My dad was an attorney – general practice, and good at it.  His principal client was the town of Londonderry, NH, where I grew up.  He believed in the law as a tool to help people – he was the kind of lawyer who would sit with a client, listen to their case, and then honestly explain to them what they were likely to win, and what that win would likely cost in fees – even when the fees exceeded the likely award.  Why would my father do this?  Because the thought the courts were overused, and were not a place to settle petty fights when they might take away from the many more consequential issues passing through the court system.

Dad would have been utterly appalled by the behavior of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in his borderline censurable efforts to intimidate climate scientists (really a much wider attack on science in general – see RealClimate).  While I have time and again argued for reasoned debate about the extent to which humans influence the climate, and the means by which they do so (yes, I personally think the data is clear that we do influence the climate in significant ways), Cuccinelli is not trying to get to any sort of truth that might further this debate.  As there have been a lot of good, informative (if somewhat self-referencing) posts on Cuccinelli’s requests at sites like Climate Science Watch and Climate Progress, I won’t wade into the details of the inquiry or how it undermines academic freedom and the scientific process.  Instead, I want to highlight one point, made by RealClimate, which captures why this whole inquiry is absurd, and why the Virginia Bar needs to intercede with someone who is abusing their office:

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….

That’s right, Cuccinelli is arguing that he has standing to run an inquiry into the results of two papers, which he argues are fraudulent, because the State of Virginia gave Michael Mann (the scientist in question) money to do ANOTHER STUDY whose outcomes are not questioned in the complaint.

I’m proud of my alma mater (U.Va.) for standing up to this absurdity.

I never found out what my father thought of climate change – he passed away in December 2002.  But I do know he would have been disgusted by this case, and by the man wasting taxpayer dollars and time on a political fishing expedition.

Update: 10/11/2010

I had an email-exchange with Rick at Climate Science Watch, and he rightly pointed out that my offhand characterization of their reporting as “self-referencing” might be a bit unfair. CSW is an advocacy site that builds a case for its positions over time, across its reporting . . . so of course it will reference its own posts. And they are, it seems, a significant resource for people in the climate change community concerned with the politics of science these days. So, to be clear, my concern was more with the appearance of self-reference within a small number of blogs – something that is unavoidable, given the small number of good blogs that address this subject – not with the actual practice.