News from the front: scientists directly challenge claims of fraud through defamation/libel laws

For years we’ve watched as the climate denial movement has hurled charges of “fraud” and “criminal activity” at scientists.

The recent Climategate “scandal” (note scare quotes) was the high water mark of this campaign to smear the reputation of scientists. Their claims have shown to be false.

Having worked in the legal industry I kept saying to myself “Surely these are defamatory acts? Don’t they constitute an attack on their reputation?”

And for years silence from the science community.

I think scientists had become almost immune to these charges, and preferred to continue work on their (vital) research interests and block out all these accusations as “white noise” not worth paying attention. After all, creationists had been saying the same things for years.

However, I think Climategate brought home the issue to many scientists and advocates for legitimate science just how damaging the denial movements campaign had become.

That left unanswered, it would only grow in effectiveness.

Just as importantly, the stakes are too high.

If what the scientists tell us is true – the climate change is a 90% probability – then we need to pay attention. Instead, the denial movement has sought to stop us from listening in order to protect the industries that directly fund them.

For me, two recent pieces of news are encouraging.

The counter offensive has begun: tackling the defamatory statements of the denial movement

News is coming in that scientists are starting to consider legal action against these claims. DeSmogBlog and Open Parachute (hat tip to both) have reported on separate legal actions either under way or being considered.

From Ken at Open Parachute:

Apparently climate scientist Michael Mann has threatened legal action* against Minnesotans for Global Warming (M4GW) over their video “Hide the Decline.” This used the comment from the “climategate” emails to portray a dishonest and slanderous picture of Mann. The video has been heavily promoted by climate change deniers and conservative groups, news outlets and blogs internationally. Several conservative NZ bloggers promoted the video.

As reported by DeSmogBlog:

Dr. Andrew Weaver, one of the most respected climate scientists in Canada and one of the best climate modellers in the world, has launched a libel suit against the National Post newspaper and its publisher, editors and three writer: Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster and Kevin Libin.

In the words of a news release broadcast today, the suit is for “a series of unjustified libels based on grossly irresponsible falsehoods that have gone viral on the Internet.”

Obviously the test for defamation varies in each jurisdiction. However in most instances the defence against defamation is to claim there is some basis (i.e. truth) to your allegations.

What’s interesting about these actions (either initiated or pending) is how they seeking to address the use of the Internet via blogs, YouTube videos and other social media in spreading the denial movements message.

The “viral” nature of these technologies means this misinformation is spread very quickly through the “echo chamber” that is the denial movements online presence.

Both these claims look at attacking the message at its source.

We can spend as much time as we want debunking their claims: but left unchecked, the deniers will continue to libel the reputations of individual scientists.

The law of defamation is their to protect an individual’s reputation. It’s not there to “suppress” alternative views. It’s there to stop people lying in a very public manner.

Yet another “Dover Moment” for the denial movement?

Earlier this year I pondered what would happen if climate science was put on trial: deniers should be careful for what they wish for. As a member of the M4GW group stated:

“I hope Dr. Mann does sue us,” Said Davis, “The legal discovery process would give us an opportunity to expose Dr. Mann’s research – or lack thereof to public and legal scrutiny.”

I think they are about to get a very rude shock.

It will be there Dover moment. It won’t destroy them, but it would be a humiliating defeat. In the court of public opinion, it will be damaging to their reputations. Once the spotlight is turned on them, they may find it very uncomfortable.

My prediction if it these actions proceed: a crushing victory for science, and a rout for the deniers.

Of course, the deniers claim the courts are in on the conspiracy as well.

Just like the UN, IPCC, governments, military, scientists, greens, socialists, Al Gore, liberals, Democrats…

2 thoughts on “News from the front: scientists directly challenge claims of fraud through defamation/libel laws

  1. […] also: News from the front: scientists directly challenge claims of fraud through defamation/libel laws Climate change deniers wallets […]

  2. citizenschallenge says:

    cool.
    more power to them!

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