Anyone interested in the political struggles around the science of climate change will be aware of the attacks made on climate scientist Michael Mann. These go back a long time and are detailed in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (see The truth about the hockey stick for my review of this book). Despite a number of enquiries clearing Mann of any wrong-doing these attacks have continued.
But the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute went too far when they accused him of illegal acts, (like manipulating data and outright fraud). Mann filed a defamation suit against them. This week the Washington DC Superior Court came down with its first ruling in the case – and it’s not good news for those attacking Mann. It refused to throw out Mann’s on the grounds that the plaintiff’s statements were protected speech under the First Amendment, mere “opinion,” “rhetorical hyperbole,” or “fair comment.”
The ruling said that CEI defendants had produced:
“numerous articles that characterize Plaintiff’s work as fraudulent, combined with the assertions of fraud and data manipulation”
and this went beyond free speech. It added
” In Plaintiff’s line of work, such an accusation is serious. To call his work a sham or to question his intellect and reasoning is tantamount to an accusation of fraud (taken in the context and knowing that Plaintiff’s work has been investigated and substantiated on numerous occasions).”
The defamation case will now go ahead with the next hearing at the end of August.
It’s heartening to see this progress being made as many commentators were cynical about Mann’s chance of success.