Michael E. Mann

 

On his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

Cover Interview of March 14, 2012

The wide angle

Readers familiar with some of the great debates in the history of science may appreciate the book’s attempt to place the modern debate over human-caused climate change in the broader context of past battles that have erupted when science and politics have collided.

Readers might appreciate, for example, the remarkable parallels that oddly enough exist between the fallacious statistical arguments that lay at the center of early-20th-century arguments for a racial basis of intelligence (as detailed so masterfully in The Mismeasure of Man by the late Stephen Jay Gould) and the arguments that were used by our own detractors in an effort to discredit the “hockey stick” reconstruction of past temperatures.

The book uses the science of climate change as a vehicle for exploring larger issues at the center of science and society.  For example, how we distinguish true skepticism, that is not only good but essential in science and lies at the core of the self-correcting machinery that drives science toward an increasingly better understanding of our world—and agenda-driven contrarianism or denial, approaches that have no place in honest and legitimate scientific discourse.

Readers interested simply in a better understanding of the science of climate change, a debunking of the myths that abound in popular discussions of the topic, and an assessment of the actual controversies and uncertainties in the underlying science, will find, in this book, a discussion that is both accessible and yet does not insult their intelligence.

Historians of science familiar with past lessons over the dangers of the politicization of science will find in this book a cautionary modern lesson which exposes in sometimes dramatic and disturbing ways the dangers that arise when the findings of science collide with the agenda of powerful vested interests.

For those who are simply interested in how the professional path of a young scientist could lead him unintentionally into the center of the fierce and often rancorous debate over climate change, I take them on my own journey.  That is the journey from a young child fascinated about how the world works to a climate scientist forced to do battle against agenda-driven politicians and industry-funded special interests who have sought not only to discredit him and his science, but to threaten his livelihood and safety.