on November 27, 2014
Followed this Mann's work for years. He became ground zero in the war between big oil and climate change, and somehow miraculously survived. Not since the McCarthy era have such draconian tactics been employed to attempt to stamp out unwanted information. In this case, however, the information was truth and fact. A very good read for anyone who followed the climate denial scandal from 2005 to 2010.
on March 11, 2012
Throughout all the years of public disputes about climate change, arguably no scientist has taken as much flak as Dr. Michael Mann. This mild-mannered paleoclimatologist is frequently accused of fraud, incompetence, scientific malpractice, Communism, and orchestrating a New World Order. These charges have been proven baseless time and time again, but the accusations continue. Dr. Mann's research on climate change is inconvenient for those who wish to deny that current global temperatures are unusual, so he has become the bulls-eye target in a fierce game of "shoot the messenger". In "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines", a memoir of his experiences, Michael Mann finally speaks out.
The story begins quite harmlessly: an account of how he became a scientist, from childhood curiosity to graduate work in theoretical physics to choosing climate science on a whim out of the university course calendar. For those who have followed Dr. Mann's research over the years, there is some great backstory - how he met his coauthors Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes, the formation of the IPCC TAR chapter about paleoclimate, and how the RealClimate blog operates. This book also filled in some more technical gaps in my understanding with a reasonably accessible explanation of principal component ananlysis, a summary of millennial paleoclimate research before 1998, and an explanation of exactly how Mann, Bradley and Hughes' 2008 paper built on their previous work.
Dr. Mann's 1998 paper - the "hockey stick" - was a breakthrough because it was the first millennial reconstruction of temperature that had global coverage and an annual resolution. He considered the recent dramatic rise in temperatures to be the least interesting part of their work, because it was already known from instrumental data, but that part of the paper got the most public attention.
It seems odd for a scientist to downplay the importance of his own work, but that's what Dr. Mann does: he stresses that, without the hockey stick, the case for climate change wouldn't be any weaker. Unfortunately, his work was overemphasized on all sides. It was never his idea to display the hockey stick graph so prominently in the IPCC TAR, or for activists to publicize his results the way they did. Soon the hockey stick became the holy grail of graphs for contrarians to destroy. As Ben Santer says, "There are people who believe that if they can bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC," and the entire field of climate science as a result.
Michael Mann is an eloquent writer, and does a fabulous job of building up tension. Most readers will know that he was the target of countless attacks from climate change deniers, but he withholds these experiences until halfway through the book, choosing instead to present more context to the story. The narrative keeps you on your toes, though, with frequent allusions to future events.
Then, when the full story comes out, it hits hard. Death threats, and a letter full of suspicious white powder. Lobby groups organizing student rallies against Mann on his own campus, and publishing daily attack ads in the campus newspaper. Discovering that his photo was posted as a "target" on a neo-Nazi website that insisted climate change was a Jewish conspiracy. A state politician from the education committee threatening to cut off funding to the entire university until they fired Mann.
Throughout these attacks, Dr. Mann consistently found trails to the energy industry-funded Scaife Foundation. However, I think he needs to be a bit more careful when he talks about the links between oil companies and climate change denial - the relationship is well-known, but it's easy to come off sounding like a conspiracy theorist. Naomi Oreskes does a better job of communicating this area, in my opinion.
Despite his experiences, Michael Mann seems optimistic, and manages to end the book on a hopeful note about improvements in climate science communication. He is remarkably well-adjusted to the attacks against him, and seems willing to sacrifice his reputation for the greater good. "I can continue to live with the cynical assaults against my integrity and character by the corporate-funded denial machine," he writes. "What I could not live with is knowing that I stood by silently as my fellow human beings, confused and misled by industry-funded propaganda, were unwittingly led down a tragic path that would mortgage future generations."
"The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars" leaves me with a tremendous empathy for Dr. Mann and all that he has gone through, as well as a far better understanding of the shouting match that dominates certain areas of the Internet and the media. It is among the best-written books on climate science I have read, and I would highly recommend it to all scientists and science enthusiasts.
on September 8, 2012
So, Eric, you make unsupported charges of Mann's work being 'full of innuendo,' and that he's a 'quack,' plus it's full of 'innuendo."
Could you list you refereed sources of those charges? If not, it's just another denier's libelous and unfounded OPINION. Man can, OTOH, list the numerous independent investigations which have not only shown his work to be NONE of what you claim, but quite the opposite.
on September 12, 2012
You don't have to be a science major to be able to read this book, but it does help to be able to think critically.
Michael Mann doesn't make outlandish and illogical statements. He describes his life experience and his research clearly and with an eye to communicating the essence. He refers frequently to the works of other scientists. He has, as he describes, had a head-on collision with forces of ignorance and deceit. He has walked away intact and with his head held high.
Climate science is not new, as Dr. Mann points out. It has been going on for almost two hundred years. As with many of the sciences, the amount of research being done has increased many times over the last fifty years. Dr. Mann's results are corroborated by multiple teams of scientists in climate science and related fields.
This book is well-written, does not bog down and gives a real-world taste of what it is like to be a scientist being persecuted by ignorant people who would prefer to ignore science in favour of drivel given to them by corporate interests and their lackeys.
My hat is off to Dr. Mann and all of the scientists who have stood up to the political/ideological narrow-minded persecution rampant in our world.
A fine book by a fine gentleman who is also, obviously, a superb scientist.
on September 18, 2012
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars by Michael E. Mann is about the hockey stick graph, perhaps the most iconic image of the global warming issue, a graph that Dr. Mann and his colleagues produced to show changes in the Earth's temperature dating back to 1,000 AD. This book examines the history of the graph and the subsequent assault resulting from it that Dr. Mann has endured from the fossil fuel industry and the politicians and minions beholden to it.
Mann describes these attacks as a Serengeti strategy wherein predators when attacking single out what looks to be a vulnerable animal at the edge of a heard. It's a strategy that's been attempted before by climate change contrarians, most notably on Dr. Ben Santer, a climate researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Dr. James Hansen, a climatologist who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. And it's the same strategy being employed en masse by the Canadian Government to keep its scientists from straying away from its official position on energy and the environment. For contrarians the idea is that if they take down a noted climate scientist they take down climate change, or at the very least muzzle him.
Not so with Michael Mann. Like Santer and Hanson before him, Dr. Mann responded not by clamming up and blending in with the rest of the herd as they do on the Serengeti plains but by steadfastly maintaining his position and by speaking to the science, which he does with great conviction and clarity.
I found Mann's accounts of his battles with Senator James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma (he of the global warming is a hoax school of thought and "the leading recipient of oil and gas money at the time") and Joe Barton (R) of Texas (named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the planet's "most notorious polluters and deniers") riveting. These battles arose from Soon and Baliunas' problem plagued study, McIntyre and McKitrick's criticisms ("unfounded" according to the National Centre for Atmospheric Research), and the Edward Wegman Report, a repackaging of M&M's material with the addition of a six degrees of Michael Mann analysis. These battles were dark holes for me when I first started exploring the global warming problem and remained so until I read Dr. Mann's book.
For Canadians Mann's account of M&M's 2003 attack, preceded the Climate Stewardship Act, is particularly noteworthy. In a journal of questionable merit, M&M published a paper critical of the Hockey Stick just days before a key vote in the U.S. Senate on a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set up a cap and trade system to control green house gas emissions. The bill was defeated by seven votes. Did the M&M paper, which was later roundly refuted, have an effect? Who's to say? But the fact that the U.S. government has failed to implement a carbon pricing scheme has been cited by Canada's Stephen Harper government as reason enough not to implement one in Canada.
M&M's attacks have become the standard strategy for the contrarian community. Strike at an appropriate time--before a key bill, climate conference, or an election--with a questionable paper, a handful of e-mails, or a bogus claim. Then cue the fossil fuel industry's public relations team to stir up an outrage sufficient enough to thwart any effort to do something about climate change. Mann's book has helped us open our eyes to this tactic.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
on October 24, 2012
This book is a first-hand account of a scientist who got inadvertently caught up in the war against climate science. A fascinating inside account of how a graph showing historical surface temperatures derived from proxy data became a lightning rod for climate change deniers, how statements in hacked emails were misconstrued, and how ideology was pitted against science. Dr. Mann's writing style is engaging, and complex science and math are explained in layman's terms. Highly recommended.