Climate Scientist Andrew Weaver Wins Key Lawsuit

Andrew Weaver is a Canadian climate scientist with numerous publications. The National Post is a Canadian newspaper generally recognized as having a conservative and Libertarian leaning. Between 2009 and 2010, the Post published four articles that seemed defamatory of Dr. Weaver’s reputation as a scientist. Weaver sued the post over this, and yesterday, the B.C. Supreme Court agreed that the articles were in fact defamatory. The defendants in the case were Terence Corcoran, Financial Post editor, Peter Foster, National Post columnist, Kevin Libin, a contributor to the Financial Post, National Post publisher Gordon Fisher, and the National Post Inc. Justice Emily Burke ruled:

I conclude the defendants have been careless or indifferent to the accuracy of the facts. As evident from the testimony of the defendants, they were more interested in espousing a particular view than assessing the accuracy of the facts.

A PDF of the ruling can be found here

Andree Lau of the Huffington Post writes:

The newspaper defended itself by saying the statements were about Weaver’s public actions and words, not his character.

The judge disagreed, saying, “The reality is the combination and cumulative effect of these articles is such as to adversely impact on Dr. Weaver’s reputation and integrity as a scientist.”

Yesterday morning, Weaver posted on his Facebook page:

I am absolutely thrilled with today’s BC Supreme Court judgment in my libel case against the National Post, Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster, Kevin Libin and Gordon Fisher.

I initiated the lawsuit in April 2010 after the National Post refused to retract a number of articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held.

I felt I had to take this matter to court to clear my name and correct the
public record. This judgment does precisely that.

I look forward to the defendants publishing a complete retraction and removing the offending articles from electronic databases. I further look forward to them withdrawing consent given to third parties to re-publish the articles and to require them to cease re-publication.

Weaver’s remarks mirror the B.C. Supreme Court’s directive.

Lawrence Torcello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology. He has researched and written about the attacks on climate science and climate scientists by various entities (see “Climate Science Denialists Target Academic in Hate Campaign”). I asked Torcello to comment on the Weaver case, and he told me:

Andrew Weaver’s legal victory over Canada’s National Post is an important precedent in the emerging world of climate change litigation. The court’s ruling reflects an understanding that the press has a primary responsibility to report facts and disentangle propaganda. The decision affirms that facilitating smear campaigns against scientists and other academics is devoid of journalistic merit. We can expect critics of the court’s decision to claim it puts too great a burden on news outlets to police how their stories are used across social media; that it will have a chilling effect on journalism. To the contrary, defamation tactics against scientists are calculated to undermine the public’s trust in legitimate expertise and to intimidate researchers into media silence. Media outlets that facilitate disinformation campaigns against science and scientists make the work of responsible journalists more difficult. News sources that continue to take their professional obligations seriously should be cheered by this ruling. It is ethically important that scientists not be intimidated into silence but instead fight back against defamatory assaults on their character. In a world threatened by climate change the public’s safety depends on the ability of politicians and others to discern and be informed by credible experts. Dr. Weaver and other researchers taking a legal stand against defamation tactics should be commended for reminding us that science is not the only realm where facts matter.

Dr. Peter Gleick, of the Pacific Institute, told DeSmogBlog, that this is

…a victory for climate scientists everywhere. [There is] an extremely long history of efforts by climate deniers and contrarians to attack not just climate science, but climate scientists: to smear their scientific reputations, to distort their statements, and to make false and defamatory accusations. [Defamation] has been a standard tactic for years, especially as the science of climate change has continued to strengthen and solidify. While I’m sure the ruling will not stop the continued assault on climate science and scientists, it should certainly put people on notice that there is a responsibility to avoid such irresponsible attacks and a real cost for failing to do so. I hope this ruling has that effect.

In the US, there is a parallel lawsuit in process, filed by Dr. Michael Mann against the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the National Review, Mark Steyn, and Rand Simberg. For details on that suit see these posts and this search on the Climate Science Search Engine. Obviously, Canadian legal decisions have no role in establishing precedence in US courts, but the Andrew Weaver suit’s outcome does bode well for the idea advanced (above) by Dr. Torcello. Strategies employed by anti-science, especially anti-climate science, individuals and organizations are potentially costly, not only in the harm they do to stewardship of the planet, but also to the overall quality of journalism, and in some cases, the individuals and organizations that carry out that form of political activism.

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35 thoughts on “Climate Scientist Andrew Weaver Wins Key Lawsuit

  1. I take it by that you mean, “Those in society who are striving to warm up the Earth, in the name of self-interest”. Interesting observation, there.

  2. From wikipedia: Margaret Heafield Hamilton (born 1936)[1] is a computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner. She was Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for the Apollo space program.[2] Hamilton’s work prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 moon landing.[3] In 1986, she became the founder and CEO of Hamilton Technologies, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company was developed around the Universal Systems Language based on her paradigm of Development Before the Fact (DBTF) for systems and software design.[4]

  3. [There is] an extremely long history of efforts by warmists and bigots to attack not just science, but scientists: to smear their scientific reputations, to distort their statements, and to make false and defamatory accusations.

  4. What would be amusingly humorous about that is that fact that Nature does not care a whit how vociferous, repetitive, or loud such anti-science arguments are — but for the fact that it puts roadblocks on the way to forging good policy for averting disaster.

    These “warmists and bigots” attacking “not just science, but scientists” don’t seem to get it: Science is not like politics where the biggest mouth with the biggest war chest gets to decide the outcome. Nature does, and “Nature bats last.”

    All the scientists are doing is determining the most likely places Nature will bat the next few pitches coming up. If they keep getting distracted by this circus of nonsense, one of those batted balls is going to hit humanity square between the eyes. It will “not go well” when it does… No happy ending there.

    These self-serving idiots are fueling their own destruction. (Mine, too, which is what irks me, and why I am NOT amused.)

  5. He didn’t “wins” the law suit: he won it. And Andree Lau did not “writes:” he wrote. But it’s great news.

  6. Peter Gleick knows a thing or two about defamation, being the perpetrator (with some help from Jim Hoggan’s DeSmogBlog) of the forged document Heartland smear.

    1. …. of the forged document Heartland smear.

      Yeah, um, as soon as that happens, do tell someone, m’kay? Thanks.

  7. #10 — written by a self-appointed sea-level rise “expert” who recently made this claim:

    “Thermal expansion in the upper layer of the ocean (due to warming or freezing) causes a “bump” in the ocean, but it doesn’t change sea-level elsewhere.

    It changes average sea surface heights measured by satellites, but it doesn’t affect the coasts, and isn’t registered on tide gauges.”

    (linky http://www.wiseenergy.org/Energy/SLR/Burton_CRC_Panel_comments_2014-11-19.pdf)

    Burton Physics — is that anything like Road Runner Physics?

  8. #9, what’s your beef with the historic present tense? Is it that you don’t believe that it’s a real thing that people have done for longer than you’ve been alive, or is it that you just think it’s a thing people shouldn’t do because of language purity nonsense? It exists because it creates a sense of immediacy, and breaking, as though the thing in the historic present tense is still in the process of unfolding.

    I think that perhaps if you’re trying to be a grammar nazi, beginning a sentence with a conjunction might not be the best idea.

  9. Indeed, it would be hard to defame Heartland,, an eager defender of Joe Camel and accomplice in Big Tobacco’s long campaign to addict adolescents to something that will eventually cause many to face miserable deaths.

    Oncology nurses cry a lot, but tobacco execs recruit new replacement addicts and Heartland still helps,as it can, and the “donations” continue.

  10. Hurt them financially, it sounds like the only way to make certain media outlets be more responsible about what they publish.

  11. Americans and Canadians in general really scare me.That is there seems to be a majority of people of decided ignorance of scientific FACT. Not belief, fact. I read on every article regarding Global Warming stupid, ignorant, self-serving comments about ‘warmists’. What a silly term. Science has served ‘man’ well over the centuries. But now, just when we need all the information we can get to take concerted action, we get the ‘deniers’. ‘Non-believers’. This is not a faith. This is FACT.Just because the Fossil Fuel industry in all countries is so powerful, doesn’t mean we must lose all sense of reason. Yes, the Heartland Institute,the Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party are all funded by fossil fuel barons The Koch Bros., and Murdoch,and are very active in trying to stop any action on mitigating our GHG emissions, doesn’t mean we have to accept what they are dishing out to us. Just because they want to increase their already obscene wealth, for the short-term. at the expense of us and our future families. doesn’t mean that we have to accept that. For goodness sake, stand up to these vile people, and demand your Government be given the right to take responsible action to safeguard the future for all of us.

  12. Americans and Canadians in general really scare me.That is there seems to be a majority of people of decided ignorance of scientific FACT. Not belief, fact. I read on every article regarding Global Warming stupid, ignorant, self-serving comments about ‘warmists’. What a silly term. Science has served ‘man’ well over the centuries. But now, just when we need all the information we can get to take concerted action, we get the ‘deniers’. ‘Non-believers’. This is not a faith. This is FACT.Just because the Fossil Fuel industry in all countries is so powerful, doesn’t mean we must lose all sense of reason. Yes, the Heartland Institute,the Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party are all funded by fossil fuel barons The Koch Bros., and Murdoch,and are very active in trying to stop any action on mitigating our GHG emissions, doesn’t mean we have to accept what they are dishing out to us. Just because they want to increase their already obscene wealth, for the short-term. at the expense of us and our future families. doesn’t mean that we have to accept that. For goodness sake, stand up to these vile people, and demand your Government be given the right to take action now

  13. caerbannog (#12) wrote, “…Burton Physics…”

    I realize that the fact the physics of thermal expansion and its effects are not intuitively obvious to everyone, particularly not to people who’ve never studied physics. But perhaps you’ll understand it if you study this:

    http://sealevel.info/thermal_expansion_and_sea-level_rise.html

    The key fact to remember is that gravity balances mass, not volume. That’s why icebergs stick up out of the surrounding water, and why an iceberg displaces a volume of seawater which is exactly equal in mass to the mass of the entire iceberg, and why displacement is measured in units of mass or weight, rather than volume.

  14. Really, John Mashey (#15)? You defend Gleick & DeSmogBlog’s defamation of Heartland with a forged document, by citing two more of DeSmogBlog’s dishonest attacks on Heartland? Really??

    “As is well known, Gleick impersonated a Heartland director, tricking a secretary into sending him board documents. But having got the board documents, Gleick did not simply announce his coup and distribute the documents under his own name. Instead Gleick forged a grotesque memo and distributed it, along with the other documents, pretending to be a “Heartland Insider.” It was this forged document that generated the most lurid commentary by the Guardian and other sympathizers. Gleick’s tendentious forgery was characterized by Megan McArdle of the Atlantic as reading “like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.” -SM
    And to this day, long after Gleick’s forged Heartland memo was proven to be a forgery, DeSmogBlog continues to spread the lie that it is authentic:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=heartland%20gleick%20forgery

  15. I think #22 contains a mis-quote…

    “As is well known, the Heartland Institute impersonates a pro-American organization, tricking the public into sending it money. But having got the financial support, the Heartland Institute does not simply take the funds and distribute them to its own board members. Instead the Heartland Institute forges grotesque agendas and distributes them, along with the other anti-American propaganda, pretending to be concerned for the America’s heartland.”

  16. caerbannog #12,

    Dave Burton is apparently correct for discrete pockets of warmer water (less dense) — It is buoyed up by the cooler waters around and below it. I never realized this held for liquid water; I *assumed* ‘ One warmer drop raises the whole ocean’.

    For instance:

    The Loop Current and its eddies may be detected by measuring sea surface level. Sea surface level of both the eddies and the Loop on September 21, 2005 was up to 60 cm (24 in) higher than surrounding water, indicating a deep area of warm water beneath them

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_Current#Effect_on_hurricanes

  17. Those of you who proclaim to be stewards of the planet or of science would be interested to know that there have been four peer reviewed papers by IPCC authors so far this year that are focusing on explaining the 16-year hiatus from rise in global temperature. The claim basically is that the science projecting warming was sound; it’s just that nature’s unforced variability was much greater than previously thought. When asked if they thought variability had anything to do with the warm trend in the 1990s they just stare at you.

    1. R Graf, you have some serious citation mojo if you’ve figured that out! I have 33 peer reviewed papers on my desk that were published in 2015 that address the so-called “hiatus” but I’ve not tried to cross-correlate the authors with a list of “IPCC authors.” Have you? Can you tell us exactly which four papers you are talking about?

      I would not characterize the general sense of climate science as you have in your comment, but that certainly is one opinion. I have no idea what you mean by “they just stare at you.” I’ve had conversations with some of these authors and nobody stared at me. Perhaps you could clarify what you are talking about here!

  18. Greg, I appreciate your reply and your seriousness of depth into the subject with that many papers on your desktop. This being the case perhaps we can make progress together on specific questions rather than the usual banter.

    Are you familiar with Marotzke and Forster 2015 (Nature)? Do you believe anyone can make a conclusion about approximations of adjusted forcings, ECS, TOA imbalance averages and trends by diagnosing a sampling of runs from a sampling of models that used a sampling of real observed temp history that was of questionable accuracy before 1970? If you can’t make the leap to accept all those assumptions you cannot even begin to take the paper seriously. But lets say you do. The problems just begin there. Here is the paper. http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/global%20temperature%20trends.pdf

    Here is the audit of the paper with 830 comments: http://climateaudit.org/2015/02/05/marotzke-and-forsters-circular-attribution-of-cmip5-intermodel-warming-differences/

    Here is the author’s response: http://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/2015/marotzke-forster-response/

  19. Yes, I’m familiar with it. The paper was not circular. It’s just physics. This is pretty typical of Climate Audit. Nothing really to see there.

  20. Writing an equation to describe a draining tank is just physics. But needing to account for changes in viscosity, chunks of corrosion restricting the drain pipe, leaks at an increasing frequency in relation to the average air/water interface, effects of evaporation depending on season and time of day, all of the sudden you need to create a model to predict what can happen in real life out in the field. And we are still just talking about a water tank. Earth’s atmosphere is likely the most complex non-living thing in the solar system. It certainly can be solved, and models are a good tool, but there are different approaches in deciding how much you want to bite off at a time.

    Let’s take look at it as if we were figuring out how to make the fasted car with power fixed at 100HP. One could build a an ensemble of models that are small and simplistic and do lots of testing combinations with large quantities of trials. Or, you could feel that they should be make full-scale and very complex but you knowing that trials are so expensive that they will have to be planed months in advance and can only rent the track once a year. Add to this that each car is built by a national team and entered into an international competition to see whose is the best. Which approach do you think is the most efficient to get you the optimal design? Which approach best describes the IPCC’s?

    There is extreme pressure to declare an answer to the AGW question but to do that scientifically your model has to demonstrate the power to predict future temperature trend. Clearly, it’s no validation to predict the past since one used the past temperature as the programming guide. Temperature is not a question. What occurs internally to produce temperature is. Each model has a unique mix of variables to simulate the 20th century within naturally observed variability. Once everything is set the clock starts that the experiment begins. One hopes that after each four-year interval one can report which models are tracking the temperature trend an which are not, every reporting adding certainty to which are more valid. The problem is that right out of the gate none of the models tracked observed temp. No problem. We can wait and see if there is variability swinging the trend back. The predicament we are in now is that it has been 4 times 4 years and all the models predict steady rise and we observe flat line. The logical thing to do if you were a business is scrap the complex models and start learning at a faster pace with simple models and then start the clock again for validation with higher confidence models with a wider spread, just to be sure there is at least a few successes out of the group.

    What we have now is 16 years of reports that are ever more confident in the models at the same time the observed temperature trend is pulling further and further away. What to do? Enter Dr. Jochem Marotzke et al, and the “innovative” idea of validating the models from the models. Are you following my so far? Any problems with my narrative?

    1. I’m referring to the circularity argument. If there were no known mechanisms then I would suspect a lot of climate related arguments would be circular. But there are. What McI and others are really doing is forgetting that there are fundamentals that you can’t ignore and still get this right.

  21. I understand, things you can ignore like “the long-term trend in NH is relatively robust to the inclusion of bristlecone pines.” Obviously, you believe M&M were mistaken to challenge Mann’s assertion.

    I do agree with you that circularity of mathematical method, which was the primary flaw alleged, is not the primary but the whole assumption that one can evaluate output validity from comparing to the data that was used to program the input. The equation variables, ERF, alpha and kappa were all derived from delta T. So, circularity is not an issue since identity is assumed. However, do you believe that there should have been an additional term added to the equation to account for unforced variability?

  22. I’ll give you a pass on the variability diagnosis term question if you like. Do you feel that analyzing models against models can tell us anything about the real world?

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