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Commentators who accused renowned climate scientist Michael Mann of manipulating data compared him to Jerry Sandusky, a convicted pedophile #x27;sexual assaults on minors.

Right-wing commentators will have to pay $1 million to a climate scientist

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Michael Mann, professor of climate sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, won his defamation suit, after filing suit 12 years ago years.

  • Valérie Boisclair (View profile)Valérie Boisclair

Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, allows you to generate spoken text from written text.

Twelve years after filing a defamation suit against right-wing bloggers, including Canadian Mark Steyn, renowned American climate scientist Michael Mann has won his case. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia ordered the authors to pay him $1 million.

I hope that this verdict sends the message that baselessly attacking climate scientists is not protected freedom of expression [by the American Constitution], responded Michael Mann in a press release on Thursday evening. .

Mr. Mann, professor of climate sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, became known in 1998, after publishing in the journal Naturea graph of the evolution of the average temperature on the planet over 1000 years. Like a hockey stick, the curve shows little variation for nearly 900 years before accelerating dramatically in the 20th century.

The graph, used by researchers and experts from the UN and the IPCC to illustrate global warming, was quickly criticized in the climate skeptic circles.

Like several scientists, Michael Mann found himself targeted in an email hacking case in 2009. The incident, dubbed “Climategate,” was an opportunity to communities refuting the existence of global warming to criticize the work of climate experts. In this whirlwind, Michael Mann was accused of having manipulated his research data.

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Investigations led by Pennsylvania State University, among others, subsequently cleared Mr. Mann of these accusations. But the criticism of his work did not stop there.

In a 2012 blog post on the website of the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, Rand Simberg, a political analyst, compared the controversy surrounding Mr. Mann to the Jerry Sandusky affair. The same year, the former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual assault against minors.

You could say that Mann is the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he molested and tortured data, wrote Rand Simberg.

In a text published in National Review magazine, Canadian commentator Mike Steyn – invited several times on the set of star host of the American right Tucker Carlson – has then repeated Mr. Simberg's remarks, describing Professor Mann's research as fraudulent.

The climate scientist sued the two men and their publishers, but a judge ruled in 2021 that only the authors could be targeted by the complaints.

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Mark Steyn on the set of CBC's “Power & Politics” in 2014.

During the trial, Michael Mann claimed that his image had been tarnished by the statements of the two commentators. The professor alleged that he lost grants and opportunities to collaborate on studies as a result of these publications.

But the two authors brushed aside these assertions, emphasizing that the professor had, on the contrary, become a climate authority from start to finish of the globe despite these comments. Their lawyers argued that the remarks should be protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees Americans' freedom of speech.

In its judgment, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia concluded that Rand Simberg and Mike Steyn were guilty of defamation because of their statements written with malice, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm.

The jury ordered Mr. Simberg to pay $1,000 to the climatologist, while Mr. Steyn must pay him $1 million in punitive damages. Both will also have to pay him $1 in compensatory damages.

Mr. Simberg's lawyer has indicated that his client will appeal of the decision. Mr. Steyn, who defended himself without a lawyer during the trial, will do the same, according to his manager, Melissa Howes.

For Pete Fontaine, one of Mr. Mann's lawyers, this is a great victory for the truth and for scientists around the world who dedicate their lives to answering the crucial scientific questions that have impact on human health and the planet.

This is the first time ever that climate deniers have been held financially responsible for their misleading statements, said Michael Gerrard, founder of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, an environmental law research center based in New York.

This victory for the professor comes at a time when the reputation of scientists and their work are the target of virulent attacks, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent report, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which documents and analyzes the circulation of hateful posts and misinformation on social media, identified a new trend dubbed the new climate denialism.

Instead of persisting in denying the existence of anthropogenic climate change, climate skeptics instead target scientists and attempt to discredit their work.

Attacking climate scientists like Michael Mann won't make the climate crisis go away.

A quote from Center for Countering Digital Hate Statement

The question of climate change and its origins continues to divide Americans. According to a 2023 survey by Yale University, 58% of the population believes that warming is mainly caused by human activities.

With information from Associated Press

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