Judge Drops Hammer on Deniers: Climate Scientist’s Case against Slander Goes Forward

August 31, 2013


Readers may be aware that there is a case making its way through the court system, brought by climate scientist Michael Mann, who has sued the National Review Online, and the tobacco/oil funded snakepit Competitive Enterprise Institute for slander.

Quick recap from the Guardian:

Michael Mann, a scientist at the centre of the “climate wars”, has sued a rightwing thinktank and a magazine for comparing him to the convicted sex offender and disgraced football coach Jerry Sandusky and accusing him of academic fraud.

Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, announced the defamation lawsuit against the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the National Review in a posting on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

The 37-page complaint arises from blog posts published last July, and accuses National Review and CEI of recycling “false and defamatory statements” about Mann’s research.

Mann, the author of the iconic hockey stick graph showing a sharp uptick in global temperatures after 1900, has come under repeated attack from climate contrarians.

He has been cleared of academic wrongdoing by seven separate investigations, but the attacks have persisted – culminating in last July’s blogs which likened Mann to Sandusky.

A post on the CEI blog referred to Mann as “the other scandal” at Penn State and accused the scientist of “molesting data” about climate change. The sentences likening Mann to Sandusky were later removed.

National Review later picked up the post, although the writer added a minor caveat.

Climate Science Watch:

“The Court finds that there is sufficient evidence in the record to demonstrate that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits,” said a DC Superior Court judge in her latest procedural ruling in the defamation case of Michael Mann v. National Review, et al. “The evidence before the Court indicates the likelihood that ‘actual malice’ is present in the [National Review’s] conduct.”

On August 30 the Court denied the Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration of the Court’s July 19 order, which had affirmed Prof. Mann’s right to proceed in his defamation lawsuit. The text of the August 30 Court Order is here in PDF.

Some excerpts from the Court Order denying Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration:


… The Court finds that there is sufficient evidence in the record to demonstrate that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits. As the Court stated in its previous Order, the NR Defendants’ reference to Plaintiff “as the man behind the fraudulent climate change ‘hockey stick’ graph” was essentially an allegation of fraud by Plaintiff. …

The Court clearly recognizes that some members involved in the climate-change discussions and debates employ harsh words. The NR Defendants are reputed to use this manner of speech; however there is a line between rhetorical hyperbole and defamation. In this case, the evidence before the Court demonstrates that something more than mere rhetorical hyperbole is, at least at this stage present. Accusations of fraud, especially where such accusations are made frequently through the continuous usage of words such as “whitewashed,” “intellectually bogus,” “ringmaster of the tree-ring circus” and “cover-up” amount to more than rhetorical hyperbole. …

The evidence before the Court indicates the likelihood that “actual malice” is present in the NR Defendants’ conduct. …

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”)

… The Court finds that Plaintiff’s claim for IIED is similar to that for defamation. There is sufficient evidence before the Court to indicate “actual malice.” The NR Defendants have frequently accused Plaintiff of academic fraud regardless of their awareness that Plaintiff has been investigated by several bodies and his work found to be proper. The NR Defendant’s persistence despite the findings of the investigative bodies could be likened to a witch hunt. In fact, Plaintiff had nothing to do with the Sandusky case yet the NR Defendants seized upon that criminal act by a pedophile and did more, this Court finds, than simply comment on another article.

The Court agrees with the arguments advanced by Plaintiff. To place Plaintiff’s name in the same sentence with Sandusky (a convicted pedophile) is clearly outrageous.

Stay tuned.

Just for fun – review of the case so far:

August 19: Michael Mann v. National Review et al. defamation lawsuit – new Plaintiff’s briefs

July 19: DC Court affirms Michael Mann’s right to proceed in defamation lawsuit against National Review and CEI

Oct. 23, 2012: Bam! Mike Mann files Suit Against Defamatory Denialists, National Review, CEI

86 Responses to “Judge Drops Hammer on Deniers: Climate Scientist’s Case against Slander Goes Forward”

  1. “I said he is an extremely arrogant, egotistical person. if you knew anything about academia, you would know it is full of people like that. and occasionally, they start believing their own press. it is a very common story.”

    How do you know how arrogant Mann is and how little I know about academia? That said, people who develop expertise are a little full of ourselves, aren’t we Rick? You don’t come across as a meek, humble guy. I suspect that you’re real good at something.

    Once again, how is it plausible that Michael Mann tricked so many top tier science organizations and scientists, who are working in the same field, into believing his peer reviewed research? Climate science is a mainstream discipline, equipped with 180 years of accumulated knowledge, scads of smart people who’ve devoted their lives to Earth sciences, and an arsenal of incredibly sophisticated instrumentation.


    “pictures of what? forests and untilled grasslands in Midwestern America, during the mwp? pictures of flat temperature graphs for the last 16 plus years? pictures of model temperature predictions that are outside their own error boundaries?”

    Are you new to this? Suspend your conclusions, click on link 1, look at the bubble graph, click on link 2, scroll down and look at the bar chart, and then spend a month studying unbiased climate science on this or any other site linked to in the Blogroll on the right side of the page. You’ll enjoy it.


    • Rick Spung Says:

      who says he tricked them into believing his research? there are hundreds of climate scientists who wrote peer-reviewed papers that disputed his hockey stick. I already linked dozens of papers that do exactly that.

      with regards to your comment about climate science being a mainstream discipline, I can easily counter with the following:

      climate science is a constantly evolving, robust field of research with constantly changing theory, based on ever-changing evidence. the last 16 plus years of constant avg global temps has sent a shockwave through the climate research community, and the results are both refreshing and enlightening. many previously accepted theories have been challenged by such phenomenon as the record-setting expansion of the Antarctic ice cap and the recent series of record-breaking cold winters in south America.

      as for your final comment, you need to go back and re-acquaint yourself with the comment I referred to. he commented about two things- real-time temps vs. climate models and the mwp’s effects in America’s breadbasket. I responded to those two things. you jumped in with some weird comment about pictures and showed a graphic that had nothing to do with what we were talking about. my responses were factually correct and your links have absolutely nothing to do with either the failure of all recent climate temperature model projections or the mwp’s documented scope and scale.

      • Please post peer reviewed research that disputes global warming. I’m sure there are some that try to improve, or even dispute, Dr. Mann’s proxies, but not the basic premise. That’s the way science works. It constantly evolves. Einstein didn’t disprove Newtonian physics – he refined it. Yes, climate science is constantly evolving, and always will be.

        Real time temps are extremely volatile due to short term variables. The graphics I wanted you to look at were decadal temperature averages and a graph that describes where the accumulating energy surplus is stored in the ecosystem. If the planet were a frying pan, science could easily predict surface temperature as heat is applied.

        Here’s a line graph alternative to the bar graph showing surface temperature trends.

        I thought others had addressed the MWP. Try this.

      • “…the last 16 plus years of constant avg global temps has sent a shockwave through the climate research community…”

        spung, here’s what a competent individual who actually knows what he’s talking about has to say about the supposed 16-year temperature pause:


        It’s a clear, plain-English explanation of a highly technical subject. However, you must make at least a token effort to read it *with comprehension* to understand what is going on. The level of mental effort that you’ve been putting into your posts here simply won’t cut it. You will actually have to *think*.

        • Rick Spung Says:

          ok, so the historically low sunspot counts have nothing to do with the 16 plus year standstill in avg global temp? awesome.

          and some guy you like says it is all due to enso? double awesome.

          and you know for certain that oscillations in solar activity have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the warming and cooling of pacific ocean currents? triple awesome!

          and I’m wrong because I believe lots of other highly credentialed climate researchers who wrote peer-reviewed papers that contradict your point of view? quadruple awesome!

          you just scored a whole bunch of awesomes.

          • Folks,

            Didn’t I mention something about reading *with comprehension*? I guess that spung didn’t get the memo.


            Here’s a plot of the sunspot count history, courtesy of NASA: http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/images/Zurich_Color_Small.jpg

            And here’s a plot of global-average temperatures, again courtesy of NASA: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/Fig.A2.gif

            Note the approximate 11 year cycle in the sunspot count. Do you see a corresponding 11-year cycle in global temperatures? If global temperatures were really sensitive to sunspot count, we’d see one.

            Also note the very strong sunspot count peak in 1960, easily the highest in the last 50 years or so. Do you see a corresponding temperature peak in 1960? I mean, if there were a strong relationship between global temperatures and sunspot count, shouldn’t the Earth’s average temperature have hit a maximum back in 1960?

          • Rick Spung Says:

            maybe if you spent a little less energy insulting me, and a little more energy on researching the materials I linked to, you might do a better job of defending your positions.

            agw theory cannot explain every little rise and fall of global temps. it certainly can’t explain the rise from 1910 to 1940. nor can it explain the mwp or the little ice age.

            no single input is responsible for global temp changes. co2 level variations obviously can’t explain it. it is accepted scientific fact that co2 level changes trail, rather than lead, global temp changes.

            based on the graphs you supplied, I can see an accumulation of elevated sunspots correlating to temp increases in the 1980s and 90s. however, neither sunspots nor co2 levels appear to be responsible for temp increases from 1910 to 1940.

            it appears that what I originally said has been proven to be true- climate science is not settled, and climate variations are the result of a mixture of many different factors.

            I’m not saying I know all the answers. but despite your attitude, you certainly don’t have them either. I guess that’s why I consider myself a skeptic. I have no idea what you consider yourself, but I’m sure it is extremely flattering (to you, anyway).

          • We are pushing WordPress’s ability to place replies. This is a reply to Rick Spung’s reply to caerbannog666.

            “agw theory cannot explain every little rise and fall of global temps” True, and agreed to by all. That’s a straw man argument. Natural variability does exist, but it has been manageably bounded for 10,000 years.

            “no single input is responsible for global temp changes.” True

            “co2 level variations obviously can’t explain it.” False, the physics is certain.

            “it is accepted scientific fact that co2 level changes trail, rather than lead, global temp changes” Partially true. In the Quaternary, the most recent geological period, CO2 concentrations was a feedback. It varied as slow variations in orbital mechanic warmed and cooled the oceans. Cooler water absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere greatly amplifying the cooling. Warmer water released CO2 into the atmosphere greatly amplifying the warming. However, there were previous major geological transitions which were driven by very rapid increase (a small fraction of the current rate of increase) in atmospheric CO2 due to significant volcanic activity. That primary forcing agent precipitated other feedbacks.

            “I’m not saying I know all the answers. but despite your attitude, you certainly don’t have them either. I guess that’s why I consider myself a skeptic. I have no idea what you consider yourself, but I’m sure it is extremely flattering (to you, anyway).” Speaking out of turn on behalf caerbannog666, I’m confident that he knows he doesn’t have all of the answers. Scientists also know they don’t have all of the answers – otherwise why would they be scientists. What we do have is reasonably objectives open minds that learn as many things as we can every day, and can change our opinions. Although, there are many uncertain details about how CO2 will affect climate volatility in our new geological epoch, the basics are well understood.

          • jcl64 Says:

            “it is accepted scientific fact that co2 level changes trail, rather than lead, global temp changes”

            Haha, this is a classic that is always brought up by deniers.

            If you look at this statement by Spung, it has a logical fallacy – that since we in the past have had CO2 trailing after temperature – CO2 cannot affect temperature. Any one with some logical thinking would think: Hey, but you cant come to that conclusion – as we need to know the cause for the CO2 rise, and what differs between the CO2 rise back then and the CO2 rise we have now.

            They fail to acknowledge that the 40% CO2 rise we have experienced these past 100 years are not from natural causes but has our fingerprint all over it. While in the past the CO2 comes from increased vegetation and the release of it from the soil as it thaws up after an ice age. Even though volcanoes is active during an ice age it does not add enough for there to be a substantial rise (although it was essential for the planet to come out of snowball earth incidents). Normal weathering takes care of that even during an ice age.

            Also if you study the speed which earth normally comes out of an ice age, its clear that the naturally rising CO2 forcing also speeds up the temperature rise until the planet is out of the ice age and climate stabilizes before the next round of cooling.

            What Trenberth says is very true about the differences between the changing we have now and the natural one is the rate of change. When rates of changes are even 10 times faster then that of past extinction events we really should pay more attention. Even if there was natural variations going on, they tend to be slow hauls taking thousands of years – while its really happening way to fast now to be natural.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            Sunspot count may not tell the whole story and there’s been talk among some solar experts, some of whom are skeptics, that it may not correlate directly with solar output.

            What counts is the amount of solar radiation that reaches us and isn’t reflected.

            If the sunspots matter so much, why aren’t we COLDER?
            Despite the lack of STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT warming, it was still the HOTTEST decade on record, well above the vaunted 1930s.

          • OK, so now you are saying that sunspot activity *in the past* is what is responsible for the current temperature “pause”.

            But that’s not what you claimed originally.

            Let’s take a look at your *original* claim: “ok, so the historically low sunspot counts have nothing to do with the 16 plus year standstill in avg global temp? awesome.”

            Those “historically low” sunspot counts that you were talking about occurred *during the “temperature pause”*, not prior to it.

            So you originally claimed that that *current* sunspot counts are responsible for the *current* temperature response.

            When I provided data that proved your claim incorrect, you tried to change the claim to “temperatures aren’t the results of *current* sunspot counts” (your original claim” to “current temperatures are the results of an accumulation of *prior* sunspot counts”, a completely different claim.

            And you attempted to do so without providing evidence in support of *either* claim.

            From what you have posted here, we can conclude the following:

            You are in *way* over your head.



            You are not competent enough to realize it.


            You are not honest enough to admit it.

            Now, you can dismiss this as name-calling, but most sensible folks will recognize this as a very blunt (as in not very diplomatic) but accurate assessment of your conduct here.

  2. Mahn England Says:

    I wish that I lived on rick spungs planet: every time he tosses a coin it comes up heads.

    Frankly I don’t really care about the Mann libel case or the MWP speculations and least of all rick spungs words (he really doesn’t know anything about what is happening in Australia)…what I care about are not the side shows but the main event.

    So, rick if you really have something new to offer then do so. So far I’ve heard it all before.

    Where is Maurizio when we need him? At least he can capitalise.


    • Rick Spung Says:

      I’ve already offered many new things. check the links I posted to find dozens of peer-reviewed papers that dispute mann’s hockey stick. your comment indicates you have no clue about any science that refutes agw. perhaps you should take a little time to educate yourself. here are some more informative sources of information:


      • If you’re learning your climate science from the Idso family, you’re going to seem as illogical to us as we do to you. As Cool Hand Luke said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

      • Mahn England Says:

        Thank you for your concern about my ignorance and for providing the link. Yes I was not aware of any science that overturns our understanding of AGW.

        What I am aware of are false notions and fairy tales that have been adopted as articles of faith: notions about Hockey Sticks, MWPs, LIAs, Vikings growing “bananas” in Greenland, email conspiracies, consensus conspiracies and Trenberth’s “Missing Heat” fantasy and so on.

        These things are brought out for display by the worshipful like bits of dead saints at a religious festival.

        In the meantime the enlightened world has moved on from medieval ideation. Scientific notions which have been superseded are now stored in the archive for study by historians and the occasional haruspex. We are equipped to deal with problems of our own making and to be distracted by nonsense is foolish and dangerous.

        As for you Rick Spung I recommend that you spend some time reading about the Dunning-Kruger effect: your use of the upper case only when using the personal pronoun is telling.

        • Rick Spung Says:

          bananas in Greenland? sorry, I haven’t heard that one yet. the mwp and little ice age are not false notions. neither is the maunder minimum. the scientific world has accepted those three things as historical fact.

          there is an abundance of science that challenges agw. it is available to anyone who takes the time to look for it and read it. I’ve shown you links to numerous studies that document the problems with the agw theory. but what I’ve shown you is only the tip of the iceberg.

          you can either deny it or educate yourself to it. the choice is yours. insulting me is pointless. as far as I’m concerned, anyone who spends more energy trying to put me down, rather than studying the literature and peer-reviewed knowledge I’ve provided, is only diminishing himself.

          • Rick, You’d be surprised at how carefully we read your sources, including CO2 Science’s summary of the paleolclimatology of Greenland and the North Atlantic. We also read other sources which aren’t a mish-mash of narrowly constrained anecdotes devoted to inferring right-wing conclusions. Craig Idso and his sons (the CO2 Science staff) run a think tank which works with, and is funded by, Heartland, ALEC and companies that don’t want their fossil fuel cartel threatened. Google their names.

          • toby52 Says:

            There may indeed be an “abundance of science that challenges agw” somwhere, but I have not yet seen it. What you have presented I have seen, and it does not amount to a hill of beans.

  3. You mean after ” They proclaimed they would “kick” Dr. Mann’s “legal heinie” in court.3″”Plainly aware that such discovery will boomerang to their own backsides, the defendants are looking for an escape.”
    Your comments “bravado” is at odds with the defendants “tail between the legs and run for your life” “chickenhood”.

    There are still some people unaware of how rigidly dogmatic and unreasoning deniers can be. I wonder what purpose you think you serve as opposed to what purpose you actually serve here.

    Deniers provide examples of how incredible their claims are, like claiming no one has ever reproduced the Mann graphs from the data.
    Climatologists have been consumed by reproducing this graph for more than a decade and more than a dozen major studies have done just that including Muller’s.

    Rather than giving pause by the certain refutation of extreme ideas as outlined in these blogs, the continuation of a steady stream of increasingly wilder claims, many of them personal, only increases the dubiousness of denier claims. This does not lead to an impression of calm deliberation. Neither does the lack of capitalization. In summary:

    – Some people do not know how extreme deniers can be.
    – Take a look at the capitalization.
    – Examples of the lack of accurate exact references.
    – Illogical argument and willfully ignoring facts.
    – Inability to stay on topic.
    – Naysaying instead of explanation with references.
    – Substitution of armchair expert opinion for scientific vigor.
    – Isolation of information sources to a small collection of conspiracy believers.
    – A tendency towards paranoia.

    • Rick Spung Says:

      what part of “this case is not over and has a long, long way to go” do you not understand? do you honestly think one ruling on a preliminary motion to have the case dismissed on procedural grounds means anything in the long run?

      you really need to calm down and take a deep breath. then you need to educate yourself on the procedures involved in litigating a civil case. it is a journey of a thousand steps and we literally just finished taking the first couple.

      the only examples of a lack of logic, paranoia, ignoring facts and isolation I see here are in your comment. this case has YEARS to go before it is resolved. YEARS. save your vitriol and pace yourself.

      • toby52 Says:

        Of course it has a long way to go.

        But “A good start is half the battle” – Mann is off to the best possible start. Any new judge will have to read and understand the previous motions and rulings.

        Informed legal comment previous to this was that Mann had an uphill battle, and these conclusive and definitive rules are a shock. Libel and defamation are extremely difficult to prove in US law, as there has to be actual malice as well as untruths. The conventional wisdom was that Mann’s suit would fall at the first hurdle. Instead, it has sailed on, stronger than before.

        Clearly, his lawyers think he can win, otherwise he would not be where he is. From what I gather he has employed one of the foremost libel attorneys in the US.

        My own opinion is that at this stage the defendant’s lawyers should be exploring the possibilities of a settlement, especially the National Review. They have the most to lose – Mann’s eminence in science is not in question and will be unaffected by any outcome. His public persona will be unaffected as any ruling cannot dispute the 7 or so scientific investigations in his favour.

        • toby52 Says:

          I forgot to add that I am really looking forward to the discovery of documents from the CEI, including e-mails.

          Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see all those e-mails that connect the CEI, Steve McIntyre, “Bishop Hill” , NR and that whole wretched crew. It is quite likely that such e-mails will show a malicious conspiracy to defame Professor Mann.

          Boot. Other. Foot.

  4. What do your comments have to do with “Your comments “bravado” is at odds with the defendants “tail between the legs and run for your life” “chickenhood”.”? While you are eager for them to appear in court, they are trying desperately to avoid being dragged into court, despite spending considerable time taunting Mann into a court case and blustering about how eager they were to go to court and “kick his heinie”. You are not the one being sued, so its easier for you to display the bravado they sorely lack. You seem to think that this court case is about whether Mann is right and WUWT or some other source is correct. Its a court case about slander, not global warming. Its about defaming someone’s character calling them a molester and claiming fraud. That one act of calling someone a molester is quite capable of causing culpability in a lawsuit about defamation, regardless of subject, not to mention being uncivlized and unethical. The judge has ruled correctly. The defendants were spoiling for a court case, bragged about it, and once one was offered, turned tail and ran. The evidence that the defendants ignored inquiries that settled the matter of fraud is clear and inescapable. The fact is, the judge ruled against the defendants and they now have to go to court. Somehow you think this is a victory for the defendants, despite the fact that they spent time and money to avoid going to court. They lost their bid to avoid the lawsuit. Get over it.

    I will ask again. Think real hard. What purpose do you think you serve here?
    Now think real hard again. Why do you think Peter let you post here?
    (Besides teaching how to capitalize something other than the personal noun I)

    • Rick Spung Says:

      lol, they are not trying desperately to stay out of court. they filed a routine slap motion, on their attorney’s advice. and when the judge totally screwed up the ruling, they did what any normal person would do- they filed a motion educating the judge about her ridiculous incompetence.

      and… surprise, surprise! the judge’s wittle feewings got hurt and she denied the motion. who cares?

      the case goes on. and it made perfect sense for them to do all that BECAUSE THERE ARE TWO DEFENDANTS. even if nr is released, the case still goes on. and, in the end, mann still goes down.

      if nr didn’t want to be in court, they wouldn’t be in court. it really is that simple. the evidence is on their side. it is physically impossible for mann’s hockey stick graph to accurately represent the data that was allegedly fed into it. all they have to do is proceed with the discovery and the entire world will realize it.

      as to your last paragraph, I feel sad for you. peter wrote and told me he lets me post here because he lets everyone post here. again, it really is that simple. if you don’t believe me, ask him.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        I encourage denialists to post here, because nothing helps educate the public than to see the smoke and mirrors teased apart. And we have a number of top notch smoke clearers and mirror smashers in our little community.
        so as I say, post away. Keep it clean.

  5. You really don’t know do you?

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