Michael E. Mann

 

On his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

Cover Interview of March 14, 2012

In a nutshell

This book tells my personal story, that is, the story of a young scientist, driven by a curiosity about the natural world, who found himself wandering, essentially by accident, into one the fiercest public debates in the history of science and society. That debate is the raging and often rancorous tussle over the reality and implications of human-caused climate change.

I provide a firsthand account of what I refer to as the “climate wars.”

The climate wars are being fought on science by vested interests opposed to any efforts to regulate our ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  These emissions are warming the planet and changing our climate.  If unchecked, they could have disastrous consequences for human civilization and our planet.

Back in the late 1990s, my co-authors and I published a graph that depicted the trend in temperature of the past thousand years. The graph demonstrated that the spike in global temperatures of the past century was without precedent for at least the past 1,000 years.  It became known as the “hockey stick” for its shape—a long-term decline from relatively warm conditions during Medieval time to the colder conditions of the Little Ice Age (think of this as the “handle”), followed by the unprecedented and abrupt warming of the past century (the “blade”).

By publishing this graph—which quickly became an icon in the debate over global warming—my co-authors and I found ourselves directly in the sights of an industry-funded effort to discredit the science supporting a human impact on our climate.

Although I was initially a reluctant combatant in these battles, as I explain in the book, battle scars have hardened me and have led me to embrace the role I now find myself in—an advocate for insuring that the choices we make today, which have a bearing on the futures of our children and grandchildren, are informed by objective and accurate science—science which indicates that the ongoing, unchecked burning of fossil fuels represents a threat to the future of human civilization.

There are other excellent accounts of the science and politics of global warming. But no other provides such a front line view of the scientific battle behind efforts to save our planet from the perils of climate change.