Scientists everywhere scored a major victory on Thursday when a jury in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ruled in favor of climate scientist Michael Mann in a defamation case that spanned over a decade, the Associated Press reported.
Mann brought a lawsuit against two writers 12 years ago after they alleged his work was “fraudulent” and compared him to convicted child molester and former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Writer Rand Simberg, who was a fellow at the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, published a blog post in 2012 that compared the investigations into Mann — who worked at Penn State at the time — and his work to the case of the disgraced coach.
“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data,” Simberg wrote at the time, the Associated Press reported.
Writer Mark Steyn referenced Simberg’s piece in an article he wrote in National Review, calling Mann’s climate research “fraudulent.”
The jury found that Simberg and Steyn made false statements with “maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance, or deliberate intent to harm.” Mann was awarded a dollar from each writer for compensatory damages, along with $1,000 from Simberg and $1 million from Steyn for punitive damages.
Mann claimed that the comments from the two writers hurt his career and reputation in the U.S., costing him grant funding.
“It feels great,” Mann said after the jury delivered its verdict, per the AP. “It’s a good day for us; it’s a good day for science.”
Mann entered the public eye in 1998 after he published the now famous “hockey stick” graph in the journal Nature. The graph shows a relatively straight line representing hundreds of years of steady temperatures before a drastic rise in global temperatures starting around the turn of the 20th century.
As with anyone who spoke up about climate change around the turn of the 21st century, Mann’s work was widely scrutinized. After leaked emails in 2009 brought further scrutiny of his “hockey stick” graph, Mann’s research was investigated, and skeptics claimed he was manipulating data. Even though those investigations found no misuse of data by Mann, his work was still criticized.
A significant portion of Americans still do not believe that climate change is happening or that the actions of humans are causing it. It’s a highly politicized topic in a world full of misinformation where basic facts are being debated by politicians and people in the media.
One Yale Program on Climate Change Communication study found that the number of Americans who are “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change has increased by 16% from 2013 to 2023. However, it also shows that most of the 12% who were “dismissive” of the subject in 2013 have remained steadfast in their misguided belief (dropping to only about 11%).
“I hope this verdict sends a message that falsely attacking climate scientists is not protected speech,” Mann said in a statement he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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