One thing the climate change denialist industry depends on is being able to act with impunity. They've been emboldened to say just about anything because they're almost never held accountable by those they attack, obstruct and even defame.
Things might be about to change.
Scientific American reports that climate scientists have decided to employ a little legal muscle.
The American Geophysical Union, representing more than 62,000 Earth, atmospheric and space scientists worldwide, has teamed with the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund to make lawyers available for confidential sessions with scientists at its annual meeting next month.
Legal counseling is not a typical agenda item for a science confab, but it's become an important one in today's political climate, scientists say.
The role of science in society is evolving, said AGU's executive director Chris McEntee. As society faces more conflict over natural disasters, natural resource use and climate change, scientists increasingly find themselves in the spotlight, forced to communicate findings in ways they haven't in the past.
One-on-one litigation counseling, McEntee said, is "part of a broader suite of services to help our scientists communicate and interact with the broader world outside of science."
It's an issue few researchers contemplate as they prepare for a career in science, said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York and founder of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.
"When you get your degrees in science, you have no understanding of how the legal system works," he said. Such naivety is often exploited to slow down the scientific process, he added, especially in controversial areas like climate research.
Penn State climatologist Michael Mann has been at the receiving end of multiple legal challenges as the creator, more than a decade ago, of the now-famous "hockey stick" graph merging contemporary and prehistoric temperature records.
There's no question to him of the value or need for legal knowledge.
"Many scientists in my field now find themselves at the receiving end of attacks by groups who abuse open records laws to saddle scientists with vexatious and intimidating demands for personal emails and other materials," he said in an email. "It is critical that they be informed about their legal rights and available recourse."