In March we mused about the potential for climate scientists to sue climate deniers for defamation.
In bashing global warming science, climate change deniers also end up bashing a lot of global warming scientists and activists. Indeed, some of the scientists involved are now receiving death threats as a result of the repeated attacks on their reputation. The law does recognize the rights of those individuals to protect their private reputation: the law of defamation. Defamation is a lawsuit against a person for statements that tend to lower another person’s reputation.
So we were interested to read yesterday’s announcement that Professor Andrew Weaver, a member of the IPCC and the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, has brought a claim based on libel (written defamation) to defend himself against a series of articles critical of climate science published in the National Post. Here’s the coverage from the UK’s Guardian and (the source that first brought the story to my attention), the Tyee’s the Hook.
The lawsuit, brought against the National Post and the authors of the articles, was filed Tuesday in the BC Supreme Court (thanks to DeSmog Blog for posting the writ). While some of the allegedly defamatory claims concern the claim, as in the article Weaver’s Web, that Weaver accused the fossil fuel industry of being behind a break-in at his office (a claim that Weaver denies ever making), many of the other claims tackle such important issues as the credibility of Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph (a favourite target of climate deniers) and the Copenhagen Diagnosis – a document of which Weaver was a co-author. So there’s a good chance that the Court will be asked to look at the climate science to some degree. As we’ve said before, a court of law following rules of evidence will almost certainly side with the climate science.
Weaver is quoted in the media release from his lawyer as saying:
If I sit back and do nothing to clear my name, these libels will stay on the Internet forever. They'll poison the factual record, misleading people who are looking for reliable scientific information about global warming.
In addition to an injunction requiring the National Post to remove the offending articles, Weaver is also asking for an order requiring the National Post to help him get copies of those articles removed from other websites. As the coverage notes, such an order would be unprecedented, but it makes a lot of sense given that the National Post and the authors of the articles hold the copyright over the articles and therefore are well placed to insist that the articles be removed from 3rd party websites.
Is Professor Weaver’s case the first of many? The Climate skeptic website, WattsUpWithThat.com, is reporting that Michael Mann of Penn State University, has threatened a lawsuit of his own, although I haven’t seen formal confirmation of that claim.
But at this stage Professor Weaver’s lawsuit seems to be the only one filed. It will be very interesting to watch this case develop. Good luck, Professor Weaver, holding the National Post to account for the mis-information it has spread on climate science.