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Coal group tries to block climate scientist’s lecture at Penn State

By Anne Danahy, McClatchy Newspapers –

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann’s upcoming talk at the university has been the target of a coal and gas interest group that would like the university to “disinvite” him.

On Facebook and a website, Common Sense Movement and the Secure Energy for America Political Action Committee urge supporters to send letters to local newspapers criticizing Mann.

Mann, professor of meteorology, will be the speaker at Thursday’s Penn State Forum, a series held over the lunch hour. Mann was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Prize in 2007.

He has also been at the center of an international stir created when more than 1,000 emails that Mann and other scientists exchanged were hacked and released. Critics of their work said the emails called their climate change science into question and are evidence of data manipulation. A Penn State panel investigated Mann’s work and cleared him of research misconduct.

Common Sense Movement’s website includes a suggested letter asking why Penn State continues “to openly support someone who clearly has a political axe to grind with an industry that is so important to the commonwealth?”

“Mann will once again lodge an attack on an industry that employs tens of thousands in Pennsylvania. On Feb. 9, he will present to the Penn State Forum Speaker’s Series regarding his views on global warming, but we all know that the speech will largely be an attack on the coal industry,” the suggested letter reads.

When asked about the effort, Common Sense Movement, which represents the coal and natural gas industries, issued a statement saying, in part that, “Regardless of the outcome of any university-led investigation into the legitimacy of Mann’s academic work, Penn State should carefully consider providing a pedestal to someone who so plainly cannot distinguish between his scientific and extreme political views.”

The emailed statement did not include the name of the group’s leader or spokesperson.

Penn State spokesman Geoff Rushton said that the university is aware of the campaign to disinvite Mann, but has no plans to cancel the engagement.

“Penn State has a deep commitment to the First Amendment and the principles of free speech and expression,” Rushton said. “Our role as a university is to serve as a marketplace of ideas and by allowing this talk we are protecting the civil liberties of our students, faculty and staff.”

He noted that the National Science Foundation reviewed and upheld Mann’s work in 2011, and the National Academy of Sciences made an inquiry in 2006 that confirmed his work. The university’s own investigation found no professional standards were violated.

Mann said he would encourage his detractors to go to his lecture, “The Climate Change Challenge.”

“Coincidentally, my talk will cover how industry attacks on scientists pollute policy debates, whether it’s smoking, childhood lead exposure or my own experiences in the climate change debate,” he said in an email.

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