The 2007 publication of the IPCC 4th Assessment report concluded that global warming was 'unequivocal' and that human activity was very likely responsible for most of the trends in temperature over the last 50 years. Since then people and organizations for whom these conclusions are inconvenient have turned increasingly to legalistic tactics rather than dealing with the science directly.
The number of Freedom of Information requests directed at scientist at the federal or state level in the US, or any publicly funded scientist in the UK has increased enormously. Most of these requests are not for data, nor in order to illuminate the workings of government, but rather to find personal and sometimes private communications that can be mined for embarrassing out-of-context quotes. These requests are being used as 'strategic lawsuits against public participation' (SLAPP suits) since they are often targeting scientists in the public eye in order to create a chilling effect on public activity by other climate scientists.
Few people are aware of how these laws are being used for these purposes, nor the extent of the requests being made. Additionally, many of the people targeted by these requests have little understanding or experience in how the laws are actually applied and what is and is not releasable.
This blog will aim to document the extent and content of these requests, provide resources for scientists who are targeted, and draw attention to how these requests are being responded to, and the use to which the information released is being put.
This blog is not intended to be read as a criticism of the principle of FOI laws, which in general do a very good job of holding government to account. But the current uses of these laws to target and harass individual scientists - who are not politicians - is new, and certainly worthy of note.
The information here is simply provided as is, and no claims to legal expertise are being made. For legal advice, please contact a lawyer.