January 17, 2012
Michael Mann, the scientist whose work is at the center of an ongoing legal battle between his former employer, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, returned to grounds Tuesday.
The controversial climate change researching received a standing ovation from the large crowd at Clark Hall to hear his keynote address at UVa’s Enviro-day Science Symposium. Mann explained his ”hockey stick graph” that depicts the recent surge in global temperatures.
In addition to his expertise on global warming, Mann discussed politics, arguing lawsuits like the one filed by Cuccinelli are being used to chill scientific discourse.
“It’s the scientization (def. treat with a scientific approach) of politics. It’s the use of science now in a way that was never done before in order to wage politics. I think it’s a very dangerous development,” he claimed.
Dubbed “climategate”, the attorney general’s demand for records related to Mann’s work while at UVa. continued last week when the Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments on the case. Cuccinelli, a global-warming skeptic himself, alleges Mann defrauded taxpayers by manipulating data to receive research grants.
“Based, I guess, on [his belief] that climate change itself is a fraud, any scientists getting grants to do climate change research by that reasoning must be engaged in fraudulent activity. It’s a very disturbing notion,” Mann, now a professor at Penn State University, told the crowd.
Cuccinelli previously issued a civil investigative demand for the scientist’s emails and documents, but a judge ruled he failed to adequately say what Mann might have done wrong.
"What the attorney general suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth is simply not stated," retired Albemarle County Circuit Judge Paul Peatross said in the August 2010 ruling.
After Peatross voided Cuccinelli's original CID, the attorney general filed a more specific one that pertains only to a single $214,000 state grant. Nonetheless, Mann says he is cautiously optimistic about the case and says it gives him an opportunity to discuss the scientific, economic and ethical underpinnings of climate change research.
“The best way I can get back at my detractors is by being the best spokesperson that I can possibly be,” he said.
Meanwhile, UVa. has stood behind Mann throughout the dispute. Attorneys for the university have argued that Cuccinelli cannot simply demand a university researcher's records without spelling out the alleged wrongdoing. And university officials say the attorney general’s actions could have a chilling effect on academic freedom and scientific research.