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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Paul Krugman: The Empiricist Strikes Back

by Paul Krugman, "The Conscience of A Liberal," The New York Times, August 10, 2014

If climate change doesn’t scare you, and our failure to act doesn’t inspire despair, you’re not paying attention. And the great sin of the climate deniers is their role in delaying action, quite possibly until it’s too late.

But there are other, smaller evils; and one that strikes close to home for me is the campaign of personal destruction waged against Michael Mann.

Mann, as some of you may know, is a hard-working scientist who used indirect evidence from tree rings and ice cores in an attempt to create a long-run climate record. His result was the famous “hockey stick” of sharply rising temperatures in the age of industrialization and fossil fuel consumption. His reward for that hard work was not simply assertions that he was wrong — which he wasn’t — but a concerted effort to destroy his life and career with accusations of professional malpractice, involving the usual suspects on the right but also public officials, like the former Attorney General of Virginia.

As you can imagine, I find it easy to put myself in Mann’s shoes; obviously a lot of people would like to do something similar to me, although they haven’t (yet?) found a suitable line of attack.

Now for the slightly encouraging news: Mann filed suit against National Review for defamation. And as D.R. Tucker points out at Washington Monthly, the latest response from NR sounds very much like a publication running scared.

Also encouraging is the evident inability of NR to understand how you defend against a charge of defamation. You don’t repeat the false allegations — sorry, guys, but courts also have access to Google and Nexis, and can find that all the charges have been rejected in repeated inquiries. You try, instead, to show that you made the allegations in good faith. But of course they didn’t.

Good for Mann in standing up here; he’s doing all of us a service.

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