Tag Archives: climate

March was the warmest March ever.

The NOAA reports that the temperatures wasn’t just record-breaking in March, but beat the prior record by a stunning 8.6°F above the average for the 20th century. In the history of U.S. weather record keeping, only one month has ever seen a larger departure from the historical average: January 2006. Every state—all fifty—had a record warm temperature in March, with 15,272 temperature records broken. In 21 cases, the nighttime high exceeded the prior record daytime high. 

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s inglorious defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court of Virginia was surely not how he envisioned the conclusion of his UVA fishing expedition. Without any cause for suspicion, or the slightest evidence of malfeasance, Cuccinelli went after Michael Mann and the University of Virginia. In the multi-year saga, he couldn’t come up with a single piece of evidence that Mann’s climatology research was in any way fraudulent (mirroring the many “Climategate” investigations, all of which came to the same conclusion). And yet that’s not what did ultimately did him in. What killed his case was that he simply lacked the power to attempt to pry this information out of UVA—he had no legal authority to do so.

If Cuccinelli had hoped that this conclusion might allow him to retain some shred of his dignity, he hoped wrongly. Although there’s no great surprise in the Washington Post editorial board lambasting him for his stunning waste of government resources (if Cuccinelli wants to find a waste of state government money, he might start with the $600,000 that UVA had to spend to defend itself against his foolishness), he may be rather more chagrined to find that that most conservative of Virginia editorial pages—the Richmond Times-Dispatch joined in on upbraiding Cuccinelli, writing:

[Cuccinelli's] pursuit of Mann was wrong in just about every way that it is possible to be wrong. [...] That it rested on dubious science was the least of its many shortcomings. [...] [H]e is a lawyer, and he should know something about the law. [...] Cuccinelli never accused Mann of failing to do the work for which he was paid, or of spending the research money he received from the state and federal governments on, say, fast cars and fancy suits. Albemarle Circuit Judge Paul Peatross was entirely right when he said the AG never clearly stated “the nature of the conduct” Mann supposedly engaged in that constituted fraud. “What the attorney general suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the commonwealth simply is not stated,” Peatross wrote. [...] If this were a robbery case, then the AG has now effectively been told (a) he used the wrong statute to seek a search warrant, and (b) he can’t use a search warrant in the hopes of finding out whether anything has been stolen. This will not go down in history as an episode of great lawyering prowess.

Sadly, this is probably still a political win for Cuccinelli. His base will undoubtedly see this as him losing on mere technicalities—they’ll just remember that he took on Mann (and, wait and see, will come to remember him as having been victorious).

As the RTD points out, for all of Cuccinelli’s talk of original intent and strict scrutiny, his application of the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act shows that’s really nothing more than that: talk.

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled against Cuccinelli in climate case, with prejudice.

Another round in court, another loss for Ken Cuccinelli. The attorney general issued, famously, a civil investigative demand to the University of Virginia, insisting that they turn over all records pertaining to and generated by climatologist Michael Mann. UVA refused to comply with the demand. Now the Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled against Cuccinelli, in a decision that should surprise nobody who has been paying attention. (The ruling “set aside the CIDs with prejudice,” quite a stronger decision than the circuit court issued last year.) In the 26-page decision, Justice LeRoy Millette Jr. concluded that the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA) is not intended to apply to state agencies, regardless of whether or not they are incorporated, as is UVA:

[A]s not all Commonwealth agencies are corporations, reading “corporations” to include UVA would produce the inexplicable and awkward result that state agencies operating as public corporations are subject to FATA while other arms of the Commonwealth are not. We find it unlikely that the General Assembly intended such a result. In light of 16 the multiple inconsistencies raised by such an interpretation, we conclude that the General Assembly did not intend Code § 8.01-216.2 to include agencies of the Commonwealth in its definition of “person.”

[...]

[In the context of § 8.01-216.2], “corporation” should be understood as a similarly oriented private sector entity, and not as encompassing an agency of the Commonwealth.

(Note that if Bob Marshall’s HB1 had passed, then fetuses would also be subject to investigation under FATA. If that sounds funny to you, pause just for a moment to consider whether Ken Cuccinelli would slap a CID on a fetus in order to prevent a woman from having an abortion.)

It was last year that Judge Paul Peatross considered the case, and explained that there were several obvious reasons why Cuccinelli is in the wrong, including that the all but one grants Cuccinelli is questioning are federal (thus outside of the scope of an investigation into the use of state funds) and that Cuccinelli has demonstrated absolutely no basis for an investigation. Justice Millette did not even consider these concerns, “because the statute does not give the Attorney General authority to issue CIDs to UVA, all other issues are rendered moot.”

Justice Elizabeth McClanahan dissented on the matter of prejudice; she agrees with the majority’s ruling, but for different reasons. She thinks that UVA should be obliged to comply with the CID, but agrees with Peatross’s earlier ruling that there’s no there there—the Cuccinelli has failed to state any violation of the law in the CID, and thus is not enforceable. Yes, even the judge who sides with Cuccinelli does not side with Cuccinelli.

Links for October 14th

  • Science News: Columbus Blamed For Little Ice Age
    Here's a fun theory of the origin of the Little Ice Age, lasting from around 1550–1850: that massive losses of New World population, as a result of disease spread by explorers, resulted in reforestation of huge swaths of the Americas, removing billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, decreasing its capacity to hold heat. The theory itself isn't new—it was first proposed six years ago—but this new theory is based on a combination of evidence that CO2 levels dropped then and archeological evidence that charcoal accumulation plummeted during the period, evidence that the smaller populations weren't burning trees to clear land for crops. No doubt the link between exploration and climate would have struck people as impossible at the time. Kind of like how many Republicans will feel about it now.
  • LA Times: Dietary supplements linked to higher risk of death in older women
    A longitudinal study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that women who take multivitamins regularly die younger than those who do not. Of all of the supplements studied (B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and more), only calcium appeared to lower the risk of death. More and more data show that supplements simply aren't useful, save for to compensate for a shortage resulting from a health problem, and prescribed by a doctor.
  • AP: Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax
    Republicans are complaining about how 46% of Americans pay no income tax, despite that the fact that half of them make no payments because of income tax cuts that Republicans championed and, in many cases, enacted. (The other half have little to no income, which makes criticism of their lack of payments particularly heartless.) "I'm so angry that my agenda has been enacted!"