The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, established last year to support climate scientists who are under attack by the global warming denial machine, has teamed up with a new sponsor, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. This is a good development – a project that should be strengthened, under the wing of an organization that can make that happen. The CSLDF’s first action has been to help Michael Mann with legal expenses in a case involving the right-wing American Tradition Institute and the University of Virginia.
CLIMATE SCIENCE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND GETS NEW BACKING
PEER Sponsors Effort to Counter Fossil-Fueled Attacks on Climate Scientists
Washington, DC — The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) has found a nonprofit home in Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which provides it fiscal sponsorship and logistical support. CSLDF lets scientific colleagues and the public directly help climate scientists protect themselves and their work from industry-funded legal attacks.
In recent years, these legal attacks have intensified, especially against climate scientists. The fund is designed to help scientists like Professor Michael Mann cope with the legal fees that stack up in fighting attempts by climate-contrarian groups to gain access to private emails and other correspondence through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests at their public universities.
The project is co-directed by physical sciences Professor Scott Mandia of Suffolk County Community College and Joshua Wolfe, co-author of “Climate Change: Picturing the Science.” The Fund started this past fall after Prof. Mandia posted a “Dear Colleague” appeal for support which generated more than $10,000 in less than 24 hours (http://bit.ly/qzg7X4). To date, CSLDF has raised $25,000. All contributions to CSLDF are tax-deductible.
“Academic salaries are not designed to support ongoing legal expenses in fights with corporate-funded law firms and institutes,” said Prof. Mandia. “These legal battles also have taken many of our brightest scientific minds away from their research.”
“Our goal is not only to defend the scientist but to protect the scientific endeavor,” explained Wolfe. “The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund was established to make sure that these legal claims are not viewed as an action against one scientist or institution but as actions against the scientific endeavor as a whole.”
In addition to its core mission of defraying legal fees, CSLDF will –
• Educate researchers about their legal rights and responsibilities on issues surrounding their work;
• Serve as a clearinghouse for information related to legal actions taken against scientists; and
• Recruit and assist lawyers representing these scientists.
“The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund dovetails with the mission of PEER – to protect those who protect our environment,” stated PEER executive Director Jeff Ruch. “When individual researchers find themselves under intense legal assault, they often have few resources. Their universities do not necessarily represent their interests and may be disinclined to resist corporate fishing expeditions. We are stepping into this void to provide direct aid to both the scientists and their institutions.”
Lauren Morello at ClimateWire (by subscription) writes (“Nonprofit group to help defend scientists facing legal actions”):
… The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund began last year as a grass-roots campaign to help defray the legal costs incurred by Mann as he fights a request from the conservative American Tradition Institute for emails he exchanged with other scientists while he was employed by the University of Virginia. …
Scott Mandia, a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, jump-started the effort to aid Mann last year when he posted a “Dear Colleague” letter on his blog. …
“Mike [Mann] is client number one,” Mandia said. “He still has outstanding legal fees.”
In addition to his legal battle against the American Tradition Institute, Mann is at the center of a fight between Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli is seeking emails and other documents from the school as he investigates whether Mann, who received state grant money during his tenure at UVA, violated the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.
Coverage by Andy Revkin at DotEarth includes an exchange with PEER executive director Jeff Ruch: “A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists”
Andrew Freedman at Climate Central: “Defense Fund Helps Scientists Targeted by Lawsuits”
On the CSLDF website:
The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund:
Protecting the Scientific Endeavor
The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund was established with one goal: to protect the scientific endeavor. Scientific research has brought us amazing advancements in technology, medicine, and in our basic understanding of the planet. Over the last twenty years, a small handful of politically-motivated think tanks and legal foundations, because they disliked certain scientific findings, have taken legal action against scientific institutions and individual scientists. In recent years, the legal attacks have intensified, especially against climate scientists.
The scientific method is designed around the belief that skepticism is good. Results should be subjected to the utmost scrutiny through the peer review process, followed by close examination and replication by others in the scientific community. Those whose ideas do not live up to the standards of rigorous science have instead chosen to litigate.
For the individual scientist these legal actions are a painful burden. Academic salaries were not designed to support ongoing legal expenses. Legal actions also have taken many of our brightest scientific minds away from their research to focus on frivolous lawsuits. This state of affairs is unacceptable. The United States of America should be the leader in science and technology, and it cannot do so if unscrupulous people subject our scientists to these actions.
The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund was established to make sure that these legal claims are not viewed as an action against one scientist or institution, but that they are seen as actions against the scientific endeavor as a whole. As such the Fund will defend climate scientists who are dragged into litigation and act aggressively to protect the interests of the scientific endeavor.
In addition, the Climate Science Defense Fund will create platforms and opportunities for members of the scientific community to gain a better understanding of the legal issues surrounding their work.
Letter calling on Univ. of Virginia to prevent inappropriate open records disclosure of climate scientists’ exempt emails and documents [Union of Concerned Scientists, American Association of University Professors, American Geophysical Union, Climate Science Watch]
In defense of academic freedom against denialist FOIA inquisition tactics
[Letter to University of Virginia President Sullivan from American Association
of University professors, Virginia ACLU, Union of Concerned Scientists, and
nine other groups, including Climate Science Watch]
Archive category: Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists
Archive category: Global Warming Denial Machine