Bitter conflict with climate skeptics has moved to the newspapers and media. Earlier this year, German science review magazine WPK Quarterly published a report here on how one scientist dealt with a skeptic journalist, hat-tip here and here.
It’s front page cover bears a full page photo of Stefan Rahmstorf along with the headline:
Independent Scientist or Poltical Agitator?
A journalist defends herself against the malice of Stefan Rahmstorf”
The feature story, written by Markus Lehmkuhl, starts on page 4 and is titled:
Ideology and Climate Change or:
How to shut up journalists
A freelance journalist becomes a target of of renown climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, who in the fight for the alleged truth doesn’t hold back using personal defamation.”
Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is an IPCC lead author, advisor on Hans Schellnhuber’s WBGU, and one of Germany’s most influential climate scientists. Today it is widely known that journalists and scientists who express doubt over man-made climate change or criticism over the science and the IPCC often find themselves attacked by the Potsdam professor via the press or his Internet blog.
For German science journalist Irene Meichsner, it was in the wake of Climategate when she penned an unflattering piece about the IPCC and the slew of errors and false assumptions in its Fourt Assessment Report. Her story was published on February 8, 2010, in two German dailies: the Kölner Stadtsanzeiger (KStA) and the Frankfurter Rundschau (FR). Sticking to the facts, Meichsner’s damning piece cast the IPCC’s credibility into serious doubt.
Rahmstorf, who acts as sort of a gatekeeper and watchdog when it comes to guarding the global warming hypothesis and the institutes that propagate it, responded by publishing 2 pieces at his blog, the first on 20 February and the second on 26 April 2010. He also had a letter published at the FR on March 25, 2010, where he called the accusations made in Meichsner’s story false and made up. He attacked Meischsner, implying that she played loose with the facts, and that she had even lifted part of her text from skeptic blogs.
Rahmstorf even convinced the FR to publish a 2-page retraction on April 30, 2010, which, according to the WPK Quarterly, claimed that Meichsner’s accusations aimed at the IPCC were “part of a campaign by skeptics” designed “to discredit the IPCC”.
According to the WPK, Rahmstorf wrote in his February 20 blog piece that Meichsner’s story represented:
…a media scandal where a few journalists mislead the public with completely exaggerated or freely made up pseudo-scandals. Too many among them are naive and go along without seeing through the farce.”
Rahmstorf also aimed harsh words at the journalist’s integrity and credibility, suggesting that she never bothered to read the IPCC report and that she did things that never happened. For example, the WPK Quarterly writes:
He accused her of uncritically copying text from [Richard] North and [Jonathan] Leake.”
As credibility and reputation are especially important for the survival of a free-lance journalist, and based on that she had stuck to the facts in her article, Meichsner felt Rahmstorf had obviously ventured too far in his response to her story, and so took the matter to court demanding that Rahmstorf be forced to cease and desist making the untrue claims.
So what judgement did the State Court in Cologne hand down? WPK Quarterly provides that (my English legal translation – you’ll forgive me for not being a lawyer):
In the name of the People, 9 February of this year,
a judgement was issued and entails: The Defendant is
judged by the 28th Civil Chamber of the State Court
of Cologne “to (…) cease and desist from
arousing the impression that
a) the Plaintiff copied from bloggers Richard
North and journalist Jonathan Leake;
b) the Plaintiff had the defendent
informed through the editorial board of
the Frankfurter Rundschau that he should
remove the name of the Plaintiff from the
blog story of the Defendant ‘FR Retracts
Article Against IPCC’ and to name only
the Frankfurter Rundschau. Furthermore,
the Defendant must pay the plaintiff
511.58 euro plus interest and bear
two thirds of the costs of the legal dispute.
The Chamber determined that the grounds
were untrue allegation of facts that
violated her personal rights.”
WPK Quarterly wrote at length about this story and featured it in its up-front editorial, deeming the overall case merits special attention because:
“…a free journalist was able to successfully defend herself against the malice that a renown scientist who had dumped on her.”
Although Rahmstorf lost in court, he was able to chalk up an off-court victory. When asked if she would report more on climate change, the WPK writes:
For now she has had enough of climate science. She doesn’t write about it any more.”
Indeed it’s not a topic for those with thin skin and people who can’t afford to put their careers on the line. Expressing skepticism over a politically correct issue in Germany indeed leads to malicious attacks. Like the old saying goes: Sometimes it’s much more dangerous to speak up against wrongdoing than it is to commit it.