CSI Fellow Michael Mann Awarded $1 Million in Defamation Case

Michael E. Mann. Image credit: Joshua Yospyn

In a significant victory for science, climate scientist Michael Mann was successful in his defamation lawsuit against bloggers Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn. A six-person District of Columbia jury unanimously awarded $1 million in punitive damages to Mann for defamatory blog posts published in 2012 by Simberg on the Competitive Enterprise Institute website and by Steyn on National Review online. The blog posts claimed Mann falsely manipulated data related to his well-known “hockey stick graph,” first published in Nature, which demonstrated unprecedented global warming over the past 1,000 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), awardee of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, acknowledged Mann for contributing to the work that led to the award.

The defamation case ended up being about more than the personal reputation of an individual scientist, with the defense trying to shift the focus away from defamation and instead to the integrity and validity of climate science. The jury found that Simberg and Steyn’s statements were made with “maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm.” Following his victory, Mann emphasized the importance of defending science against malicious attacks. The trial happened within the broader context of attacks on climate science and scientists—designed to erode public trust in science—being a prominent part of climate misinformation. Mann became a CSI fellow in 2017. His latest book is Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis.

John Cook

John Cook is the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia. He created and maintains the Skeptical Science website and is co-author of Climate Change Denial (2011) and the 2013 college textbook Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis.

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