Famed Climatologist Michael Mann Finally Faces His Detractors in Court

He long ago sued climate denialists who compared him to a molester and cast his work as fraudulent.

A white man with a mostly bald head speaks in front of a podium.

Climate change scientist Michael Mann speaks at the Penn Stater Hotel.Nabil K. Mark/AP

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A lawsuit first instituted over 10 years ago, brought by an esteemed climate scientist over alleged defamation by a rightwing blogger and an analyst, went to trial this week.

The 2012 court case was brought by the University of Pennsylvania earth and environmental scientist Michael Mann, who is alleging that online attacks on his work amount to defamation.

The litigation targets two writers: Rand Simberg, analyst at the rightwing thinktank Competitive Enterprise Institute, who published a piece comparing Mann to a convicted serial child molester, and the National Review blogger Mark Steyn, who in a blog post favorably quoted Simberg and called Mann’s research “fraudulent.” (Mann originally went after both publishers as well, but in 2021 a court ruled that neither the Competitive Enterprise Institute nor National Review could be held responsible for the attacks.)

The case comes amid concerns that online abuse of climate scientists has increased in recent years while misinformation about the climate crisis is also on the rise.

The attacks on Mann came as part of a wider campaign against him by a network of climate skeptics connected to the fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch, experts have said.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which claims to fight “climate alarmism,” has financial ties to the Charles Koch Foundation, while the National Review regularly publishes articles dismissing climate concern science as alarmist and has also accepted Koch-linked funding.

After the renowned scientist co-published the famous “hockey stick” graph in 1998, which showed unprecedented global warming in the last century, a slew of groups in the Koch network also bombarded Mann with freedom of information requests. A Republican congressman who was backed by a PAC established by Koch also served him with a subpoena.

Opening statements in the case began on Thursday and were livestreamed, with the trial scheduled to run through at least February 6, and its completion to be decided by a jury verdict.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate