After years of facing online attacks, a US climate scientist’s defamation case has finally gone to trial.
A legal case, initiated more than a decade ago, filed by a respected climate expert against a conservative blogger and an analyst for purportedly damaging their reputation, will be heard in court this week.
In 2012, a legal proceeding was initiated by Michael Mann, an earth and environmental scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He claims that the criticism and attacks on his research online constitute defamation.
Legal action was taken against two individuals, Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn, for their published works. Simberg’s article, written for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, compared Mann to a known child abuser. Steyn, a blogger for the National Review, quoted Simberg and accused Mann of conducting fraudulent research. Although Mann initially pursued legal action against both institutions, the court ruled in 2021 that they could not be held accountable for the attacks.
There is growing concern that climate scientists are facing more online abuse and that false information about the climate crisis is spreading. This case highlights these issues.
Experts have stated that the criticism towards Mann was part of a larger effort by a group of climate skeptics associated with Charles Koch, a billionaire in the fossil fuel industry.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that opposes the idea of “climate alarmism”, has financial connections to the Charles Koch Foundation. The National Review frequently features articles that reject the validity of climate change science and has also received funding from the Koch brothers.
Following the release of the widely recognized “hockey stick” graph in 1998, which displayed a significant increase in global warming during the previous century, multiple organizations within the Koch network inundated Mann with freedom of information requests. Additionally, a Republican congressman, supported by a Pac funded by Koch, issued him a subpoena.
The case will start with opening statements on Wednesday afternoon and will be broadcasted live. The trial is set to continue until at least February 6th, with the final outcome to be determined by a jury’s decision.