Science by Error and Trial
I sent the following letter to my elected representatives and to many media outlets. I hope that you will also consider writing to voice your concern.
The Attorney General of the state of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli II, is attempting to force the University of Virginia to turn over email communications and other documents related to the climate science research of Dr. Michael Mann who worked at the University between 1999 and 2005. This is Cuccinelli’s second attempt to question the integrity of Dr. Mann’s work. A Virginia judge has already ruled against Cuccinelli’s first attempt.
In 1998 and 1999, Dr. Mann, along with Drs. Bradley and Hughes, published two important research articles related to historical temperature reconstructions known as MBH98/99. MBH98/99 were essentially the first of their kind and showed that the last few decades have been warmer than any in the past 1,000 years.
At the request of Congress in 2006, a panel of scientific experts was convened by the National Research Council to assess the validity of MBH98/99. The panel chaired by Dr. Gerald North found that although there were some statistical problems with the reconstructions, these issues were minor and did not change the results. Modern global temperatures were significantly warmer than in the past 1000 years.
The most recent article on this subject by Dr. Mann and six other scientists is dated 2008 and shows essentially the same results. More recently, Kaufmann et al. (2009) and Thibodeau et al. (2010) confirm Mann’s results. The IPCC (2007) concluded:
Paleoclimate information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years. Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.
Since 2007, just about every international body of science supports the IPCC conclusions.
Cuccinelli’s latest move would mean that if a scientist makes a mistake while using public funding, that scientist has committed fraud. Science advances by trial and error. When mistakes are made, the peer-review publication process usually roots them out. Cuccinelli’s version of the scientific process would be “make an error and go to trial.” Einstein did not arrive at E=mc2 in his first attempt. If he were working in the state of Virginia under Cuccinelli today, he could be jailed for his initial mistakes and perhaps never achieve that landmark equation.
Dr. Mann and other scientists who are trying to understand climate change will not be available to help prevent the crisis that is global warming if they are defending themselves against politically motivated witch hunts, or worse, sitting in a jail where their talents are being wasted.
Timeline of the Virginia Attorney General’s Misguided Investigation – Union of Concerned Scientists
Court Filing from Ken Cuccinelli Continues to Make Basic Scientific Errors – Union of Concerned Scientists
Cuccinelli Goes Fishing Again – Realclimate
Ken Cuccinelli seems determined to embarrass Virginia – Washington Post (10/6/2010)
Just in time for Halloween, Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli Raises his Failed Fraud Investigation from the Dead – Huffington Post article by Rep. Ed Markey (10/7/10)
Get the anti-science bent out of politics – Dr. Mann’s beautiful op-ed in The Washington Post (10/08/10)
|Newspaper||Circulation||Contact Name||Contact Email|
|Washington Post||578,482||Rosalind Helderman||E-mail Form|
|Richmond Times-Dispatch||133,161||Jim Nolan||jnolan@TimesDispatch.com|
|Roanoke Times||88,927||Laurence Hammackemail@example.com|