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Climatologist Michael Mann wins defamation case: what it means for scientists

Jury awards Mann more than US$1 million — raising hopes for scientists who are politically attacked because of their work.

Nature | Jeff Tollefson | February 9, 2024

US climate scientist Michael Mann has prevailed in a lawsuit that accused two conservative commentators of defamation for challenging his research and comparing him to a convicted child molester…

… In the latest case, Mann went on the offensive. But he faced a high burden of proof owing to his own notoriety: as a public figure, Mann and his attorneys had to prove not only that the defendants published false statements, but also that they acted with malice. “It is not easy to prove defamation against a public figure,” says Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, an organization in New York City that was formed in 2011 to advocate for Mann and other scientists who were being targeted and harassed by climate sceptics.

Scientists that Kurtz has worked with have expressed some hope for the future in response to yesterday’s verdict. But she warns that Mann’s case was unusually clear-cut: the defendants accused him of fraud, but multiple investigations run by institutions such as the US National Science Foundation, which provided him with funding, and Pennsylvania State University, his former employer, have cleared him of wrongdoing and upheld his research findings.

Read the full article on Nature.

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