The climate change racket: Finally a 'day in court'?

Is the day that non-alarmists have long awaited finally upon us? The climate change racket on trial in a court of law?

Mark Steyn vs Michael Mann: Only one winner
Peter C. Glover
On 29 August 2012 16:27

It’s what we non-alarmists have long wanted: the climate change racket on trial in a court of law. In threatening National Review and its international columnist Mark Steyn with legal action over alleged “defamatory remarks” in his ‘Corner’ column, inventor of the famously debunked “hockey stick” climate graph, Dr Michael Mann, may have finally bitten off way more than he can legally chew. 

The current ruckus started when columnist Steyn penned a short piece entitled Football and Hockey on July 25th. In it Steyn referenced Rand Simberg’sUnhappy Valley’s Other Scandal’ article (July 13th) on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s ‘Open Market’ blog site.

Simberg’s posting was based on former FBI director Louis Freeh’s recently published report setting out the “appalling behaviour” of the Penn State authorities who were found to be complicit in covering up Jerry Sandusky’s serial rape activities. Simberg made the point that the same “rotten and corrupt culture” at Penn State had, two years earlier, conducted an investigation that ultimately “whitewashed” another of their high profile “rock star” staffers, Dr Michael Mann, who was also “bringing in millions in research funding”.  

In the wake of the Freeh findings, calling for a “fresh, truly independent enquiry”, Simberg states: “now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it’s time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we’ve also learned about his and others’ hockey-stick deceptions since.”

Enter Mark Steyn, a columnist known for non-PC, bullish straight-talking. While Steyn declines to extend Simberg’s “metaphor all the way to the locker-room showers”, he reminds us that “when the East Anglia emails came out, Penn State felt obliged to ‘investigate’ Professor Mann. Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann.”

Steyn went on to assert that Michael Mann is “the man behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey-stick’ graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus”. It is this sentence that subsequently attracted the threat of court action from Mann’s lawyer via a letter that NR’s Rich Lowry described as “laughably threatening”.  The letter suggests Mann’s legal team means business unless the National Review (NR) “issues a retraction of this article and apologizes to Dr Mann”.

They aren’t going to get either, however, as NR’s letter in response makes abundantly clear.

In essence, NR’s response to the threat of being sued is twofold. First, it cites legal precedent that the “use of the term ‘fraud’ was accurate and appropriate in the context in which it was used”; that is “not in the criminal sense” but “used to call out his conclusions on climate science as intellectually suspect”.  This, says the NR letter, is exactly the kind of language used in public debate that the First Amendment seeks to protect.

Further, the allegation that Steyn made an “insidious comparison between Dr Mann and Jerry Sandusky” doesn’t bear close scrutiny.  

As someone who worked for 17 years in the law including numerous fraud trials, I can state categorically that the second complaint has ‘no legs’. In his piece, Steyn specifically disassociates himself from Simberg’s locker-room “metaphor”. Believing Simberg “has a point”, Steyn actually poses the highly pertinent question, “If an institution is prepared to cover up systematic rape of minors, what won’t it cover up?”

But why get so upset about this single short blog post when whole books, countless articles and websites have said far worse? NR’s Lowry perhaps gets closest, asking in his blunt Get Lost follow-up article: “So why threaten to sue us? I rather suspect it is because the Steyn post was savagely witty and stung poor Michael.”

I agree. Whenever I have invoked wit against the frailty of climate change rhetoric and its proponents, the blowback in online comments usually, with those ideologically wedded to alarmism, borders on the vitriolic. Not that they ever bother to argue actual facts and data; ad hominen attacks, threats and unrestrained open abuse is a typical response.

Sifting through the Climategate emails themselves, in which Mann features strongly, any right-thinking person might easily conclude that they were eavesdropping on the Soprano family network given their inherent lack of integrity – not least, the deceptive “trick” Mann admits to using during the manufacture of his notorious hockey stick graph.

No doubt Mann and his legal team assumed the NR publisher, threatened with legal action, would quickly fold. But they failed to understand three things.

First, a ‘day in court’, publicly scrutinizing Mann’s climate work in detail, plays right into the hands of the whole climate ‘skeptic’ world. Second, NR lawyers clearly know the law in this matter as it affects the use of the accusation “fraudulent” in the non-criminal sense. Third, Mark Steyn already has a successful track record with similar spurious law suits.  

In short, any Mann v NR/Steyn litigation would not be a simple case of fighting over the use of a single word in a defamation case, it would be a full-scale scrutinizing of Mann’s work, the shameful hockey stick graph which we all know actively hid key data that confuted the associated conclusion, climate data per se and, not least, Mann’s own scientific integrity and reputation.

As NR and Steyn have already indicated to Mann’s lawyers, sue away, bring it on! After all, it is high-time the real science was brought fully under public scrutiny. 

At time of writing the ball is firmly back in Mann’s court and we await his next move with considerable interest. For my money, don’t expect Mann to carry through on his threat. Once he realises just exactly who he is up against – and it’s not just NR and Steyn – and what is at stake for the whole climate change racket, for Penn State’s coffers, and for his reputation, expect weasel words to the effect that “on reflection, it’s not worth it”.  

After all, he won’t want to risk killing the golden ‘public climate cash’ goose.

Peter C Glover is a British writer & International Associate Editor, Energy Tribune. For more go to

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