Those prone to rejecting the conclusions of climate science sometimes fixate on weird things. For years, there has been a concerted effort to prove that a specific paleoclimate record—often referred to as “the hockey stick” because of the sharp rise at the end—was somehow fraudulent. It doesn't seem to matter that many other researchers have replicated and advanced those findings. These people seem to feel that all of climate science would come crashing down if you could just dig up a golden e-mail that reveals a dastardly scheme.
The original record was partly the work of Michael E. Mann, now at Penn State, and he has been hounded ever since. There have been a number of attempts to get universities to turn over his e-mails over the years. But last year, an effort targeting one of Mann’s colleagues in Arizona seemed to have finally found success.
A group called the Energy and Environment (E&E) Legal Institute had turned from Mann and instead focused on Malcom Hughes and James Overpeck at the University of Arizona. E&E Legal filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request in 2011, trying to obtain 10 years’ worth of their e-mails with fellow researchers. When the university rejected the request based on legal protections for the data and communications of researchers, E&E Legal sued in 2013. Two years later, the court decided in favor of the University of Arizona.