If this goes the distance, it will certainly be worth following very closely.
Mark Steyn, writing at the National Review (backup WebCite link here), made a number of comments about Michael Mann regarding the Hockey Stick, and Mann has responded with a three-page lawyers’ letter threatening defamation proceedings (see here: page 1, page 2, page 3 – originally published on Mann’s Facebook page, reproduced here for ease of reference).
The interesting point here is that much of the letter focusses on the various investigations into Climategate as evidence that there was no wrongdoing, which inevitably means that if this matter were ever to reach court, not only would the investigations come under close scrutiny, but also the Climategate emails themselves. This would therefore be the first opportunity for an examination of the materials in a proper judicial environment.
Andrew Montford’s report (at the UK GWPF - PDF) into four of those investigations found that to a greater or lesser degree, they were “rushed, cursory and largely unpersuasive”.
In respect of the University of East Anglia investigations, Mann’s letter states that the Oxburgh enquiry (the Scientific Assessment Panel) found:
“No evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit”
and in respect of the second UEA investigation (the Independent Climate Change Email Review), that
“the scientists’ rigour and honesty are not in doubt.”
Montford, on the other hand, claims in respect of the UEA reports that they:
“avoided key questions and failed to probe some of the most serious allegations. Terms of reference were either vague or non-existent. Insufficient consideration in the choice of panel members led to a failure to ensure balance and independence.”
In respect of the UK Parliamentary Inquiry, Mann claims:
“criticisms of the Climatic Research Unit were misplaced and that its actions ‘were in line with common practice in the climate science community’.”
Montford, on the other hand, states:
“The half-day hearing by the Science and Technology Select Committee was curtailed by the impending election. Key allegations were not examined and CRU staff were cleared of some allegations without evidence. The main CRU critics were not invited to give oral evidence and much of their written evidence was not taken into consideration.”
In respect of the Penn State inquiry, Mann states that it found:
“there is no substance to the allegations against Dr Michael E Mann.”
Montford, on the other hand, quotes from an article in The Atlantic (worth reading in full) which looked in detail at the investigation:
“The [Penn State] report…says, in effect, that Mann is a distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man admired by his peers – so any allegation of academic impropriety must be false…
Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one them) are true, and says no. His record is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed with apologies that Mann has been put to such trouble.”
The other three inquiries cited (by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce and National Science Foundation) all reached similar conclusions. How rigorously were those inquiries carried out? At this stage, we don’t know.
But it’s hardly confidence inspiring. Perhaps the only way we will ever see allegations properly tested will be in front of a court of law, which may, thanks to Mann’s threat, actually happen.
I wonder if this has been fully thought through? Commentators are raising the point that a requirement to produce documents arising from legal proceedings would be far harder to avoid than simple FOI requests, and the disclosure obligations would mean that many more documents may become public as a result. It may also confirm some of the suspicions raised in Montford’s report, namely that the inquiries were superficial at best.
It looks like opening a can of worms…