Whatever the intent of these lawsuits, the effect is to chill scientific research and debate. Scientists will think twice about challenging any aspect of climate science if the result could be an expensive lawsuit.
We keep hearing how climate change is “settled science,” even though science is never settled. But if it were, why are scientists going to court to intimidate those who would dare challenge the global warming dogma?
Back in June, the National Academy of Sciences published a paper with a typically bland title: “Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar.”
The paper, which had 21 authors, was a robust critique of work done by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, whose widely cited research claimed that the U.S. could easily switch to 100% renewable energy in as few as 35 years.
In their response, the authors said Jacobson’s work suffered “significant shortcomings” including “invalid modeling tools … modeling errors, and … implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”
Tough words to be sure. But hardly out of the norm for scientific debate. Indeed, this kind of back and forth serves as the very heart of science.
But instead of simply defending his own work, Jacobson decided to file a $10 million lawsuit against the National Academy of Sciences and the paper’s lead author, Christopher Clark, for defamation of character.
This, mind you, is after Jacobson tweeted that his science critics were being “intentionally scientifically fraudulent with falsified data.”
Jacobson isn’t the first such scientist to sue his critics. Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann sued Canadian climatologist Tim Ball several years ago for defamation of character after Ball challenged Mann’s famous global warming “hockey stick” paper.
In that paper, Mann purported to show that the current warming trend looked like the working end of a hockey stick compared with global temperatures stretching all the way back to year 1,000. Ball and other scientists wanted to see the data Mann had used, suspecting that he’d “adjusted” the temperature record to make the present look unusually warm. Ball’s version of the temperature record showed the medieval period as warmer than the present. At one point, Ball said that Mann “should be in the State Pen, not Penn State.”
Now another scientist finds himself being sued by environmentalists because his results failed to conform to what they wanted. In this case, the highly respected geoscientist Ricardo Villalba conducted a scientific survey of Argentina’s glaciers.
Green groups said that his survey favored mining interests, and so filed suit against him. Villalba now faces criminal charges for violating a 2010 law meant to protect Argentina’s glaciers.