Climate scientist gets compared to Jerry Sandusky, files libel suit

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2012-10-25

A more current version of climate reconstructions, showing the iconic "hockey stick" trajectory.

Outside of the opinion polls and scientific journals, the public discourse about climate change is generally very low quality. Scientific understanding and even basic facts often fall far behind name calling and conspiracy theories. But, even by the rather low standards of the genre, a piece published at the blog of a free-market think tank was shocking—it compared a Penn State climate scientist to a convicted child molester who used to work for the university's athletics program. Those accusations were then echoed by the National Review.

The scientist in question, Michael Mann, demanded the piece be removed, and asked for a public apology. The National Review responded by threatening to use discovery to demand all of Mann's documents (which were already the subject of court cases) and proving that he was, in fact, a fraud. Now, months after those threats were exchanged, Mann's lawyers have actually filed the suit.

A misdirected focus

In many ways, the focus on Mann is a product of a very odd failure of logic. The basic outlines of anthropogenic climate change—the greenhouse effect, rising CO2 levels, a significant rise in global temperatures—are all so well understood they could basically be considered factual.

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