Six years ago, climatologist Dr. Tim Ball challenged the data and scientific methodology of Michael E. Mann’s (in)famous “hockey-stick” temperature graph. As did several other climate observers. But for his harshest critics, Mann took the unusual step of suing them for libel.
Ball, a Canadian citizen, wrote an op-ed in which he wrote that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.” The suit alleged that Ball’s statements were factually untrue and defamatory.
In the op-ed, Ball was referring to Mann’s hockey-stick graph, which eliminated the widely accepted Medieval Warm Period (MWP) of 950-1250 A.D. and introduced a pronounced uptick in temperatures in the late 20th century.
Mann is a professor of meteorology at Penn State University and a well-known climate activist. His bread and butter comes from the many books he’s written on the hockey-stick graph and global warming, paid speeches, and federal research grants, along with his university salary.
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Mann’s graph was widely hailed when first published and was incorporated into reports published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Western governments, including the U.S., used it as evidence that man-made warming was occurring at a much faster rate than traditional measuring devices were recording. It was used as a bulwark for draconian regulations and costly U.N. policies.
Along with Ball, Mann also sued columnist Mark Steyn for libel after he wrote an op-ed in National Review disparaging his hockey-stick graph. The D.C. Court of Appeals is overseeing that case. Mann also filed separate hockey-stick suits against National Review, Rand Simberg, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
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The Circuit Court ruled in December 2016 that Mann’s defamation suits could go to trial, despite dissenting amicus briefs from a host of news outlets such as Time, NBC News, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.
Dave Neese of the Trentonian wrote that “Should Mann ultimately prevail, the long-time favorable legal jig will be up for the media.”
So why did his legal team choose Washington, D.C., to file their suits, a district where neither Mann nor Steyn resides? Likely because it has one of the most liberal benches in the country, stuffed to the rafters with progressive judges President Obama appointed.
In one of the court’s more bizarre decisions, it ruled that Steyn wasn’t entitled to Mann’s underlying data or methodology, calling it his ‘intellectual property.’ But things are different in Canada.
As Ball points out, “This [suppression] ruling was made despite the fact the U.S. taxpayers paid for the research, and the research results were used as the basis of literally earth-shattering policies on energy and environment.”
And in Canada, you can’t “withhold documents that are central to your defamation regardless of any U.S. rulings.”
A Self-Described Nobel Laureate
When Mann began his multimillion-dollar lawsuits six years ago, his complaint hinged on the defendants committing the libelous crime of “defaming the reputation of a Nobel Prize recipient.”
Mann premised his lawsuits on the fact that he was a Nobel Laureate and had the right to sue the aforementioned writers (plus three other entities) for assailing his character.
But after inquiring with The Norwegian Nobel Institute, it was revealed Mann neither won the Nobel Peace Prize nor was a co-recipient.
As others questioned his “Nobellian” claims, Mann defiantly tweeted, “IPCC certificate acknowledging me ‘contributing to award of the Nobel Peace Prize.’ Do they want my birth certif too?”
At the time, the IPCC issued certificates that thanked participants “for contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.” As such, he lied on a legal affidavit submitted to the court under penalty of perjury.
All of which calls into question what else may be untrue in his complaint and the highly publicized, discredited hockey-stick graph.
The Nobel prize claim has subsequently led to innumerable delays — since Mann had to resubmit his previous complaint without the statement that he was a “self-inferred Nobel Laureate.”
Steyn wrote in his brief that “Mann’s fraudulent claim should cause him embarrassment, but it should surely not justify resetting the procedural clock back to the beginning on this case,” which it did.
Contempt of Court
Meanwhile in Canada, the British Columbia (B.C.) Supreme Court had given Mann a generous adjournment for a trial scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2017. Ball says Canadian courts “always grant adjournments before a trial” as they believe an “out-of-court settlement is preferable.”
Before agreeing to the adjournment, Ball’s legal team specified a few conditions that Mann agreed to and which were legally binding. The most important was that “Mann produce all documents including computer codes by Feb. 20, 2017.”
However, Mann failed to comply and did not provide a single shred of evidence to back up his hockey-stick graph. By his intentional failure to provide the court with these documents, Mann is now officially in ‘contempt of court.’
In Canada, contempt sanctions mean the judge must grant Ball whatever reasonable remedy he requests to rectify the contempt. Accordingly, and upon Ball’s application, the court can make a finding that Ball’s statement that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State” is a “precise and true statement of fact.”
The “Truth Defense”
That’s because Canada has the distinctive “Truth Defense,” which mandates that the court must rule, upon Ball’s written application, that Mann’s failure to produce the documents means Mann was motivated to hide them in order to conceal his crime.
Subsequently, the court would have no other choice (under the legal doctrine of “unclean hands”) but to dismiss the entire suit and order Mann to pay costs and legal fees to Dr. Ball.
Ball, a septuagenarian, was not looking forward to spending his golden years fighting off an attack dog who has used the court system as his own personal wrecking ball.
“Regardless of the outcome,” Ball says, “I am planning a major campaign to expose to the world on how they used the court system to silence me because I dared to speak out against their claims and actions.”
Indeed, in the past six years, Ball has been busy churning out articles and books.
Mann’s been busy as well. He frequently participates in political rallies and was at the forefront of the March for Science and People’s Climate March, at one point hob-knobbing with pseudo-scientist Bill Nye.
Ball notes that in Canada, “it is the prevailing view in the court system that if a scientist becomes a politician their scientific objectivity is compromised — it is considered the bias of a ‘noble cause.'” In other words, science poisoned with political bias.
It remains to be seen if the current, slow-moving court cases will eventually help to spotlight the perverted ‘sue-you-into-silence’ tactics in use in the global warming debate.
Thomas Richard is a freelance writer living outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He’s also the managing editor of the site Climate Change Dispatch.