Litigious Climate Scientist on the Hook for Legal Fees

Stanford prof ordered to pay legal fees after dropping $10 million defamation case against another scientist

From Retraction Watch

A Stanford professor who sued a critic and a scientific journal for $10 million — then dropped the suit — has been ordered to pay the defendants’ legal fees based on a statute “designed to provide for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits filed against people for the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Mark Jacobson, who studies renewable energy at Stanford, sued in September 2017 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for defamation over a 2017 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that critiqued a 2015 article he had written in the same journal. He sued PNAS and the first author of the paper, Christopher Clack, an executive at a firm that analyzes renewable energy.

At the time, Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs at Popehat about legal issues related to free speech, said of the suit:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

In February 2018, following a hearing at which PNAS argued for the case to be dismissed, Jacobson dropped the suit, telling us that he “was expecting them to settle.” The defendants then filed, based on the anti-SLAPP — for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” — statute in Washington, DC, for Jacobson to pay their legal fees.

In April of this year, as noted then by Forbes, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Carroll Wingo, who has been presiding over the case, ruled that Jacobson would have to pay those fees. In that ruling, Wingo wrote that the Court 

finds that the three asserted “egregious errors” are statements reflecting scientific disagreements, which were appropriately explored and challenged in scientific publications; they simply do not attack Dr. Jacobson’s honesty or accuse him of misconduct.

Jacobson appealed that decision, but Wingo upheld it in a June 25 order.

Jacobson could be on the hook for more than $600,000, the total of what the plaintiffs have told the court were their legal costs — $535,900 for PNAS, and $75,000 for Clack.

Paul Thaler of Cohen Seglias, which has been representing Jacobson, noted in comments to Retraction Watch that the judge had not yet ruled on how much Jacobson should pay:

The Court must now determine the level of attorneys’ fees to charge, which ranges from $0 to the amounts requested by the Clack and NAS attorneys (see legal fee requests and replies for arguments in both directions). Once that is done, Prof. Jacobson will decide whether to appeal the questions of whether the publication of false facts with provable “yes/no” answers (such as the false claim that a table has maximum values when it factually has average values) are indeed questions of fact or of scientific disagreement and whether legal fees are allowed in a case of a voluntary dismissal without prejudice.

Despite dropping the suit, and the judge’s ruling, Jacobson continues to insist in comments to Retraction Watch that there were false claims in the Clack et al paper:

This case has always been about three false factual claims, including two of modeling “errors” or “bugs,” claimed by Dr. Clack and published by NAS that damaged the reputations of myself and my coauthors. What has come out is that the Clack attorney has now admitted in a Court document that Dr. Clack now makes no claim of a “bug in the source code” of our model, despite Dr. Clack’s rampant claim throughout his paper that we made “modeling errors.” Dr. Clack has also admitted in writing that our paper includes Canadian hydropower, yet neither he nor NAS has corrected this admitted error in the Clack Paper. Third, all evidence points to the fact that Table 1 of our paper contains average, not maximum values, indicating that Dr. Clack’s claim regarding modeling error on this issues is factually wrong as well. Thus, it is more clear than ever that the three false facts published by the Clack Authors were indeed false facts and not questions of scientific disagreement. I regret that it was impossible to have these errors corrected upon our first request rather than having to go through this drawn-out process to restore the reputations of myself and my coauthors.

Read the full article here

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Bill Toland
September 18, 2022 6:10 am

The comments to the original article are very illuminating.

Hans Erren
Reply to  Bill Toland
September 18, 2022 6:55 am

Do you have a link?

Reply to  Hans Erren
September 18, 2022 8:39 am

It’s the first link provided in this post, Hans. Click on “From Retraction Watch” right after the introductory sentence.

Reply to  Bill Toland
September 18, 2022 4:37 pm

The conclusion is devastating …

Many previous studies of deep decarbonization of electric power illustrate that much can be done with wind and solar power but that it is extremely difficult to achieve complete decarbonization of the energy system, even when using every current technology and tool available, including energy efficiency and wind, hydroelectric, and solar energy as well as carbon capture and storage, bioenergy, and nuclear energy (16810). In contrast, ref. 11 asserts that it is cost-effective to fully decarbonize the US energy system primarily using just three inherently variable generating technologies: solar PV, solar CSP, and wind, to supply more than 95% of total energy in the proposal presented in ref. 11. Such an extraordinarily constrained conclusion demands a standard of proof that ref. 11 does not meet.
The scenarios of ref. 11 can, at best, be described as a poorly executed exploration of an interesting hypothesis. The study’s numerous shortcomings and errors render it unreliable as a guide about the likely cost, technical reliability, or feasibility of a 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectric power system. It is one thing to explore the potential use of technologies in a clearly caveated hypothetical analysis; it is quite another to claim that a model using these technologies at an unprecedented scale conclusively shows the feasibility and reliability of the modeled energy system implemented by midcentury.
From the information given by ref. 11, it is clear that both hydroelectric power and flexible load have been modeled in erroneous ways and that these errors alone invalidate the study and its results. The study of 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectric power systems (11) extrapolates from a few small-scale installations of relatively immature energy storage technologies to assume ubiquitous adoption of high-temperature PCMs for storage at concentrating solar power plants; UTES for heating, cooling, and refrigeration for almost every building in the United States; and widespread use of hydrogen to fuel airplanes, rail, shipping, and most energy-intensive industrial processes. For the critical variable characteristics of wind and solar resources, the study in ref. 11 relies on a climate model that has not been independently scrutinized.
The authors of ref. 11 claim to have shown that their proposed system would be low cost and that there are no economic barriers to the implementation of their vision (12). However, the modeling errors described above, the speculative nature of the terawatt-scale storage technologies envisioned, the theoretical nature of the solutions proposed to handle critical stability aspects of the system, and a number of unsupported assumptions, including a cost of capital that is one-third to one-half lower than that used in practice in the real world, undermine that claim. Their LOADMATCH model does not consider aspects of transmission power flow, operating reserves, or frequency regulation that would typically be represented in a grid model aimed at assessing reliability. Furthermore, as detailed above and in SI Appendix, a large number of costs and barriers have not been considered in ref. 11.
Many researchers have been examining energy system transitions for a long time. Previous detailed studies have generally found that energy system transitions are extremely difficult and that a broad portfolio of technological options eases that transition. If one reaches a new conclusion by not addressing factors considered by others, making a large set of unsupported assumptions, using simpler models that do not consider important features, and then performing an analysis that contains critical mistakes, the anomalous conclusion cannot be heralded as a new discovery. The conclusions reached by the study contained in ref. 11 about the performance and cost of a system of “100% penetration of intermittent wind, water and solar for all purposes” are not supported by adequate and realistic analysis and do not provide a reliable guide to whether and at what cost such a transition might be achieved. In contrast, the weight of the evidence suggests that a broad portfolio of energy options will help facilitate an affordable transition to a near-zero emission energy system.

Richard Page
Reply to  Streetcred
September 18, 2022 6:05 pm

Like it. Very good analysis. Shame you’ve posted it to the wrong article but it’s very fine all the same.

Reply to  Streetcred
September 19, 2022 7:51 am

“terawatt-scale storage” .. I can’t begin to convey the possibilities of such things being used as bombs (Hiroshima was 0.016Twh)

David Kamakaris
September 18, 2022 6:13 am

“Litigious Climate Scientist on the Hook for Legal Fees”

Not getting my hopes up too much just yet, but this is a step in the right direction in undoing the climate insanity that today is running rampant over all of us.

September 18, 2022 6:27 am

Will this wake the woke?

Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 9:20 am

Not until the wake of their wokeness

Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 9:30 am

It might if this guy is on the hook for the whole $600,000 plus his own attorneys’ fees if any. One thing some of these folks do not like to do is put their own money on the line.

Reply to  starzmom
September 18, 2022 9:32 am

Hmm, should there not be punitive damages if a suit is filed with malicious intent?

Reply to  starzmom
September 18, 2022 10:01 am

Maybe he can recoup his losses by investing in “green” energy sources. Ya know, because they’re the wave of the future.

Reply to  Brad-DXT
September 18, 2022 10:05 am

Do any of them actually invest in these schemes without substantial subsidies?

Reply to  starzmom
September 18, 2022 10:23 pm

Wasn’t it Warren Buffet that said those companies wouldn’t be worth anything without the subsidies?

Mike Maguire
Reply to  Brad-DXT
September 18, 2022 10:53 am

“Maybe he can recoup his losses by investing in “green” energy sources”

You joke but that’s the gist of it!

Green Energy Scores a 76X ROI for Their Lobbying Efforts

Reply to  Mike Maguire
September 18, 2022 10:21 pm

That is showing how well lobbying works for “green” energy companies for getting government assistance, not what they pay out in dividends.

They are harvesting subsidies. What happens when the subsidies are pulled?

Reply to  Brad-DXT
September 20, 2022 5:47 am

The trick is to get out before that happens.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  starzmom
September 18, 2022 5:05 pm

I believe that the attorneys for Jacobson may, if the court concludes they filed the suit knowing it to be baseless, be on the hook as well.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
September 18, 2022 5:51 pm

One can only hope, and a new congress and resident requiring plaintiff attorneys to share in a loss would help reduce the overly litigious US court system interference in commerce.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
September 19, 2022 12:11 pm

There are provisions in the law for penalties for attorneys who file frivolous law suits. Not only fines and such, but the possibility of disbarment. Most attorneys are well aware of this and act accordingly.

Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 4:39 pm

They’re like the ‘walking dead’ … impenetrable !

Michael in Dublin
September 18, 2022 6:30 am

There is one section from the article that is particularly relevant and worth quoting:

Scienceshould be a platform that all ideas should be critiqued and examined,” Clack told Retraction Watch:

That is why it is a slow methodical process. No one should be above being held accountable for errors or mistakes. Humans are imperfect, and so mistakes will happen, it is the job of science to correct and build from them. If there are critiques people should publish them because in the end it will only slow human progress if they do not. It should be the institutions job to protect those that publish such critiques (which most universities do). (bold – my emphasis)

This should be the introduction to all climate debates!

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
September 18, 2022 8:04 am

But it isn’t science. It’s a neo-religious cult. And heresy isn’t tolerated.

“Professor: Climate Change Deniers Are Criminals”

Death Penalty for Global Warming Deniers? By Richard Parncutt, Professor of Systematic Musicology, University of Graz, Austria

Fortunately? Most get away with a mere public burning at the stake on Twitter and cancellation.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
September 18, 2022 8:14 am

This should be the introduction to all climate debates!

Hear Hear, and here’s me fessing up to my algorithm error.

The first change corrects a conceptual error in the DAET model design whereby previously the global average air temperature GAT was calculated by averaging the air temperature of the two sides of the model. This procedure of averaging temperature is not physically appropriate, and this error has now been corrected by applying the process of averaging energy flux for the two sides of the model prior to conversion to average air temperature using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation.

Notice of Erratum Correction to the DAET Climate Model 14Sep2022
You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
September 18, 2022 10:47 am

“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” – Richard P. Feynman

“Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty—some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.” – Richard P. Feynman

True scientific endeavor always requires questioning assumptions, particularly your own.

Reply to  RetiredEE
September 18, 2022 10:59 am

Were I wrong, one would be enough. Einstein.

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  RetiredEE
September 18, 2022 4:12 pm

I have seen the difference between science and engineering in my own family with one of my children a scientist and another an engineer. An engineer has to produce and/or maintain something that works reliably. The (academic) scientist works on something he or she hopes may prove to be beneficial or perhaps simply as an intellectual exercise. That is why I often find the insights and discussion of engineers far more sensible and practical than of scientists when it comes to the question of renewables and climate action.

Nearly all religions are part of a culture of blind unquestioning faith. In both foundational Judaism and Christianity, however, the mind and reasoning are not denigrated or relegated. Both make astonishing claims but also encourage their followers to apply their minds and think through these. I an not aware of anything like this in the Qur’an.

Richard Page
September 18, 2022 6:35 am

He expected them to settle rather than fighting the case. That is very telling – when the EPA conducts routine ‘sue and settle’ suits, it obviously skews the attitude of these activists to the legal system.

Reply to  Richard Page
September 18, 2022 10:07 am

The idea that it is cheaper for a defendant to settle rather than fight a suit that has no merit is a scary thought and it happens all the time. Even in criminal courts, and I say that as a criminal defense attorney.

Reply to  starzmom
September 19, 2022 5:51 am

There was the case of Aaron Swartz. He downloaded scientific papers from a computer in an unlocked cabinet at MIT. Although he had an account to access the papers, he was charged and … “If convicted on these charges,” said Ortiz, “Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million.”

He was offered a plea deal where he would spend a year in jail. He refused that and committed suicide. In any case, he was probably innocent of the charges laid against him.

September 18, 2022 6:40 am

“Jacobson dropped the suit, telling us that he “was expecting them to settle…”

In other words, this suit was extortion.

John Garrett
Reply to  tgasloli
September 18, 2022 6:47 am


Reply to  tgasloli
September 18, 2022 7:19 am

Well no it was really in contravention of anti-Slapp law designed to curb extortion. It’s important to get the facts right in such matters.

Taylor Pohlman
September 18, 2022 6:56 am

Now what about Steyn’s anti-SLAPP suit?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Taylor Pohlman
September 18, 2022 5:10 pm

As I recall, it was ruled untimely. The anti-SLAPP provisions can only come into play at the conclusion of the suit, or when the court dismisses the suit. It appears Steyn’s lawyers jumped the gun.

September 18, 2022 7:09 am

“…Table 1 of our paper contains average, not maximum values…” But average and maximum values have no merit when assessing a renewable contribution to a grid. What is correctly needed is a minute by minute assessment of what the renewables can contribute, going back several years based on weather data, so an accurate determination of backup requirements can be made. It’s the backup requirements which always destroy an economic argument for renewables. See King Island and El Hiero for proof of that.

September 18, 2022 7:23 am

Michael Mann is the poster boy for this. Had costs awarded against him in Canada for a vexatious lawsuit and said he’d never pay them.

Reply to  Terry
September 18, 2022 8:08 am

said he’d never pay them.”

He seems, deep down, like Tony Bliar… “I did it in good faith, I believed…”

Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 8:39 am

No, Mann is just a fraud and he knows it….Hockey Puck graph indeed.

Reply to  Antigriff
September 18, 2022 8:42 am

Some might just say Blair was a bit of a fraud…

Richard Page
Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 9:32 am

Some might say ‘a bit’ is an understatement.

Reply to  Richard Page
September 18, 2022 11:05 am

Some might also say ‘is’.

David A
Reply to  HotScot
September 19, 2022 2:37 am

Some may argue on the meaning of “is”.

September 18, 2022 7:43 am

Let’s all agree that the climate is an act of god and therefore lawsuits based on opinion about it (which modeling is) are ridiculous.

Reply to  Doonman
September 18, 2022 8:31 am

“Let’s all agree that the climate is an act of god “

Sorry, I can’t go with that. The climate is what it is. In the absence of any evidence, god is obviously something you actively choose to believe in.

It doesn’t make it real.

Rick C
Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 10:54 am

While I am an atheist, I understand the phrase “acts of God” is legal terminology meaning an event in nature beyond human control. It applies to many situations such as contracts where failure to meet a requirement due to forces beyond ones control are involved. e.g delays in construction projects due to flooding.

Reply to  Rick C
September 18, 2022 11:15 am

You swear on the Bible in court…

Read the Bible – eg Genesis- in public and you’ll get arrested for hate speech


Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 11:43 am

I have seen hundreds of witnesses get sworn in and exactly none of them have sworn on a Bible. You just raise your right hand hand and swear to tell the truth. Maybe other places do it differently.

Reply to  fretslider
September 18, 2022 11:45 am

You haven’t had to swear on a Bible in court in many decades.

Reply to  fretslider
September 19, 2022 9:08 am

Well let’s just say if men don’t believe in God they’ll soon invent one or Hell on earth perhaps?

Ill Tempered Klavier
Reply to  observa
September 19, 2022 12:53 pm

“Hell on Earth” = everywhere Marxism becomes dominant

Marx said, “I hate all gods.”

I wonder if he has reconsidered since becoming one.

September 18, 2022 8:38 am

Blair King did a 3 part series on Jacobsen’s questionable numbers back in 2015….here’s one pf them…

September 18, 2022 8:47 am

Turnabout is fair play in science. Jacobson could have published again in PNAS, demonstrating his case that all of Clack’s work was wrong or misleading. Jacobson could then have reiterated his original case.

Triumph would have been his (were he able to make the demonstration)

But he didn’t do that. Jacobson departed standard scientific debate — betrayed it, in fact — to transfer the disagreement to the courts.

The one case Jacobson *did* establish is that the debate about CO2, climate, and “renewables” is political at its base.

Josh Scandlen
September 18, 2022 8:59 am
Richard Page
Reply to  Josh Scandlen
September 18, 2022 9:39 am

Interesting. I fail to see how his appeal will be successful, I think he’s just flailing blindly now. Surely he’s aware that an appeal decision could, possibly, reinstate the full amount of costs asked for, rather than the reduced amount?

Reply to  Richard Page
September 18, 2022 2:47 pm

He will rely on a kind GangGreen bazillionaire to pick up the tab.

John Hultquist
September 18, 2022 9:34 am

 Kerfuffles over scientific research have erupted ever since humans started to explain the natural world. Some may be embellished in later writings.
One story involves Pythagoras and fava beans.
Disagreement about the explanation (massive floods of a glacial lake) of the Channeled Scablands of Washington State was nasty and prolonged.

Scientists should encourage skepticism. [Richard Feynman made this argument.]  

Peta of Newark
September 18, 2022 10:00 am

So the turkeys vote for Christmas while lawyers do the stuffing.

Did you know that (certainly in the UK) police have discovered that folks driving home from a Christmas lunch, are worse drivers than if they were “as pissed as farts”

Because of the depressant effect of what is a very large almost entirely carbohydrate based meal.
But but but you say, what about all that turkey-meat I ate?

Yes, but turkey-meat is very low fat, very high protein. So when you get that inside you, the protein is turned into sugar. While it wrecks your kidneys,
Add in the stuffing, the potatoes, gravy loaded with flour, all the other veggies, and THEN, Christmas Pud, Christmas Lunch is a Low Fat High Sugar Meal.

Thus and some hours later, possibly while driving home, an almost irresistible urge to ‘Power Nap’ comes over you.
Not recommended while driving.

Boys/drivers: Eat the dark meat and the skin
Girls: Eat the gristle. The gristle is Collagen and when you get to menopause, your skin won’t turn into that of the average dinosaur nor will you get Rheumatoid Arteritis

There has got to be a parallel in there somewhere…………..

Richard Page
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 18, 2022 12:32 pm

Eugh you first. I’ll settle for not driving after Christmas dinner, with the added bonus of opening another bottle!

September 18, 2022 11:10 am


September 18, 2022 4:40 pm

Jacobson’s modeling is entirely worthless.

It has too many simplifications.

Perhaps the most comical is his use of existing hydropower dams as flexible resources.

Most of the energy from hydropower is the US is from dams built primarily for flood control and irrigation. The electricity is an extra add-on. Their use is extremely limited by constraints in operating licenses. For obvious reasons. When a dam increases or decreases flow, it affects all river users.

Jacobson’s modeling would cause rivers to go dry, then flood, then back to dry again.

Doc Chuck
Reply to  vboring
September 18, 2022 11:32 pm

I don’t know, vb, my model sports sustainability conclusions approximating Jacobson’s solar/wind model for steady electrical grid support, even if mine admittedly includes fudge factors of just over 3 on pertinent factors that may just give it Pi in the sky application in the real world. My lawyers Budge, Itt, and Starv will handle all inquiries, as my secretary is instructed to report that I’m out of the office on ‘Jury Duty’ (which is what I’ve named my sailboat).

September 18, 2022 5:02 pm

Professor Marc Jacobson Has published widely on the future under climate change. His intention to sue in this case is just as wrong, according to the judge, as were his papers.

Larry Hamlin
September 18, 2022 5:23 pm

Great outcome. Could not be happier about the loser “professor”. He deserves it for being a complete arrogant renewable energy advocate jerk.

Reply to  Larry Hamlin
September 19, 2022 10:14 am

You put professor in quotes….

I see a different way.

Great outcome. Could not be happier about the loser “engineer”. He deserves it for being a complete arrogant professor of academics only (portraying himself otherwise). At best willfully ignorant; but most likely, a conniving liar, trying to make a name for hisself (either way, a piece of shit).

Bob Hoye
September 19, 2022 4:23 pm

Getting what he deserves.

Pat from kerbob
September 19, 2022 8:32 pm

So, has deadbeat Mickey Mann paid court ordered costs to Tim Ball yet?

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