Climate scientist wins $1M in defamation suit against right-wing writers

A jury has sided with a climate scientist who sued two right-wing writers for defamation after they likened his global warming work to the work of a child abuser.

A jury has awarded $1m to Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist, in a libel case against two right-wing writers who likened his global warming graphs to the crimes of a child abuser.

The lawsuit dates back to 2012, when Rand Simberg, a blogger for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian thinktank, wrote that Mann was the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science”, referring to the former Penn State University football coach who was convicted of child sexual abuse.

Simberg accused Mann of “molesting and torturing data” to produce his famous “hockey stick” graph, which showed a sharp rise in global temperatures in the 20th century. Mark Steyn, another writer, echoed Simberg’s claims in an article for National Review, calling Mann’s work “fraudulent”.

Mann, who was then at Penn State University and is now at the University of Pennsylvania, filed a defamation suit against both writers and their publishers. He had previously faced allegations of data manipulation from climate change skeptics, who leaked his emails and other scientists’ in 2009 in an episode known as “Climategate”. However, several investigations, including one by the Associated Press, cleared Mann of any wrongdoing.

In 2021, a judge ruled that the publishers could not be held responsible for the writers’ statements, but the case against the individuals proceeded. Simberg and Steyn defended themselves by saying they were expressing their opinions.

After a four-week trial in the District of Columbia superior court, the jury decided in favor of Mann and ordered Simberg to pay $1,000 and Steyn to pay $1,000,000 in punitive damages.

Mann said in a statement posted on his X account by one of his lawyers: “Today’s verdict vindicates Mike Mann’s good name and reputation. It also is a big victory for truth and scientists everywhere who dedicate their lives answering vital scientific questions impacting human health and the planet.” He added: “I hope this verdict sends a message that falsely attacking climate scientists is not protected speech.”

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