Michael Mann spoke to a full room on Wednesday, April 2, about one of the most discussed topics in the science community. His presentation, which complemented his book “The Hockey Stick and Climate Wars,” provided audience members with basic facts about climate change, as well as insight to the ongoing opposition he faces from political parties who deny its existence.
His presentation came on the heels of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) newest report on climate change and its impacts, which was released on March 30. Mann also discussed how he was thrust into the spotlight for public criticism after he released his now infamous “hockey stick” graph.
Mann and a team of scientists put together the graph in 1999 to produce a climate reconstruction of the past 1,000 years. The graph’s data steeply inclines as it nears the year 2000, creating a hockey stick shape. Since its creation, the graph has been the subject of heavy criticism.
One thing that Mann was sure to emphasize was that climate change is not debatable in the science community. Mann then delved into the causes and impacts. He quoted former President George W. Bush, who said “We are addicted to fossil fuel.” Mann explained that human factors, like our use of fossil fuels, are the main cause of climate change.
“We are the polar bears. Climate change is not some existential threat that may hurt polar bears someday, it’s happening now,” Mann said.
Mann’s presentation took a political turn when he addressed those who have devoted their careers convincing others that climate change is a hoax. Mann is currently in a pending legal lawsuit against the National Review, the nation’s leading conservative magazine.
Mann sued the National Review, and one of its writers Mark Steyn for defamation after one of Steyn’s articles accused Mann of academic fraud. One of Steyn’s articles compared Mann, who is currently employed by Penn State University, to former PSU employee and current sex-offender, Jerry Sandusky. Though Mann could not comment on Steyn’s accusations since the lawsuit is still in progress, he was very vocal of other criticism he’s received, specifically from Republican organizations.
Mann’s work was famously attacked by Texas congressman Joe Barton, the largest recipient of fossil fuel money in the U.S., which Mann sarcastically added,
“I’m sure it’s a coincidence.” Mann was also one of the scientists whose emails were hacked several weeks before the 2009 Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change. This incident later became known as “climategate.” Many prominent members of the Republican Party, including Sarah Palin, manipulated words from the leaked emails to attempt to prove climate change is a hoax.
“It’s very difficult to have a sober discussion about solving the problem when so many people want to bury their head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist,” Mann said.
After the presentation Mann answered questions from audience members. Interim President Jody Harpster, who was in attendance, was very impressed by Mann’s presentation.
“I believe in science. The scientific data he shared is accurate. I urge people to look at his material,” Harpster said. Harpster also added that making “environmentally-appropriate” decisions is very important to the campus.
Local farmer and SU alum Nathan Timmons, said the presentation was “very informative.” “I particularly enjoyed his analysis of the political issues associated with climate change,” Timmons said. Mann encourages college students who want to make a change to start by raising public awareness of the issue. “Get involved. College students are in a great position to get a discussion going,” he said. “There’s a really worthy discussion to be had.”