‘Climate Wars’ – Leading Climate Scientist, Dr Michael Mann, Gives Public Talk in Trinity

Posted on: 26 January 2015

A public lecture by world-renowned Climatologist Dr Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology,  director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (2012) took place recently in the Edmund Burke Theater, Trinity College, to a near capacity audience.  According to Dr Mann, who was visiting Trinity College as part of The EU Observatory of the New Human Condition, the aim of the talk was to ‘cut through the fog of disinformation that has been generated by the campaign to deny the reality of climate change’ and in doing so, to reveal how this creates a real a threat to our future. A podcast of the talk by Professor Mann may be found here.

With high hopes of a legally-binding international agreement on climate action, Dr Mann’s talk took a look at the controversies and disagreements associated with climate science and how this influences public opinion and action on climate change. Focussing on climate science and climate action, Dr Mann explored the role of scepticism in science, the uneasy relationship between science and politics, and the dangers that arise when special economic interests and those who do their bidding attempt to skew the discourse over policy-relevant areas of science.

Pictured on the occaision (l-r): Professor Poul Holm, Professor Michael Mann and Dr Charles Travis

Professor Mann commenced his talk by repeating the recent official confirmation from NASA that 2014 was the hottest year on record, arguing that this “should put to rest the absurd notion of a ‘pause’ in global warming.” Mann was referring to an argument used by climate change sceptics that there had been no rise in average global temperatures for the past 16 years.  In his lecture Mann reasserted that climate change “is real, caused by human activity and a threat to humanity” and blamed fossil fuel interests in the United States for the lack of progress in addressing it.

Professor Mann also pointed out that climate change had been recognised since the mid-nineteenth century and was explained by simple physics and chemistry. Drawing from his recent book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Despatches from the Front Lines he employed the Hockey Stick graphic of increasing global temperatures to “cut through the fog of disinformation” disseminated on the issue of climate change. The Hockey Stick is a simple, easy to understand graph Dr Mann and his colleagues constructed to depict the changes in Earth’s temperature since 1000AD.  It also quickly became the central icon in the so-called ‘climate wars’ and the attacks on a body of science and the researchers whose work formed its scientific basis.

In his talk, Mann also highlighted the “uneasy relationship between science and politics, and the dangers that arise when special economic interests attempt to skew the discourse”. Mann spoke about his experiences as “an involuntary and initially reluctant public figure in the battle over climate change” and cited his young daughter as a reminder of his ethical obligation to preserve the planet for our children and grandchildren.

The European Observatory of the New Human Condition is a Trinity Long Room Hub Environmental Humanities initiative led by Trinity Long Room Hub Professor of Humanities Poul Holm, Dr Charles Travis and Ms Jo D’Arcy. This project aims to explore human agency in relation to global climate and environmental change. The Action workshop looked at the need to address global climate change and what may be learned from the Humanities.