A Slap Shot Against Climate Denial

The climate is warming. Polar ice is melting, glaciers are receding, the chemistry of the ocean is becoming dangerously acidic, sea levels are rising. All of this and more are consequences of the greenhouse gases we continue to emit into the atmosphere, where they trap and radiate heat that would otherwise escape into space.

Those are facts, not conjectures. Yet the scientists researching the fallout from that inconvenient fact, established more than 100 years ago, continue to face attacks that threaten their research, reputations and livelihoods.

One of us, Michael Mann, is just such a scientist. Twelve years ago, he found himself accused of research fraud for his work documenting the rapid rise of Earth’s temperature since the early 20th century.

An adjunct scholar at the time at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has said it “questions global warming alarmism,” compared Dr. Mann on a blog hosted by the institute to a convicted sex offender. “Instead of molesting children,” the post read, “he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.” Then a conservative writer republished parts of that post on a blog hosted by National Review and added that Dr. Mann was “behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey stick’ graph.”

Last week, after our decade-long journey through the court system, a jury in Washington, D.C., found that both writers were liable for defamation. We hope this sends a broader message that defamatory attacks on scientists go beyond the bounds of protected speech and have consequences. The jury awarded $1 in compensatory damages from each defendant, and punitive damages of $1,000 against one defendant and $1 million against the other.

However, we lament the time lost to this battle. This case is part of a larger culture war in which research is distorted and the truth about the climate threat is dissembled.

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