbon by weight in a ton of forest mass?

  44. 294
    Septic Matthew says:

    286, Gavin

    That’s a good response. 30 years ago I’d have agreed almost completely.

    My response to it was blocked by your spam blocker. I have no idea why. Could you modify the spam blocker to show us the offending words and phrases?

  45. 295
    dhogaza says:

    On the Lewis front, the APS has a response

    OT, but it’s rather funny to see that the APS website is managed by commercial software named “Cold Fusion” …

  46. 296
    Ken Zaretzke says:

    275 Barton Paul Levenson): Sure, but all the same, the end of civilization is one of the consequences of the Apocalypse, so I think my hypothesis is valid.

    281 (Daniel Bailey): That’s an interesting point–that AGW is a confirmation of the disasters depicted in the Book of Revelation–but I think the “bang” of wars and persecution and so forth (not to mention a certain demonic political leader) is very different from the “whimper” of the gradual and humanly unintentional demise of advanced civilization (and possibly the entire human race).

    This is not an attack on the Bible as such. Rather, the point is that the anomalous Book of Revelation doesn’t belong in the scriptural canon, and churches would be well-advised to remove this impediment to belief before AGW hits with a vengeance.

    [Response: Further discussion of religion is OT. No more ‘revelations’ please. – gavin]

  47. 297
    Paul Tremblay says:

    @ Skeptic Mathew

    Just to repeat what Gavin has already pointed out, no one denies that the state has the right to review how its money is spent. If Mann had used his money to throw a party with prostitutes, or even had only gone so far as to use it for a different purpose he originally stated, no one would question the AG’s right to investigate.

    But the state cannot investigate for arbitrary reasons. Otherwise, the AG could demand all the emails from a professor from the opposite party, or from an academic who writes a paper that undermines his ideology. There would be no limit to how the state could harass and undermine the entire university system.

    Keep in mind Cuccinelli wants the last 10 years of Mann’s emails! Think about what this means politically. Professor Smith at the University of Any State writes a scathing book about the policies of US President X. President X. then has the AG demand the last 20 years of emails from the professor because the professor once received a federal grant. These emails contain some sarcastic comments about his friends, as well as a relationship he carried on outside of marriage. The emails are released, and the professor’s life is ruined.

    The Soviet Union acted that way. (In *The Unbearable Lightness of Being,* Kundera describes how the Soviets did this just this, released the private conversation of a dissident to destroy him.) I can hardly believe you think the US should act the same way.

    In case you think I am exaggerating, remember that the climategate emails already were grossly unfair in the way they publicized some unpleasant things Mann said *privately.* Who hasn’t said much worse in emails; for that matter, who hasn’t said much worse about people we love in private, thinking they would remain private? It’s an outrage that none of the media, including people like Monbiot, ever pointed out.

  48. 298
    Hank Roberts says:

    Peanut gallery opinion for Mike Roddy’s question above:

    Wegman’s report wasn’t published in a science journal, so articles mention it but don’t reply. You can find relevant work if you dig, for example this:
    http://www.stat.unc. edu/postscript/rs/PaleoASA.pdf
    (read it remembering it’s discussing old history, not Mann’s current work).

    Wegman, Said and Scott edit a new ‘invitation only’ journal, recently awarded “the closest thing in the scholarly publishing industry to an Oscar” according to, well, them: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wics.85/full

  49. 299
    Snapple says:

    Paul T.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    The BBC (3-6-09) reports that Mikhail Gorbachev characterizes Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party as “the worst version of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”

    Russia acts pretty much the same as the USSR. The ruling United Russia party is very adept at “kompromat.” Former KGB officer Putin is the head of the party and Prime Minister. President Medvedev is the former CEO of GAZPROM, the natural gas company that was created from the Soviet Gas Ministry.

    Here is a good article about how their political operatives ruin people. They can export all of this trouble, too.

    “The [Saratov] United Russia party machine uses a noxious slurry of dirty tricks, illegal activities, and domination of the media to discredit and destroy any politician, businessperson, or anyone else deemed an enemy of the Saratov Oblast United Russia party boss and Duma deputy speaker Vyacheslav Volodin…..

    At first when a person is identified as a personal enemy of Volodin they initiate a series of negative articles in the mass media. Next those representatives of the public who only imitate the feverish activity of building civil society are activated. These pseudo-activists create paid-for articles in the media that create the necessary public outcry. Or their activities become the excuse for new paid-for articles and television reports. When the number of publications reaches a critical mass, local deputies begin flooding the state organs of the Russian Federation with official inquiries and letters from residents of Saratov Oblast demanding decisive action be taken against the target of Volodin’s attacks, although they produce no real facts that the person has violated the law, because there are no such facts. They merely cite the numerous publications in the media. As a result, authorities higher up in the government form a false image of the real situation in Saratov Oblast. People who are undesirable to Volodin and his entourage and clan are seen in a negative light, which has negative consequences for the political climate inside the region and for the level of decision making here. In short, using such political tactics is a form of disinformation targeting the highest levels of government, which should be considered a premeditated, conspiratorial crime. “—“The Way The Game Is Played” (RFE/RL, 2-5-10)

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/02/book-review-black-pr-practitioners-of.html

    Get it?

  50. 300
    Jim Eager says:

    Ken Zaretske @296 wrote:
    I think the “bang” of wars and persecution and so forth (not to mention a certain demonic political leader) is very different from the “whimper” of the gradual and humanly unintentional demise of advanced civilization

    You’re assuming that there would be no wars over increasingly scarce resources and even dry land along that gradual demise of advanced civilization, some of them between nuclear armed states or factions.

    As Gwynne Dyer observed in his book Climate Wars, starving people don’t just sit there and starve, they raid those who still have food stores. And in such a hypothetical future I assure you, there would be no shortage of persecution.