Lawsuit Pries Loose Warmist Emails

Playing with fire
Playing with fire

by James A. Bacon

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has prevailed in a lawsuit to obtain emails detailing how GMU climatologists organized a call for a federal investigation into corporations that “knowingly deceived” the public about climate change. The campaign was organized by Jagadish Shukla, director of the Institute for Global Environment and Society (IGES), who subsequently drew notoriety for paying himself lavishly with federal research grant monies on top of his university salary.

Quoting from the account in the Watts Up With That? blog:

The [Richmond Circuit Court] judge ruled for CEI on all counts in an April 22 ruling in Christopher Horner and CEI v. George Mason University that the court released [Friday]. The ruling concluded that by leaving it to faculty who simply told the school’s FOIA officer they had no responsive records, GMU failed to conduct an adequate search; the judge also ruled that documents including emails from GMU Professor Ed Maibach must be released to CEI.

“This victory puts on notice those academics who have increasingly inserted themselves into politics, that they cannot use taxpayer-funded positions to go after those who disagree with them and expect to hide it,” said Chris Horner, CEI fellow and co-plaintiff. “These records … will be of great assistance to the public in trying to understand how their tax dollars are being used for political fights.”

Here are the emails:

Pages 1- 59
Pages 60-102
Pages 103-133
Pages 134-178
Pages 179-190

I haven’t had a chance to read through them, but judging from the highlights I’ve read in the Global Warming (GW) skeptic blogs, there are no smoking guns here. Some hint that the email haul could be as big as the so-called East Anglia “Climate Gate” scandal, but I don’t see it. The scandal in this case was right out in the open — scientists calling for a federal investigation into Exxon Mobil and other entities for allegedly lying to the public. The emails flesh out the details but don’t illuminate any fresh efforts at quashing threats to GW orthodoxy.

However, the emails do illuminate the thinking behind the controversial letter calling for the investigation. Marc Morano, author of the Climate Depot blog, sums up the tone of the correspondence:

It quickly emerges that some of the involved scientists (unwittingly) meandered out of their academic realm, with which they are comfortable and familiar, and into a political one that is very unfamiliar to them. Their scheme was ultimately aimed at intimidating and silencing scientific dissent. … Early on they were even advised that their case was very weak, and probably best left aside. … Yet [Ed Maibach] seemed unable to resist the opportunity of getting ‘lots of media attention.’ … Clearly the political arena was a new one for scientist Shukla.

The Climate Gate emails revealed how a handful of activist scientists conspired to keep dissenting views out of peer-reviewed journals, thus corrupting the scientific process. By contrast, the GMU emails show how a group of politically naive scientists wanted to suppress dissent from Global Warming orthodoxy in the political sphere — an odious sentiment, to be sure, but not one that undermines the scientific process.

The real scandal, brought to light by Climate Warming skeptics who were punching back against Shukla, has gone relatively unremarked upon: the potential for professors to enrich themselves with federally funded research grants and the inability of conflict-of-interest forms and in-house academic review to either spot or do anything about such double dipping. We still don’t know whether Shukla’s practices, which included putting his wife on the payroll and funding a private charity in India, is widespread among research scientists — not just climate change scientists, but researchers of all stripes. The sad thing is that no one in the media or punditocracy seems remotely interested in knowing the answer. Having put Shukla in his place, even the skeptics don’t seem interested.

Update: The emails may be more significant than I thought. Katie Brown with the Energy in Depth blog argues that the emails "pull back the curtain further on the level of collusion between anti-fossil fuel activists, their funders, and the attorneys general that have launched climate investigations into people, companies, and think tanks with which they disagree on the issue."

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


11 responses to “Lawsuit Pries Loose Warmist Emails”

  1. The Va. State Medical Board does the same thing in the medical profession. Where we have Va. Dept. of Health Profession employees who ALWAYS say they have no documents, you know they are lying. There are things around and they are using their personal emails for related stuff.

    There should be wide open, job on the line, criminal penalties, for FOIA screwups and data should be given over to the people.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m all in favor of going after the General Assembly guys for private emails.. I bet we find out a lot more than those silly leftists at GMU!


    1. I am more in favor of going after the Gen. Assem. and state depts in terms of emails that were sent from public emails but clearly work related.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    What is the scandal here?
    Was there ever a scandal with the East Anglia emails?

  4. VaConsumer Avatar

    I think this is an extremely unusual situation. I’ve never even known anyone to hire a spouse with external money much less to fund something like a private charity. Universities have rules about pay from external funding and typically limit it to either replacing part/all of university funding and/or adding summer pay for those who are not on 12 month contracts. It’s hard to do more than that – at least in the places I’ve experienced/ know about. Suspect that there will be even more scrutiny now that this has become public.

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    18 U.S. Code § 1343 – Fraud by wire, radio, or television

    Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

    The Internet is, by the FCC’s definition, interstate in nature. Does a scheme to obtain federal funding trigger the statute? Of course, we will need to wait until Obama and his gang of legal despots leave and, hopefully, will be replaced by real lawyers.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    People who claim that Exxon knowingly lied about the impacts of burning fossil fuels – are “suppressing scientific dissent”?

    Haven’t we been down this road before with the Cigarette companies who were found guilty of a conspiracy to discredit science linking cigarettes to disease?

    “On September 22, 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a racketeering lawsuit against Philip Morris and other major cigarette manufacturers.[172] Almost 7 years later, on August 17, 2006 U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found that the Government had proven its case and that the tobacco company defendants had violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).[3] In particular, Judge Kessler found that PM and other tobacco companies had:
    conspired to minimize, distort and confuse the public about the health hazards of smoking; publicly denied, while internally acknowledging, that second-hand tobacco smoke is harmful to nonsmokers, and destroyed documents relevant to litigation.

    The ruling found that tobacco companies undertook joint efforts to undermine and discredit the scientific consensus that second-hand smoke causes disease, notably by controlling research findings via paid consultants.

    The ruling also concluded that tobacco companies were fraudulently continuing to deny the health effects of ETS exposure.[3]

    On May 22, 2009, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld the lower court’s 2006 ruling”

    deja vu all over again…

  7. JOHN BR Avatar

    Cigarettes vs climate change. No way are these in any way related except in the clever minds of proponents of junk science.
    The cigarette companies knew of the addictive chemicals and hid this fact for many decades – while they benefitted from the addiction.
    The oil companies had no evidence (just as Al Gore has no evidence) that CO2 has caused or is causing climate change.

    The emails show that politically-connected scientists have been conspiring with select attorney generals for years and are using the power of the state to force their beliefs and to censor dissent. The emails further show that the environmentalists own attorneys advised they had losing cases and many scientific groups refused to pursue any action. So they got some government hatchet men to use our tax dollars and the power and resources of government to do their work for them.

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Is “Warmist” a new word?

    Is it a Bacon invention or is he sucking up to Dominion to renew their sponsorship?

    1. Embedded in your snide question is the assumption that Dominion has a stake in the outcome of the global warming debate. If Dominion has a corporate position on global warming, I haven’t heard it. If you have information otherwise, please let me know. It would be enlightening.

      What Dominion Virginia Power wants above all else is to preserve its profitability in a way that is consistent with its mission of protecting the reliability of the electric grid. Why should Dominion care whether its generating plants run on coal, gas, nuclear, wind or the sun? It doesn’t — as long as it can build and operate the facilities itself and do so profitably and reliably and at a cost that regulators will approve.

      Dominion Resources, the parent company, is happily investing billions of dollars in solar. Indeed, insofar as the Warmist-driven regulatory regime opens up new opportunities and insofar as Dominion can adapt more nimbly than other energy companies, I would conjecture that the company is perfectly happy to see the Warmist orthodoxy prevail. But I don’t know that for a fact because I haven’t asked Dominion about it. I don’t make as many assumptions as you do.

  9. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Wow! What an interesting point of view. Dominion only cares about profits and reliability. The environment and customer care don’t matter.


Leave a Reply