Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Suit

Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Suit
Image copyright: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

The Facts

  • Two writers, the National Review columnist Mark Steyn and former member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) Rand Simberg, have been ordered to pay compensatory and punitive damages to climate scientist Michael Mann after they were convicted of defaming him.

  • Steyn and Simberg were ordered to pay $1 in compensatory damages, with Steyn also hit with $1M in punitive damages and Simberg $1K. Mann argued the two writers harmed his reputation by comparing an alleged research scandal to a sex abuse case involving Penn State football.

The Spin

Left narrative

Instead of congratulating, or at the very least accepting the iconic climate science discoveries of Michael Mann, Steyn and Simberg wrote inflammatory and defaming propaganda. Their columns and blog posts were clearly aimed at harming the reputation of a man whose work didn't align with their politics — but thankfully, the court brought these malicious efforts to light and rightly punished them.

Right narrative

Mann's controversial methods for creating the "hockey stick" graph were critiqued by many people at the time this case began — and in response, Mann himself used character assassination tactics to go after them. As for Simberg, what he did was simply wonder whether Penn State was covering for Mann the same way they did for their football coach. Mann is not infallible and deserves to be questioned.

Narrative C

Whatever side you're on, the defamation aspect of this case is over. The question that will be litigated next is whether the punitive damages were excessive. Supreme Court precedent shows that million-dollar punitive damages alongside thousand-dollar compensatory damages — a 1,000-1 ratio — do not meet the constitutional "due process" threshold.

Metaculus Prediction

Political split



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