Non-Partisan Mann on Heat

The Guardian has an interview with Michael Mann claiming that

A second Trump term would be ‘game over’ for the climate, says top scientist. Michael Mann, one of the world’s most eminent climate experts, says Earth’s future ‘is in the hands of American citizens’

The article is not by one of the Guardian’s dozen or so environment correspondents, but by Mark Hertsgaard,the executive director of Covering Climate Now, “.. a collaboration of 400-plus news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. The Guardian is the lead partner of CCN.”

Michael Mann, one of the most eminent climate scientists in the world, believes averting climate catastrophe on a global scale would be “essentially impossible” if Donald Trump is re-elected. […] None of Mann’s 200-plus scientific papers is more famous than the so-called “hockey stick study”, which Nature published on Earth Day of 1998. With two co-authors, Mann demonstrated that global temperature had been trending downward for the previous one thousand years. Graphed, this line was the long handle of the hockey stick, which surged abruptly upwards in about 1950 – represented by the blade of the stick – to make the 1990s the warmest decade in “at least the last millennium”.

Actually, no. It surged upward from about 1900, at the time that Mann’s average global temperature record begins in 1902. This conveniently eliminates the thermometer-based record of rising temperatures for the previous two centuries, which would reveal that Mann’s claim that his proxies faithfully reproduce global temperatures is bogus. (There are other reasons, too complicated to go into here. See McIntyre and Montford passim.)

In 1999, Mann became an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, where he was targeted by the climate denier crowd… He received death threats, he says, and had emails stolen..

“The future of this planet is now in the hands of American citizens,” he says. “It’s up to us. The way we end this national and global nightmare is by coming out and voting for optimism over pessimism, for hope and justice and progress over fear and malice and superstition. This is a Tolkienesque battle between good and evil, and Sauron needs to be defeated on election day here in the United States.”

Just in case you might think Professor Mann might be exaggerating a bit, the article helpfully links to another statement from a top climate scientist, Sir David King, who said back in 2006: “Even if all CO2 emissions were halted overnight, global temperatures would keep rising and heatwaves, droughts, storms and other impacts would keep intensifying “for about 25 to 30 years.” According to Professor Mann, we now know, thanks to the settled science, that Sir David was wrong, as 

..the actual lag between halting CO2 emissions and halting temperature rise is not 25 to 30 years, he explains, but “more like three to five years”. This is “a dramatic change in our understanding” of the climate system that gives humans “more agency”, says Mann. Rather than being locked into decades of inexorably rising temperatures, humans can turn down the heat almost immediately by slashing emissions promptly. “Our destiny is determined by our behavior,” says Mann, a fact he finds “empowering”.

Mann denies that it’s a partisan statement to say that four more years of Trump would mean “game over” for the climate.

“It is a political statement… But it isn’t partisan… It’s also a scientific statement. Two years ago this month, scientists with the IPCC published a landmark study, Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees, which found that humanity had to cut heat-trapping emissions roughly by half by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. Headlines warned we had “12 years to save the planet”. Those 12 years are now 10. Except more than two years have been lost, because in that time, the Trump administration has prevented the world’s biggest economy from making “the dramatic reductions that were necessary to keep us on that path” of halving emissions by 2030. So now the incline is steeper. It’s no longer 5% [reductions] a year for the next 10 years. It’s more like seven and a half per cent. Four more years of relative inaction, of flat emissions, means that four years from now that number might be closer to 15% a year, and that may be, although not physically impossible, societally impossible… it just may not be economically possible or socially viable to do it that [fast].”

The logic is implacable. If you’ve got to get X gigatons of CO2 reductions in Y years’ time, and then you do nothing for y years, the rate at which you have to reduce goes up (shall we say “exponentially?” Go on. Everybody does, even government scientists who’ve presumably done GCSE maths) .. a lot. 

It’s another hockey stick!

In fact, every time you draw a graph (of projected sea level rise, or ice melt, or temperature rise, or money to be disbursed to the developing world to avert disaster) with a fixed point higher some time in the future, and it flatlines for the first few years, you’re going to need a steeper rise in the time that remains. Steeper and steeper and steeper… 

Hockey sticks are nature’s punishment for procrastination. 

And it doesn’t just work for climate science. That 300,000-word novel you were going to write this year at the rate of a thousand words a day – after nine months of mending the shed roof and bleating about masks on Twitter, you’re going to have to get a move on! And the Guardian’s plan to break even after thirty years of catastrophic loss-making by adding 100,000 readers a month on-line to attract the big American advertisers? Urgent methods are needed. 

Which is why the Guardian has launched Covering Climate Now, their umpteenth climate initiative, following Climate Countdown, the Rapid Response Team, the 97%, and a dozen others over the past twenty years, all to boost their coverage of climate matters, so inadequately covered by their regular team of environment and science correspondents.

Covering Climate Now is: “a global collaboration of more than 400 news outlets committed to transforming news coverage of the defining story of our time.”

Their site lists their 400 outlets,  all sworn to publish exactly the same information, with the same commentary, in the best tradition of the press of the Free World.

The press section seems a bit meagre at first glance. The Southampton Press and the Daily Hampshire Gazette are both American, (nothing there on sea level rise on the Solent then) as is the Nome Nugget. They’ve got some of the best European centre left publications on board, like Il Fatto Quottidiano, La Repubblica and Libération. It’s amazing to me how these civilised, intelligent (though misguided) journals, normally so suspicious of the imperialist designs of Anglo Saxon culture, kowtow to a toe rag like the Graun. There are other big names like the Daily Mirror, San Francisco Chronicle, Asahi Shimbun, Times of India and the Straits Times. (And the Canadian l’Aurore Boréale, if their journalist hasn’t been eaten by a polar bear.)

The “Magazines, Journals and Digital News” section is packed with fascinating titles. Alongside Bird Watching, Hatch Magazine and Living Bird, there’s Asparagus Magazine, Green Queen, and Loveland Magazine (surely some mistake?) Less enticing titles include News and Guts, Sludge, Stuff, Silica Magazine, O Magma and Croakey Health Media.

And do remind me to take a shufti at Pine Tree Watch and Passive House Building.

And of course there’s Scientific American, Nature, Physics World, the Ecologist and the Conversation.

Under “Institutions” is a small but select number of Universities, including Boston, Princeton, Yale, Columbia and Bournemouth (that’s Bournemouth, England) and that Trots’ odd sock, Left Foot Forward. (In an institution is where they belong, but it’s surprising to find them committing themselves voluntarily.)

A surprising omission is NATO, that independent left wing media organisation, whose latest media contribution on the subject of climate change can be found here:

(thanks to Ben Pile)


  1. How did the institutions we generally relied on- a free press, the academy, the arts, religion, all become so full of crap at once?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hockey sticks are nature’s punishment for procrastination.

    And it doesn’t just work for climate science. That 300,000-word novel you were going to write this year at the rate of a thousand words a day – after nine months of mending the shed roof and bleating about masks on Twitter, you’re going to have to get a move on!

    Thanks for that!

    And even more gratitude for putting the US election on the Cliscep map, in the vital context of the impartial thoughts of one of the world’s most eminent climate experts.

    Some of that sentence may be ironic but the first part isn’t.

    Trump and Melania getting the virus a few weeks out is another thing that 2020 hindsight is going to be so helpful for sorting out later.

    But the desperation of Covering Climate Now, yes *Now*, engenders in me just a glimmer of hope.


  3. I spotted the article at the time and posted this comment on it at Bishop Hill unthreaded, FWIW:

    “A second Trump term would be ‘game over’ for the climate, says top scientist”

    “Michael Mann, one of the world’s most eminent climate experts, says Earth’s future ‘is in the hands of American citizens’”…

    …and thereby displays apparent ignorance of the fact that the USA is responsible for around half the GHG emissions of China, and that India’s emissions are around half those of the USA’s and catching up fast, especially as (unlike in China and India) the USA’s GHG emissions are not noticeably increasing – even Mann in the article says ““Four more years of relative inaction, of flat emissions…” when referring to the possibility of another Trump term. He nevertheless seems to think that the US can on its own sort out climate change. Not a mention of China in the article.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beth,
    I weep for you Tiljander,
    Unceremoniously upturned with
    Finnish cultivation made global warming,
    and then wronged when righted and told
    you matter not.

    Singer beneath bridges

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The idea that Mann pretends to be non-partisan, when he has sued critics in court, forced journals to fire editors, attacked scientists who disagree with him by waging war on their careers as well attacking their character, is annoying as hell. Mann comes across as a sociopathetic bully twit, not a serious scientist.


  6. …and as has been pointed out by others, Dr. Mann’s claims about the impact of President Trump on “climate” is anti-scientific hyperbolic bs. So he is clearly not talking about an objective issue in the atmosphere we breathe, but rather the political atmosphere his movement infests.
    And the sooner history can stamp “game over” on the Frankenstein monster of the climate consensus and its parasitic opinion leaders, the better.


  7. I’m not claiming to understand what’s going on but is it not remarkable how the Western MSM, political élites and even governments seem to be, to a gender neutral, united in campaigning for the defeat of Trump in the POTUS election? Covid, Climate Change, BLM, you name it, are all fair game.

    If I see the members of one more football team owned by the likes of a reactionary such as Man City’s Sheikh Mansour “bending the knee”, I am going to scream and kick an injured puppy. Can anyone recall anything remotely like it?

    A jaded old sod like me is tempted to call it improperly interfering in the domestic affairs of a sovereign power but what do I know? Eat your heart out, Vladz old son – you’re an amateur.

    Liked by 2 people

    I can’t see your comment lurking anywhere in the WordPress works.Wordpress doesn’t like first time commenters I’m afraid, or comments with more than two links. Could you try again?
    I managed to delete your duplicate comment but not the apology. Sorry again.



    How did the institutions we generally relied on – a free press, the academy, the arts, religion, all become so full of crap at once?

    I’m glad you asked, because I wouldn’t dare, as it would be dismissed as the usual “going-to-the-dogs” ranting of an old wrinkly.

    Chambers’ two rules of history are:

    1) The widely held belief that everything’s going to pot is sometimes true.
    2) Once you’re old enough to have been able to observe society over a period of decades, you’re a boring old fart whose opinions are of no interest.

    There’s a macro argument that some things really have been getting worse – literacy and mathematical skills among adolescents in Western society for example. This has been exaggerated by pundits for political reasons and to sell books, but I’ve seen it argued that it was real in the USA in the fifties, in the UK in the sixties, and in France a bit later, suggesting strongly that TV might be responsible. Without wanting to flog that tired old horse too much, it’s obvious that leisure time spent in front of the box is time not spent reading. Not all reading is mind expanding, and not all TV is mind rotting, so it may not be an effect that is felt throughout the population. You can even argue that TV expanded people’s horizons, bringing arts like ballet and opera to millions who would never have encountered them. So maybe we all got wider but shallower in our interests (I certainly did.) But a certain minority who would have spent their leisure time reading probably diminished in numbers, and they’d be the people that would rise to positions of power in the media and the academic world.

    If I were a hundred sociology students I’d be writing a hundred theses developing this theme on a micro level, e.g. by examining the evolution of the Guardian. When I started commenting on their climate change coverage, it was because I thought it was falling below their own standards of rigour and objectivity. I was so wrong!

    Today their sister paper the Observer has two articles about Facebook, both criticising them for not censoring their articles enough. One criticises them for carrying a rightwing blog which has linked to someone or other – a blog whose readership is around the size of cliscep’s apparently. The other quotes a Facebook ex-employee who claims they’re not doing enough to suppress hate speech.

    Chandwaney, who is gender non-binary and uses the pronouns “they” and “them”, agreed to only their second interview about the explosive resignation from Facebook to highlight the impact they believe the RFOB has already had.
    They believes both internal dissent and external pressure will be needed to bring change inside a company that from their own personal experience is “not interested” in stamping out hate and incitement to violence on its platforms”.
    “Its going to take everyone,” Chandwaney said by phone from California, deflecting the focus away from their solitary stand against one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

    Time to rewrite the old anti-fascist saw:

    First they comes for the English language, but we isn’t the English language so what us bother?

    Liked by 2 people

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