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Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Lawsuit Against Conservative Journalist

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Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Lawsuit Against Conservative Journalist
Source: Pinterest

Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Lawsuit Against Conservative Journalist

Source: KPBS

Climate scientists and the science world have had a major legal victory. Mann, a top expert in climate science at Penn State University, has won a 12-year defamation lawsuit against conservative journalists. 

The Distinguished Professor of Meteorology coauthored two science papers that statistically reported Earth’s temperatures over many centuries. As a result, some defamatory articles were published against the professor.

Here’s how the contentious legal battle went down.

The Controversial Graph

Source: Wiki Commons

In 1998, climate scientist Michael Mann published a graph in the Nature Journal predicting how the Earth might warm up. This graph gained considerable attention and led to heated discussions among scientists. 
Fast forward to 2012, a writer from the Competitive Enterprise Institute compared Mann to a convicted pedophile in an article. After 12 long years, Mann has been awarded $1 million in compensation for the defamation.

Michael Mann Became Famous Because of His Graph Theory

Source: Centre Daily Times

For 26 years, scientist Michael Mann’s story about his famous “hockey stick” graph has been in the spotlight. He published it in the Nature Journal, showing that Earth had been warming faster than ever for the past 200 years, from the 1800s to now. Mann believed this warming trend would continue to rise.
However, many scientists disagreed with his theory and debated the accuracy of his graph. While some supported his data and predictions, others contended that he tampered with the data.

The Quote That Everyone Couldn't Stop Talking About

Source: ABC News

But it wasn’t Mann’s graph that stirred the most controversy. It was a single quote from writer Rand Simberg that turned the tables. Simberg wrote a blog post for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank. In the article, he compared Mann’s graph to the actions of Jerry Sandusky, a notorious convicted pedophile.
Simberg wrote in his article, “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.”

Jerry Sandusky, the Convicted Serial Child Molester

Source: National Post

To grasp the weight of this comment, it’s essential to understand who Jerry Sandusky was. That way, one can know why drawing a comparison to him was seen as exceptionally harsh. Jerry Sandusky was an assistant coach for the Pennsylvania State University football team from 1969 to 1999. 
However, in 2011, Sandusky faced arrest and was charged with sexually abusing 52 young boys during his coaching tenure. He was convicted on 45 counts of abuse and sentenced to 60 years behind bars.

Another Writer Defamed Mann

Source: CFACT

After the release of the defamatory article, another writer named Mark Steyn published a separate piece on climate scientists in the National Review. He claimed that Mann’s research was undeniably “fraudulent.” 
He also pointed to Mann’s leaked emails with other scientists and university staff in 2009 as evidence.

Mann Bore the Brunt of the Slanderous Articles

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After the two articles were published, Mann alleged that the conservative authors defamed him and caused him financial losses. He lost out on grant funding and other work-related income. 
Due to this, he sued the writers in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Finally, after a lengthy trial, the jury determined that Simberg and Steyn had made false claims or statements in their writings.

Victory for Mann

Source: Pinterest

As a result, Mann was deemed eligible for financial compensation. The judge and jury ruled in Mann’s favor, awarding him $1,000 from Simberg and $1 million from Steyn in punitive damages. They cited the “maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance, or deliberate intent to harm” evident in their writing.
Mann said in a statement posted to X: “I hope this verdict sends a message that falsely attacking climate scientists is not protected speech.”

The Conservative Journalists Intend to Appeal the Judgment

Source: CNN

However, it appears that this legal battle is far from over. Both writers have declared that they intend to appeal the punitive damages awarded. They argued that Michael Mann failed to present adequate evidence to show any loss of income directly attributed to their statements. 
They argued that their controversial articles may have boosted Michael Mann’s career, and they contended that the debate surrounding them pushed him into the spotlight. 

The Judge Did Not Focus His Judgement on Scientific Data

Source: Pexels

The judge for the case, Alfred Irving, clarified to the public that the trial focused solely on determining whether Mann was defamed in print, not on the accuracy of his data.
Judge Irving stressed his main role in the case. He said he wasn’t to decide whether global warming exists. Instead, he focused on determining whether the statements caused Mann financial harm.

Victory for the Science World

Source: The Brainwaves Video Anthology

One of Mann’s lawyers, Peter Fontaine, said the verdict “vindicates Mr Mann’s good name and reputation.” He added: “It is also a victory for truth and scientists everywhere who dedicate their lives answering vital scientific questions impacting human health and the planet.”
On the other hand, Steyn’s manager disappointedly commented that they “always said that Mann never suffered any actual injury from the statement. “Today, after twelve years, the jury awarded him one dollar in compensatory damages,” he added.

The Discussion Surrounding Climate Change Has Increased Over the Years

Source: TDC/YouTube

Over 25 years have passed since Michael Mann introduced his “hockey stick” graph. However, the global debate on climate change continues to increase. While most people have acknowledged the imminent warming and its associated challenges, some remain skeptical. 
They allege that scientific findings are manipulated to support predetermined conclusions. 

Mann Has Other Plans

Source: CBS News

Regardless, Kate Cell from the Union of Concerned Scientists thinks this case will make people reconsider before lying about or insulting scientists.
The defendants want to appeal the decision to pay Mann damages, but Mann has his appeal. In 2021, the court ruled that the publications weren’t liable for defamation, but Mann disagrees and plans to appeal. He mentioned, “We think it was wrongly decided. They’re next.”