Why I Side With Andrew Weaver

I intended to publish a post today listing a series of problems with the Berkeley Earth temperature record. I had said I would, but a different matter is more pressing. You may have heard about a lawsuit where Andrew Weaver sued the National Post for libel and won. I discussed it a bit just a few posts back. In that post, I was highly critical of some of what has been said at Climate Audit about this lawsuit. That position caused one commenter, JD Ohio, to ask:

Could you now explain the most fundamental basic reasons that you feel that the National Post harmed Weaver in a meaningful way. I originally asked you for the three most inaccurate statements that defamed Weaver and led you to have a negative opinion of him, but you can use whatever method you wish to identify important, practical ways in which Weaver was harmed. (If you choose to answer my question.)

I don't think anyone was waiting for my post on the BEST issues so it seems like it might be better to respond to this direct question about my views. This is especially true since JD Ohio later said (amongst other things):

Personally, I think that Weaver is a hypocritical, reprehensible, vindictive putz who is a predatory litigator.

And then refused to provide any justification for his remarks on the grounds he felt the issue shouldn't be discussed in that location. I'm not sure why it would be okay to make his claims there but not okay to discuss the reasons for those claims there, but it seems worth trying to pursue the reasons in a location it would be acceptable to discuss these matters. As such, I'm writing this post to discuss some of the reasons I side with Andrew Weaver and his lawsuit.

A lot of issues were touched on in Weaver's lawsuit. The ruling is fairly lengthy. I'm not going to try to discuss all of it. Instead, I'm going to focus on one way the National Post misrepresented Andrew Weaver in libelous manner.

I may discuss other examples later, but I want to focus on this one because it is the one I find most troubling. Part of the judge's reasoning for awarding Weaver $50,000 in damages was Weaver:

did not say, in a television appearance linking current weather and temperature events with global warming, “when you see these [temperature] numbers, it’s screaming out at you: this is global warming!” Dr. Weaver does not link current temperature events with global warming. None of the words “temperature” or “global warming” can be found in the original quotation from a newspaper article. Dr. Weaver’s statement did not concern a weather event. Instead, he was speaking about “global annual mean temperature” in December 2007

This is a pretty simple matter. Global warming cannot be linked to specific temperature or weather events. People try to do so for propaganda purposes, but it is completely unscientific. Anyone discussing global warming who does so should immediately be viewed with suspicion as either they don't know what they're talking about, or they are being dishonest. This is a point which has been made by critics of global warming alarmists time and time again.

By claiming Weaver went on television and linked specific temperature and weather events, the National Post invited him to be ridiculed for unscientific and/or dishonest behavior. I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe doing so could harm his career. That means it would be libelous if false.

And it is false. It is obviously false. Not only does Weaver not do what the National Post claimed, he does the exact opposite on a regular basis. He's published books, given interviews and written articles which say we cannot link specific temperature and weather events to global warming. Anyone who has done any research on Weaver's position would know this. Instead, the National Post said:

He has also made numerous television appearances linking current weather and temperature events with global warming, painting sensational pictures and dramatic links.

“When you see these [temperature] numbers, it’s screaming out at you: ‘This is global warming!”

Not only is this wrong, the article Weaver was quoted in said:

"Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997," it added. "The global average surface temperature has risen between 0.6°C and 0.7°C since the start of the twentieth century, and the rate of increase since 1976 has been approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend."

"When you see these numbers, it’s screaming out at you, 'This is global warming,'" said climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in Canada. "It’s the beginning and it’s unequivocal."

That is not linking specific temperature or weather events to global warming. It is linking global warming to temperature rises over 100+ years, temperature trends over 35+ years and temperature records over ~20 years. That is perfectly reasonable, and it is nothing like the National Post claims.

The National Post took this quote out of context, completely misrepresented what it was about and gave a false introduction to the quote, all to paint Andrew Weaver as someone who goes on television to promote unscientific/dishonest propaganda. That is inexcusable and libelous. There is no defense for it.

Or at least, no sensible one. As I pointed out in my previous post, a post at Climate Audit defends the National Post by saying:

In a debate over climate, the 2007 global annual temperature is a “temperature event”. It is deranged to say that Corcoran’s insertion of the explanatory “[temperature]” means that he “changed the quote for his own purposes”.

Which ignores almost the entirety of the misrepresentation. Even worse, it clearly misrepresents what Weaver said as his quote clearly discussed many different numbers, not just the annual temperature of 2007. I can only conclude these misrepresentations happened because the only way to defend the National Post's flagrant and libelous misrepresentation here is to flagrantly misrepresent what the issues at hand were.

I find this example the most troubling because it is so incredibly obvious what the National Post said was wrong, yet not only did they say it, nobody has criticized them for saying it. In fact, when I pointed out how what the National Post said was obviously false and fabricated, I was painted as the bad guy. That means people are defending the National Post's complete and total fabrication which claimed a climate scienist, Andrew Weaver, went on television and promoted unscientific and/or dishonest propaganda.

In my world, it is not okay to fabricate wildly untrue claims to make a person look bad. I'm starting to think that world exists only in my hopes and dreams. It seems anywhere else, it doesn't matter how wrong what you say is if people like it.

20 comments

  1. "By claiming Weaver went on television and linked specific temperature and weather events, the National Post invited him to be ridiculed for unscientific and/or dishonest behavior. I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe doing so could harm his career. That means it would be libelous if false."

    This statement is illustrative of what I would interpret as your belief that all false statements are automatically actionable court. Many in the warmist camp try to link specific weather events to Global warming. In Weaver's circle of contacts, attributing this belief to him would not subject him to ridicule. In fact, there is no evidence in the judge's opinion that he was harmed by the statement. That means to me that as a matter of public policy and common sense that the suit shouldn't have been filed.

    Another way of illustrating my point would be to say that if someone falsely said I had Arnold Schwarzenneger's physique, it may be false but it wouldn't cause me any harm. People make false statements about others all of the time, and if each time a statement was made we went to court, nothing would ever be done. Weaver is a person who can dish out the criticism with highly derogatory and inaccurate remarks about Steve Mc, but when he receives criticism he can't take what he dishes out. Also, the use of defamation suits should not be encouraged in the area of science where new ideas and understandings can be quite unsettling.

    Also, I totally disagree with your interpretation of the use of brackets with respect to 2007 temperatures. When I use brackets professionally (and in my experience this is the way lawyers use them), the point is that I am making clear I am inserting my interpretation of what someone else is saying as a convenience for the reader. Also, by using the brackets I am inviting the reader to check my interpretation to see if the reader agrees with it. In this instance, and in most instances, the use of brackets should not lead to defamation liability.

    JD

  2. Ah the joys of transcending tribal mentality. haha

    Well it does seem a fine point. Weaver is a politician. He is an MLA in Victoria BC and is deputy leader of the BC Green party. I don't agree with the Post smear, but isn't this kind of political rhetoric the norm? I mean, if Weaver held views that were not as favoured by the Queen do you think he would have won his lawsuit?

    I should't talk though because I'm not interested enough to do the reading.

  3. For the purpose of clarity, I would like to amend my first statement following my quotation of your remark to this: Because Weaver has not been demonstrated as having suffered any specific harms as a result of the alleged defamatory statements, (by the judge or anyone else that i am aware of) other than generalized hurt feelings, I believe you are functionally supporting the use of defamation suits and damages in a situation where the plaintiff has suffered no material harm.

    JD

  4. JD Ohio, please tell me you are not serious when you say:

    Also, I totally disagree with your interpretation of the use of brackets with respect to 2007 temperatures. When I use brackets professionally (and in my experience this is the way lawyers use them), the point is that I am making clear I am inserting my interpretation of what someone else is saying as a convenience for the reader. Also, by using the brackets I am inviting the reader to check my interpretation to see if the reader agrees with it. In this instance, and in most instances, the use of brackets should not lead to defamation liability.

    I did not say one word about the use of brackets in this post. I intentionally chose not to discuss that issue in order to show what the National Post did was defamatory without it. The only time I discussed that issue was in my previous post on this topic (which I linked to) where I specifically pointed out focusing on the use of brackets misrepresents what the argument was. Your response here seems to be to ignore what I've actually said then turn around and claim I am wrong by relying upon the exact same misrepresentation I've condemned. Please, tell me you are not serious. With that, or with the idea saying:

    In Weaver’s circle of contacts, attributing this belief to him would not subject him to ridicule.

    Somehow means what the National Post said not defamatory. In no part of the world does defamation law only consider the effect on a person's reputation within a particular "circle of contacts." The idea that it is somehow okay, at least under libel law, to attribute false beliefs to a person because those beliefs are shared by people in one of the groups he is in is absurd.

    As is your idea:

    Because Weaver has not been demonstrated as having suffered any specific harms as a result of the alleged defamatory statements, (by the judge or anyone else that i am aware of) other than generalized hurt feelings, I believe you are functionally supporting the use of defamation suits and damages in a situation where the plaintiff has suffered no material harm.

    I am in no way supporting anything of the sort. I clearly indicated why I believe this material was defamatory, including why I believe it could have harmed Weaver's career. You ignored this to come up with an absurd interpretation where since I don't require proof something did have harm, I don't think harm is necessary at all. That's obviously not true. I clearly stated:

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe doing so could harm his career.

    Under Canadian law, that may not be sufficient to sustain a judgment. I don't know. I don't know enough about Canadian libel law to say. What I do know is I clearly stated my reason for siding with Andrew Weaver is I believe it is reasonable to believe he suffered harm due to the National Post fabricating a claim about him. That is nothing like the view you attribute to me.

    .

    You know, I'm getting really tired of the constant and blatant misrepresentations people are posting to defend the National Post. I'm about to the point where I won't bother repressing my snark. I mean, it's no wonder you guys are defending the National Post's flagrant fabrications designed to smear Weaver. You have to because it's the only sort of argument you've got. What would you do if accuracy or truth actually mattered for discussions?

  5. JamesNV, I don't think this sort of political rhetoric is the norm. I've rarely seen such blatant untruths be published in a newspaper. Heck, I follow political campaigns, and I struggle to think of examples as bad as what the National Post did. You know there's a problem when politicians are most honest and accurate than your newspaper. If nothing else, at least politicians know how to use things like plausible deniability so there is some pretense of justification. The National Post didn't even bother to try at that. If the National Post can say what it said about Weaver in this case, there is literally no lie they cannot tell.

    Defending the National Post in this case is practically saying, "It is okay for the National Post to take any quote, misrepresent it in any way and make any false claims about the person who said it. We'll defend them if they do it." I don't know what the politics of that area are like, and I don't know if this lawsuit would have been successful if the people involved held different views, but I do know one thing: If Andrew Weaver was a "skeptic," nobody currently defending the National Post would say a word in its defense.

    Actually, I know one other thing. I know I wouldn't be receiving any of the abuse I've been receiving for the last couple weeks. Of course, I'd probably be receiving the exact same abuse from people on the other side!

  6. Brandon,

    "What I do know is I clearly stated my reason for siding with Andrew Weaver is I believe it is reasonable to believe he suffered harm due to the National Post fabricating a claim about him."

    That is our most fundamental disagreement. I don't care about parsing the language used. The most reasonable place to look for what realistic and substantive damage was suffered by Weaver is in the judge's decision. It isn't there. You surmise that he did suffer damage. That is your right, but so far based on what is a matter of record, I don't believe that your surmise is correct. This is the ultimate issue from my perspective.

    To me, unless Weaver demonstrates specific and substantive damages, I don't think there is any practical reason to support his suit (either legally or from a public policy perspective) or the judgment. I don't think that we have much else to discuss. Unless you bring up something interesting to me, this is my last post in response to you and your are welcome to have the last word.

    JD

  7. JD Ohio:

    To me, unless Weaver demonstrates specific and substantive damages, I don’t think there is any practical reason to support his suit (either legally or from a public policy perspective) or the judgment.

    All else aside, I would support the judgment from a public policy perspective: "Lying about a person to subject him to ridicule is bad." What the National Post did may not have been lying, but it is indistinguishable from such. Either they knew things they said were false, or they intentionally ignored things which should have caused them to doubt what they said. In the United States, that would be sufficient to establish "actual malice."

    Aside from that, the reality is Andrew Weaver was ridiculed because of the National Post's false reporting. You can argue that's not enough to justify a lawsuit. You can argue Weaver is obligated to show actual damages actual damages. You might even be right about that when it comes to the legal requirements.

    But I will support any lawsuit against a newspaper which so flagrantly makes things up in order to smear an individual if a better resolution cannot be found. Beyond that, I will be vocal in my support if there is a pattern of such behavior like there is in this case. The National Post repeatedly misrepresented (and made up) things in their coverage of and interactions with Weaver. That is inexcusable.

    I get you hold a horribly negative view of Andrew Weaver, one which you refuse to offer any justification for. I get you don't want him to win in this dispute. I suspect your views are held by many other people discussing this lawsuit. What I also get is none of you guys are criticizing the National Post for its horrible behavior which would never be tolerated if their target was someone on the other "side."

    What the National Post did was wrong. That is indisputable. If people want to say it wasn't wrong in a way which justifies a lawsuit, that's fine. They just need to acknowledge what the National Post did was wrong. Otherwise, they're just going to look like biased hacks whose only motivation is tribalism.

  8. I can't really defend the Post. I'm just not sure I can defend the suit or the judgement either. But hey, I can't be bothered to read about it in any depth, so I should really shut up about it.

    I'm pretty sure that "creative misinterpretations" are politics as usual. For example: http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.asp

  9. JamesNV, I have no problem with you commenting on this. Heck, compared to a number of people who claim to know about this case, you're doing a far better job!

    As for "creative misinterpretations," I agree that is politics as usual. I don't think journalists should use the same standards as politicians, but even if they decide to, what the National Post did was still worse. Creative misinterpretations require some level of plausibility so you can maintain deniability. The National Post didn't bother with that. They just flat-out made things up. They took a quote which clearly referred to things like long-term temperature trends and presented it as referring to singular temperature events. They then claimed a guy goes on television and links specific events to global warming despite having no basis for that claim. Even worse, the guy regularly says we cannot link specific events to global warming. What the National Post reported had no basis in reality or anything else.

    Politicians know flat-out fabricating things without any basis or plausible deniability is bad (if not morally, at least for their careers). Apparently people at the National Post haven't figured that one out yet.

  10. I just can't tell the difference between that and claiming that Gore said he "invented" the internet. That's just one example that sprang immediately to mind. It seems obvious that Gore was deliberately "misinterpreted" in order to ridicule him.

  11. JamesNV, the only difference I see there is we're talking about original reporting. I heard the claim Al Gore said he invented the internet from over a 100 different sources. I have no idea who originated it. If that first person really did say that (rather than the message gradually morphing as it went from person to person), I would be as highly critical of them. I'm just less critical of people who repeat a false story they hear than people who make up a false story. That's especially true if the false story becomes popular before the person hears it. If everyone around you believes something, it can be easy to think they're right. That doesn't excuse repeating a false story, but it certainly mitigates their wrongdoing.

    Which also goes back to the plausible deniability thing. I'm sure some people repeated that story despite knowing it was false. I just can't tell who they are. Most of the people who behaved dishonestly about it can say, "I was misled about it like everybody else." That might be a lie, but we have no way to know. There really were a lot of people who were misled into believing it.

    The National Post doesn't have any sort of plausible deniability on this. To this day, the National Post still has not admitted Andrew Weaver says it is impossible to link global warming to specific events. Instead, it stands by its reporting which claimed he goes on television and links global warming to specific events. It's a completely false claim with no basis in anything, and yet, the National Post just won't correct it.

    TL;DR: If you're going to make things up, at least do the courtesy of pretending you are not.

  12. Dowdification:
    "That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated... They're not a problem anymore."

    Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore.

    George Zimmerman
    This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black,” Zimmerman told a police dispatcher from his car.

    Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

    Dispatcher: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black, or hispanic?

    Zimmerman: He looks black.

  13. MikeN, the comments about terrorism may be wrong, but they're hardly defamatory. Unless you want to say they defamed the terrorists? I guess that's possible. I'm not sure how they'd sue over it though. As for the Zimmerman issue, that is definitely misleading, but it is not a complete fabrication. I'm not sure what the point of you posting it is. I'm also not sure why you leave off the part where Zimmerman later said the guy was black of his own accord, which is what the judge used to say there was no libel. I disagree with the judge's decision, but it seems shady to leave out the part the transcript offered as justification for it.

    As for supporting Michael Mann, that is about as misleading a portrayal as you could come up with. I've never supported him as a whole. All I supported him in is his right to have his lawsuit proceed to trial. As I've said many times, I believe he would lose, and lose horribly, once he reached trial. That I said Mann has enough of a case to not have it dismissed out-of-hand cannot reasonably be portrayed as me having "supported Mann." I'd say the exact same thing about hundreds of lawsuits I don't believe should/will be successful.

    More to the point, why shouldn't I support people when I feel they are in the right? Why should who the person is matter? Whether or not I like a person or agree with their views has nothing to do with whether or not I think they are entitled to the same legal rights anyone else is.

  14. During an election, my opponent declares 'Al Qaeda is not a problem' gives an impression of someone who is clueless.
    A misquote to give the wrong impression.

    As for Mann and Weaver, wanted to know if you have followed the third case.

  15. MikeN, did somebody falsely attribute that to another person? If so, that's a lot worse. If they attributed as a literal quote, that'd be about as bad as it gets. If it wasn't a literal quote, it's still pretty bad. I imagine they'd have some shred of deniability (some quote which says something vaguely like that) to avoid a libel suit, but it's still a transparent smear.

    And no, I haven't followed anything with Tim Ball. The little I've read from him makes me not interested in him. It doesn't help that he has an annoying bot on Twitter which spams ads for his book.

    By the way, hopefully I'll be posting a bit more regularly soon. I'm trying to get my next eBook finished. I was making good progress until I heard about the new paper Michael Mann is a co-author on, but now I'm struggling to rewrite some parts. That Mann has published another paper relying on the screwed up data set from Mann 2008, more than half a decade later, certainly deserves some mention. I just need to find a way to restructure my narrative to include it.

  16. “That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated… They’re not a problem anymore.”

    That was the quote attributed to President Bush.

    It was the ... that changed the interpretation.

  17. It appears that Ball is the oldest case, and nothing mentioned, other than one blogger who appears to be making money off of it by claiming to be helping Ball.

  18. MikeN, that is a definitely a terrible distortion. I guess most of it could be explained due to bias causing people to misread what he said (some people came up with the same interpretation even when seeing the full quote), but even so, it's inexcusable.

    On a related note, I'm thinking about writing a new post on defamation. I considered doing so when blogger Sou wrote a post which claims I hacked SkS, a criminal offense. Her falsely accusing me of having committed a crime is defamatory. It's particularly bad as I've written posts to explain exactly how I obtained the material I obtained. I tried raising this point at her blog, but (unsurpringly) my comment was quickly deleted. I'm not the type of person who'd sue over something like this even if I thought I could, but it is annoying to see this same defamation being promoted months and months after I first shot it down. People keep accusing me of having committed a crime here but never provide a shred of evidence. It's obnoxious.

    I had decided it wasn't worth writing a post about, but today I obtained the password for the full Climategate dossier. While doing some research on things for the eBook I'm working on, I came across an e-mail (sort of) threatening legal action for some (supposed) defamation. The standard suggested by the person is rather interesting, especially given who it comes from...

  19. For the record, I decided not to bother with that post because I realized the thing I found most interesting is already public record. Steve McIntyre said it was defamatory for a person to claim the code for one of the papers he and Ross McKitrick published wasn't available. I thought it was interesting to compare what was said there to what has been said in the National Post case. I'm not sure there's any contradiction of standards, but if not, the line being drawn is a very fine one. Regardless, I think it is interesting the things McIntyre took issue with were no more serious than those Andrew Weaver took issue with (and were arguably less serious). Additionally, McIntyre said the right of response wouldn't be sufficient, something that should certainly apply in Weaver's case.

    One example of why I thought there were interesting parallels is McIntyre claimed it was insulting to refer to unsolicited comments as "unsolicited." Apparently he felt calling them "unsolicited" was being insulting because you don't need to call something an unsolicited comment if everyone already knows is an unsolicited comment. I find that argument baffling. I certainly don't see how anyone can find it more tenable than any of Andrew Weaver's arguments.

    I get McIntyre didn't file a lawsuit, but there are still some interesting parallels worth examining if one is interested in the Weaver case.

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