Climate Scientist Can Sue for Defamation, Judge Says

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A superior court said last week that it would not dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by prominent climate scientist Michael E. Mann against two conservative publications that called him the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science.”

Composite northern hemisphere temperature reconstructions & published northern hemisphere reconstructions. (Mann et al. 2008)

Mann, a climate science professor at Pennsylvania State University, is best known for his “hockey stick” graph which shows the steady rise in global temperatures in the 20th century. The graph is an iconic visualization of climate change, showing a steep rise in temperatures beginning in the 1950s represented by the “blade” of a hockey stick.

The graph had been a favorite target for attack by climate skeptics even though Mann’s work has been validated by numerous studies and independent investigators.

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The fracas began in 2012 when the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, posted this blog, indirectly comparing Mann to the former Penn State football coach and convicted child molester Sandusky. The post read, “instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science… .”

The comparison was later reprinted in the conservative National Review. Both publications were attempting to discredit Mann’s research.

Mann sued both the CEI and National Review in 2012, and the publications later filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit.

Judge Natalia Combs Greene of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia said she would not, and Mann’s case is likely to “succeed on the merits.” She called the language in the blog posts more than just rhetorical hyperbole.

“Plaintiff is a member of the scholarly academy and it is obvious that allegations of fraud could lead to the demise of his profession and tarnish his character and standing in the community,” she wrote.

IMAGES: (Top) Niklas Backstrom #32 of the Minnesota Wild makes a stick safe during the game against the St. Louis Blues on April 11, 2013 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)