by Scott K. Johnson
In the past, we’ve covered attempts by some political groups (or politicians) to access climate scientists’ e-mails. The idea is generally to trawl through them for anything that can be used to bolster the claim that climate science is somehow fraudulent—hypothetically vindicating those who have refused to acknowledge the scientific consensus for decades.
A long-time target of these activists has been researcher Michael Mann, whose work on tree ring climate records resulted in “the hockey stick,” a graph of the last millennium of climate history that shows rapid warming at the end of a gradual cooling trend. Although that record has been extended and replicated many times now, some still believe Mann must have somehow distorted the data to produce the appearance of sudden warming. As a result, Mann has been involved in court cases for years over demands for his e-mails from a conservative advocacy group and then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. More recently, Mann has been involved in a countersuit against those who publicly accused him of fraud.
Well, having failed to get access to Mann’s e-mails through the Virginia courts, the same opposition group (now called the Energy & Environment Legal Institute) decided to go after one of Mann’s colleagues since he worked in a different state. The University of Arizona rebuffed a very broad 2011 Freedom of Information Act request for the e-mails of Malcolm Hughes, part of the “hockey stick” team, and James Overpeck, a coordinating lead author of the 2007 IPCC report’s chapter on paleoclimate.