As folks know, Dr. Michael Mann, the climatologist who’s best known for his climate change hockey stick graph, has sued the National Review and Mark Steyn for defamation for poking fun at Mann’s work as academic fraud. So, here Mann is pressing his legal case, arguing that someone has legally injured him by knowingly spreading falsehoods. You’d think Mann would understand the seriousness of defamation, and of course the legal elements to establish a defensable claim. You’d think. But this week, Mann couldn’t help himself, and tweeted out what appears to be libelous claims about Anthony Watts, whose blog, Watts Up With That, presents skeptical arguments about manmade climate change.
Watts responds in part:
I regularly get angry emails from people who are convinced that I’m single-handedly destroying the world with my opinion which is supposedly funded by “big oil” and the Koch brothers. Of course, having nothing else, that’s all part of the huge lie people like Dr. Mann likes to push, like this bit of libel over the weekend:
I’m dealing with Dr. Mann’s libel separately, but for the record I’ve never gotten a dime from the Koch brothers, or “big oil”, nor am I a “denier for hire”, and Dr. Mann knows this because he backed down from a similar claim in the past when challenged on it. Now, knowing that, he’s demonstrated malice, fulfilling one of the tests for libel.
That aside, and along the same lines, I recently got an email that included this claim:
“…your pathetic little attempt at pushing climate denialism isn’t working. Places like Real Climate and Skeptical Science are putting your little enterprise to shame.”
Responding to these slurs, Watts takes the high road, refuting fiction with fact, and in so doing also points out that his blog is significantly more successful than Real Climate and Skeptical Science – Watts has stats and graphs on his blog that backup his claim. It’s obvious these guys don’t like each other. But folks, climate change is not about playing nice or winning a popularity contest. It’s about getting the science right, which for the time being seems to present some challenges for climatologists. But it’s also about the messenger. And right now, climate change has a really bad messenger problem and climate scientists, such as Mann, who are trying to persuade the public that climate change is real and a concern are losing. They are losing not only in terms of communication but, more importantly, on the issue of credibility. Some advice for Dr. Mann – focus on improving the science and show a little humility – they could be a winning combination.
As the old proverb goes, he who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones – or, at least in this case, hurl libelous accusations. Perhaps Dr. Mann should have taken time to read his proverbs, or at least talked with his lawyer, before buying himself a lawsuit.