There is great excitement in the world of climate change denialism right now, as the prospect looms of a lawsuit taken out by Michael Mann against Mark Steyn and the National Review Online (NRO). This thought has sent James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole into an ecstatic state, so convinced is he of the righteousness of the NRO and its correspondent.
Much of Del Boy’s certainty derives from his own self-proclaimed “victory”, when the now totally discredited Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ruled in his favour after a complaint by scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) Climate Research Unit (CRU) over a series of abusive and otherwise defamatory comments made in Del’s Telegraph blog about their work.
Delingpole clearly believes that this means not only that he was in the right, but that the verdict will somehow be replicated across the North Atlantic. But, says he, once again going into Jon Stewart mode, two things here. One, Del Boy’s PCC case rested mainly on what is now known as the “Littlejohn Defence”, that the post was clearly an opinion piece and not an assertion of immutable fact.
And two, the PCC, despite Del’s assertions otherwise, is not a judicial or even quasi-judicial body. It is not a judicial body at all. That is its whole point – to avoid matters going to law. So its testing of evidence, particularly the taking Del’s assertions as fact without the kind of examination that they would be subjected to in a court of law, bears no relation to what may await Steyn.
On top of all that, as I pointed out, the PCC is now no more than a joke, waiting for the deliberations of Lord Justice Leveson to finally put it out of its misery and replace it with something marginally more credible (which, as many industry watchers will not be slow to point out, will not be difficult). Had the UEA CRU taken Delingpole and the Telegraph to court, the result would have been very different.
The apparent support for the Steyn case, too, is suspect: there are lots of sites and posts cited as demonstrating that he is right and Mann is wrong, but a careful examination of each one shows that this is merely a roll-call of denialism, from the idea that more CO2 in the atmosphere is good for plants, to the claims that the so-called Medieval Warm Period was really, really warm.
And, as the New York Times has pointed out, any trial could become the modern equivalent of the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial”, but far more readily publicised and well financed. Given the weight of consensual evidence in Mann’s favour, the likes of Mark Steyn and NRO may need more than their customary bucket load of abuse to save themselves from defeat, and subsequent ridicule.
It would be utterly priceless to see Del Boy try and spin his way out of that.