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Judge Preserves Privacy of Climate Scientist's Emails 345

ananyo writes "Climate scientist Michael Mann reported Monday that he and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have prevailed in a court case against the conservative American Tradition Institute (ATI), which had sought access to emails he wrote while serving as a professor at the school from 1999-2005. Now at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Mann says the ruling supports the University of Virginia's argument than an exemption to the state's freedom-of-information law 'applies to faculty communications in furtherance of their work.' The Prince William County Circuit Court ruling came directly from the bench in and was not immediately available online. The Virgina Supreme Court tossed out a case against Mann in March. The state's conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, had, among other things, demanded access to the climatologist's emails, arguing that Mann might have manipulated data and thus defrauded the government in applying for scientific grants."
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Judge Preserves Privacy of Climate Scientist's Emails

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  • Re:Public Record? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:14AM (#41373399)

    Government workers are not your slaves.

    A teacher at a state university is not in the same legal classification as a public servant.

    No matter what your Galtian leanings might imply otherwise.

  • Re:Public Record? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:26AM (#41373463)

    Wrong. Being an" employee of the state" never means that all your emails are a matter of public record.

    Public record laws vary; what matters is what a particular law specifically sets out as included. Several courts have held that a state open records law does not apply to personal email accounts but does apply to ex-officio ones (e.g. president@university.edu), or applies only to those emails in which state business is conducted. For example, Colorado's open records law applies to e-mail communications between more than two elected officials or public employees.

    But one important takeaway is that anyone using a state email address is wise to conduct their personal business on their own accounts.

    Unfortunately, this now appears to be true for some people's professional work as well. Many university climate research and other controversial programs now incorporate as private "Centers" that run their own email systems so as to provide researchers with an alternative to the state-funded email accounts. Corporate email accounts are generally afforded greater exemption from state open records laws even if the researcher is also an employee of the state.

  • Re:Not conservative (Score:4, Informative)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dlrowcidamon.> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:45AM (#41373647) Homepage
    Nixon probably did more for the environment than any other president in history, arguably even more than Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Re: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:23AM (#41373965)

    there's just the simple fact that climate changes happen in geologic time frames, and we literally don't have any direct measurements of that scale.

    I'm sitting less that 250 metres away from a giant freezer full of Ice and sediment core samples that would disagree with your statement.

  • Re: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:27AM (#41374015)

    Temperature data back to 1850 is pretty good, yes some adjustments are necessary, but the denial community can't decide whether they like that or not. If it is adjusted, "LOOK it's been adjusted", if not "LOOK you didn't adjust for that". Deniers like Watts and McKintyre have been unable to find anything significantly wrong with any of the temperature record. Watts inadvertently confirmed the USA temperature record with his surface statiosn project. McKintyre put in dozens of FOI requests to the University of East Anglia for its temperature data so he could analyse it. He has not yet provided any analysis even though he has had the data for a couple of years.

    Prior to 1850 the records depend on proxies because there weren't enough thermometers. But that works both ways. Deniers use the temperature data to point at things like the little ice age and medieval warm period, but then say the record is inacurate. Double standards?

    As you will remember the BEST project funded by deniers like the Koch brothers endorsed teh existing science.

    If you have any evidence suggesting the temperature record is incorrect I suggest you publish it.

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:28AM (#41374657) Homepage

    ... the laws of physics are exactly the same for human generated carbon dioxide as for carbon dioxide measured in a laboratory...

    There's the problem right there. To mangle the quote: You can't very well dust CO2 for fingerprints.

    No, but you can get a pretty good idea of how much is getting into the atmosphere from the Mauna Loa data: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/#mlo_full [noaa.gov]

    And we have a pretty good numbers for how much coal is burned worldwide:
    http://gregor.us/coal/the-world-turns-to-coal/ [gregor.us]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption [wikipedia.org]

    So, unless you're suggesting some hithertofore unsuspected place that the CO2 from burning that coal is going, I'd say it's a pretty definitive smoking gun.

  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

    by locofungus ( 179280 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:41AM (#41374833)

    Go on, I'm fascinated. How do you make a direct measurement of temperature?

    Ideal gas thermometer? But there's no such thing as an ideal gas. Anyway, the ideal gas thermometer is only based on the model pV = nRT. A model that is chosen because it's nice and linear. Not like any thermometer in the real world. Or any gas.

    Of course, it all makes sense now. There is no increasing temperature. Those dumb scientists don't know what they're talking about. Pah. zeroth law gives us that objects at equilibrium are at the same temperature and second law says energy flows from higher temperatures to lower temperatures. But energy cannot flow back in time therefore it cannot be hotter now than it was 50 years ago.


  • by locofungus ( 179280 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:58AM (#41375077)

    You can't very well dust CO2 for fingerprints.

    Is this a joke? Are you being sarcastic? Am I being "wooshed?"

    Isotopic fingerprinting?


  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @12:44PM (#41375729)

    You can't very well dust CO2 for fingerprints.

    The change in the carbon 12/carbon 13 ratio in the atmosphere is a direct fingerprint of human derived CO2 from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are depleted in C13 because the plants that they came from preferred the lighter C12 isotope. The increase in the C12/C13 ratio is direct evidence that the source is fossil fuels.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray