Tom Blees is the author of Prescription for the Planet - The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises. Tom is also the president of the Science Council for Global Initiatives. Many of the goals of SCGI, and the methods to achieve them, are elucidated in the pages of Blees's book. He is a member of the selection committee for the Global Energy Prize, considered Russia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize for energy research. His work has generated considerable interest among scientists and political figures around the world. Tom has been a consultant and advisor on energy technologies on the local, state, national, and international levels.

by Tom Blees

There has long been a discouraging tension between advocates of renewable energy systems and those favoring nuclear power. Given the challenge of climate change, this sort of conflict between near-zero-carbon energy systems seems self-defeating, even foolish.

Late last year this struggle for influence boiled over when Mark Jacobson sued Dr. Christopher Clack for ten million dollars in a libel suit that many within the academic community found shocking. None of Clack’s 20 co-authors (including some collaborators with SCGI) were sued, only Clack, the lead author. Jim Conca, a valued member of SCGI, covered the story here, and earlier in 2017 he wrote another article on the topic that can be found here.

Jacobson launched his career as a darling of environmentalists with a Scientific American cover story in November 2009. The article, co-authored with Mark Delucchi, claimed that powering human society was possible using only wind, solar, and other technologies either already extant or expected to be developed soon. At the time, SCGI’s Barry Brook had a lively blog that included several professional engineers and scientists, who prided themselves on being faithful to data and scientific principles. That group rather mercilessly critiqued the more outrageous claims made by Jacobson and Delucchi, with the flak only intensifying when Jacobson entered the fray to defend himself.

While there have been others touting 100% renewable claims, Jacobson has become almost a cult leader in the field. His prominence in this arena has made him a target for those who find his claims not only implausible but potentially dangerous insofar as their popularity among millions of people can actually sway public policy.

Last year we posted on this website Ben Heard’s paper Burden of Proof. Ben (and his three co-authors) examined all the major claims of 100% renewables advocates around the world, with Jacobson of course coming in for some pointed criticism. Then Professor Clack and his co-authors went directly at Jacobson with their paper, a rebuke so stinging that Jacobson retaliated with his libel suit. Yet even as that lawsuit was launched, there was another takedown of Jacobson by a pair of authors who put the same sort of critique into a less academic format, without losing any of its punch. That paper, Roadmap to Nowhere, can be found here.

With all this as a backdrop, those who value academic freedom can take solace in the fact that Jacobson withdrew his libel lawsuit shortly after a judicial hearing where Clack had argued the case that Jacobson’s libel suit was a SLAPP action. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It signifies a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

The libel lawsuit was widely seen as a threat to free scientific debate, a critical element in the furtherance of knowledge and progress. Jacobson’s lawsuit seems to have had a rebound effect, with considerable criticism generated from the scientific and academic communities. The end result may well be that more people will tend to regard his “studies” with the skepticism that they so richly deserve.

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