Ep. 13: The Climate of Mann

On a Tundra Buggy looking for polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. (Photo credit: Michael Mann)

On a Tundra Buggy looking for polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. (Photo credit: Michael Mann)

One of the most famous and vocal climate scientists is speaking out, again…

Penn State researcher and author Michael Mann was recently asked by Democrats to be a witness at a hearing on climate science held by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Mann says that the other three witnesses are fringe experts, questioning the science behind climate change.

“Somewhere between 97 and 99 percent of actual scientists publishing in the scientific literature are convinced by the evidence that climate change is real, human caused, and a problem. In this hearing only 25 percent of the witnesses reflected that position…me.”

Republican congressman Lamar Smith from Texas is the chair of that committee which was looking at the underlying science used to inform climate policy. Smith and others say there’s still a debate about whether people are responsible for climate change. He’s been called a climate skeptic, but Mann has a problem with that term.

“They’re not skeptics; good scientists actually are skeptical. You need evidence and logical reasoning and compelling arguments to support a hypothesis or finding. And the more extraordinary the hypothesis, the more convincing the evidence has to be. And to deny that the Earth is warming, that human impact is behind that, or to deny the impacts that we are now plainly seeing in terms of unprecedented droughts and floods and extreme weather events–to deny that is extraordinary. That’s the opposite of skepticism. That’s contrarianism or denialism.”

Mann was a featured speaker at the March for Science in Washington, and plans to march in Boston at a satellite of the People’s Climate March this weekend. He say these types of events send a very important message to the public.

“I’m a scientist. Many of my friends are fellow scientists. We more or less prefer to be left alone, in our labs, out in the field, doing what we love doing, which is scientific exploration. The last thing we want to be spending our time doing is marching in the streets. And so you know that things have gotten pretty bad. What it means is that we’re now seeing a wholesale assault on science. And so, in my view, scientists’ voices need to be heard. You know, the very thing–science and technology–it’s what we built this country on, it’s all of the modern conveniences of life, we owe thanks to science. And to turn our backs on that now, is literally a threat to civilization. And scientists recognize that, and as a result are willing to speak out about it.”

Michael Mann is a distinguished professor Atmospheric Science at Penn State, and his most recent book is called The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.

Reporting by Reid Frazier