A Stanford University professor who has argued that the nation can power itself entirely with renewable energy by the middle of the century, said Thursday that he’s withdrawing a multimillion-dollar libel suit he brought against an academic critic.
Mark Jacobson’s announcement came shortly after a hearing in the lawsuit in a D.C. court this week. Last year, Jacobson sued Christopher Clack, lead author of a paper strongly criticizing Jacobson’s work, and the National Academy of Sciences. NAS’s journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published Jacobson’s original study and then Clack’s critique.
Among other claims, Jacobson had argued in the case that Clack had wrongly accused him of making “modeling errors” in his research when, in fact, Jacobson had simply made an “assumption,” which is sometimes necessary when trying to simulate a complex system like the U.S. electric grid. The assumption at issue was that existing hydropower dams could be modified so as to massively boost their energy output, albeit for temporary periods of time.
Clack and the National Academy of Sciences had argued that the lawsuit was an attack on free speech and academic freedom, and that it should be dismissed quickly under the District’s anti-SLAPP statute. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
In a post on Stanford’s website, Jacobson said he had realized that “it is possible there could be no end to this case for years, and both the time and cost would be enormous.”
“While I have not succeeded in having the scientific record in [Clack’s] article corrected, I have brought the false claims to light so that at least some people reading [the paper] will be aware of the factually inaccurate statements,” he wrote.
“I know lots of people have lots of opinions about the lawsuit, and I support their right to express those opinions,” Jacobson concluded. “I hope, though, that we can all move forward to solve the important problems we face. I particularly wish Dr. Clack well in his future endeavors.”
But Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist and one of the co-authors of Clack’s study (Jacobson did not sue the 20 co-authors), responded by asking for Jacobson to pay back the cost of the case.
“We note that Dr. Jacobson made the tactical decision to dismiss his $10 million lawsuit after the February 20 hearing on Dr. Clack’s motion to dismiss,” Clack’s attorney, Drew Marrocco, said in a statement. “No doubt Dr. Jacobson based his decision on the high probability that his lawsuit would be dismissed.”