by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
In a recent post at Environmental Progress, Michael Shellenberger reports that:
Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson has filed a lawsuit, demanding $10 million in damages, against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and a group of eminent scientists (Clack et al.) for their study showing that Jacobson made improper assumptions in order to claim that he had demonstrated U.S. energy could be provided exclusively by renewable energy, primarily wind, water, and solar.
Afrer describing the lawsuit as “an appalling attack on free speech and scientific inquiry,” Shellenberger urges the courts to reject it as “grossly unethical and without legal merit.” He also urges various groups to join him in denouncing it, including “Stanford University, Stanford Alumni, and everyone who loves science and free speech,” and also “those that support the 100 percent renewables framework, such as Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).”
As a legal matter, Jacobson’s defamation claim is absurd on its face. However, as Shellenberger points out, there are two additional reasons why everyone, even environmentalists, should oppose the suit. The first reason is that it is based on a lie:
The lawsuit rests on the claim that Clack et al. defamed Jacobson by calling his assumption that hydroelectricity could be significantly expanded a “modeling error.”
Environmental Progress weighed in on this controversy when Clack et al. published their article. In our view, it’s clear that Jacobson made a false assumption about the possibility of expanding U.S. hydroelectricity. …
Renewables like solar and wind require vastly larger amounts of land and mining in order to produce power that is unreliable. Under the guise of protecting the environment, renewables destroy the environment.
One of the most environmentally devastating ways of producing electricity is with hydroelectric dams. While poor nations have a right to make cheap power from hydroelectricity, their environmental impact is enormous.
Jacobson’s proposal is to expand radically hydroelectric dams so they can support unreliable solar and wind energy. Such a proposal would devastate fish species even more than they have already been devastated.
The only way to promote such an environmentally devastating agenda is to claim it is good for the environment. That requires lying. Now that these lies have been exposed, it is revealing that Jacobson has resorted to a lawsuit that cannot and will not do anything more than intimidate his opponents.
The second, and ultimately more important, reason why everyone should oppose the lawsuit is that, if it were to succeed, it would threaten the very basis of the scientific enterprise:
What Jacobson has done is unprecedented. Scientific disagreements must be decided not in court but rather through the scientific process. …
Scientists and energy analysts should not be intimidated. We must stand up to bullies.
Mr. Shellenberger is right on both counts. Let’s all join him in denouncing this “unprecedented and appalling attack on free inquiry.”