When Emerging Science Sues You

Since the time of Ancient Greece, man has enjoyed a good debate. Facts are presented and then refuted and everyone goes home, hammers down some strong Bacchus and sleeps in till noon the next day. Yeah, the Greeks knew how to get it done.

But a Stanford professor didn’t just debate his scientific critics — he sued them for $10 million. That’s like saying “I am right” with a big ol’ legal exclamation point.

Here’s the backstory. In 2015, Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford and several colleagues predicted that wind, solar and hydroelectric power could provide 100% of the energy demand in each of the 48 contiguous American states, “at low cost,” by about 2050. When their conclusions were published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they created a sensation. Jacobson seemed to have produced a road map toward a power grid based on fully renewable sources, without even using “natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries,” his paper stated.

If it seemed too good to be true, it’s because, a new report stated, it was. A critical paper published in the same journal in June, which listed 21 environmental experts as authors, picked apart Jacobson’s conclusions and his methods in painstaking detail. Jacobson was granted space to come back at his critics in the very same issue. So far, so good. That’s the way peer-reviewed research journals are supposed to work: with claims, counterclaims and data, all laid out in public to be judged by the scientific community at large.

But then the dispute took an ugly turn. On Sept. 29, 2017 Jacobson sued the National Academy of Sciences and the lead author of the critical paper, environmental scientist Christopher T.M. Clack, for defamation. In the lawsuit, filed in a Washington, D.C., court, he’s demanding $10 million in damages from the Academy.

So a good debate can be healthy, but can also sometimes get “legal” pretty quickly. We’re humans, we don’t see things the same way and we dispute them in court. It happens. And when disputes like landlord tenant matters, contract issues or collections impact YOUR business, call in the Greek God of the Law, Dean Sperling, to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind.

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A Stanford professor didn’t just debate his scientific critics — he sued them for $10 million