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  • Voltaire Staff

US climate scientist awarded $1 million in defamation lawsuit against writers

A US-based climate scientist was awarded $1 million in compensation and punitive damages in a long-standing lawsuit against two conservative writers.

In a decision on Thursday, a six-person jury vindicated climate scientist Michael Mann's allegation that he was wronged by two writers who berated him in their articles over his research data.

The lawsuit, initiated 12 years ago, stemmed from their likening of Mann's portrayals of global warming to those of a convicted child molester.

Mann, a climate science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, gained prominence for a graph, initially featured in the 1998 edition of the journal, Nature. The graph, famously referred to as the "hockey stick" due to its striking depiction of global warming, took Mann into the spotlight.

However, along with widespread recognition came a wave of scepticism.

Among them were the two writers embroiled in the lawsuit, whose remarks Mann alleged had detrimental effects on his professional standing and global reputation.

"It feels great," Mann said Thursday after jury delivered its verdict. "It’s a good day for us, it’s a good day for science," he was reported as saying by the Associated Press. 

In 2012, a libertarian think tank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, shared a blog post by Rand Simberg, who was working as a fellow there. The post drew parallels between investigations into Mann's work and the case of Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State University convicted of sexually assaulting multiple children. At that time, Mann was also employed at Penn State.

Mann's research came under scrutiny after his and other scientists' emails were leaked in 2009, sparking further examination of his "hockey stick" graph. Some sceptics alleged that Mann had manipulated data. However, investigations conducted by Penn State and other entities found no evidence of data misuse by Mann. Despite these findings, Mann continued to face criticism, especially from conservative circles.

"Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data," Simberg wrote.

Another writer, Mark Steyn, later referenced Simberg’s article in his own piece in National Review, calling Mann’s research "fraudulent."

The jury in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia concluded that Simberg and Steyn had made untrue statements. They ordered Mann to receive $1 in compensatory damages from each writer. Additionally, they awarded punitive damages of $1,000 from Simberg and a staggering $1 million from Steyn.

The jury determined that Simberg and Steyn's remarks were made with "maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance, or deliberate intent to harm."

Mann claimed that he lost funding for his projects because of the blog posts. However, the defendants argued that Mann didn't provide enough proof to support this claim. During the trial, they pointed out that Mann actually gained widespread recognition as one of the world's leading climate scientists in the years following their remarks.

Steyn said through his manager on Thursday, "We've consistently maintained that Mann didn't suffer any real harm from the statement in question. After twelve years, the jury has awarded him just one dollar in compensatory damages."

Mark DeLaquil, attorney for Simberg, expressed disappointment with the verdict and stated that his client intends to appeal the jury's decision.

For years, numerous scientists have closely monitored Mann's case, particularly as misinformation regarding climate change proliferates on certain social media platforms.

Mann announced on Thursday his intention to appeal a 2021 ruling from DC Superior Court. The decision absolved National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute of defamation liability in the same incident.

"We believe the ruling was incorrect," Mann stated. "Their turn is coming."






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