The Climate courtroom clash

Robert Tracinski documents for Real Clear Politics that the debate over the impact of “climate change” has moved from the court of public opinion to an actual courtroom.

The global warming hysteria is disastrous enough in its intended goal, which is to ban the use of our cheapest and most abundant fuels and force us to limp along on “alternative energy” sources that are insufficient to support an industrial civilization. But along the way, the global warming campaign is already wrecking our science and politics by seeking to establish a dogma that cannot legally be questioned.

The critical point in this campaign is a defamation lawsuit by global warming promoter Michael Mann against Mark Steyn, National Review, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

When the “Climategate” e-mails were leaked five years ago, a lot of us speculated that it could all end up in the courts, given the evidence that climate scientists were pocketing large sums of government money on the basis of a scientific consensus they were manipulating behind the scenes. But it’s typical of our upside-down political and cultural environment that when this issue does reach the courts, it will be in the form of a lawsuit against the climate skeptics.

Steyn and the others are being sued for criticizing Mann’s scientific arguments. …

… Here is the point at which we need a little primer on libel laws, which hinge on the differentiation between facts and opinion. It is libel to maliciously fabricate facts about someone. (It is not libel to erroneously report a false fact, so long as you did so with good faith reason to believe that it was true, though you are required to issue a correction.) But you are free to give whatever evaluation of the facts you like, including a negative evaluation of another person’s ideas, thinking method, and character. It is legal for me, for example, to say that Michael Mann is a liar, if I don’t believe that his erroneous scientific conclusions are the product of honest error. It is also legal for me to say that he is a coward and a liar, for hiding behind libel laws in an attempt to suppress criticism.

These are all reasons that the lawsuit should have been summarily thrown out. It goes beyond the legitimate scope of libel and defamation laws and constitutes an attempt to suppress opinions that are considered politically correct.

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