This is a review of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From the Front Lines by Michael Mann.
by Chris Mooney, via Desmogblog
I first became familiar with the name Michael Mann in the year 2003. I was working on what would become my book The Republican War on Science, and had learned of two related events: The controversy over the Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research, purporting to refute Mann and his colleagues’ famous 1998 “hockey stick” study; and a congressional hearing convened by Senator James Inhofe, at which Mann testified. Inhofe tried to wheel out the Soon and Baliunas work as if they’d dealt some sort of killer blow against climate science. In fact, just before the hearing, several editors of Climate Research had resigned over the paper.
I went on to stand up for Mann, and his work, in Republican War. Little did I know, at the time, that he himself would become the leading defender of his scientific field against political attacks.
Recently, Mann came out with a new book about his travails entitled The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From the Front Lines, detailing his decade long battle against political attacks and misrepresentations. The response has been all too predictable. For months, conservatives have been giving it one star reviews on Amazon.com, some of which suggest that they probably haven’t read it.
What is most fascinating to me is that the science the right is attacking Mann over—principally, the 1998 hockey stick study and its 1999 extension, as prominently exhibited in 2001 by the IPCC—is relatively old news. Indeed, and as Mann himself explains in the book, “attacks against the hockey stick …were not really about the work itself.” That work has been supported by other researchers—there is now a veritable “hockey team,” Mann notes—and anyways, the case for human caused global warming never depended on the validity of the hockey stick alone. It was always just one part of a far broader body of evidence.
Thus, conservatives who fixated on Mann, and continue to do so, tell us through their own actions that this is not really about scientific inquiry at all. If it was, then they’d be doing something quite different from giving Mann one star Amazon reviews.
But of course, climate researchers have been making observations like these for years. It hasn’t mattered nearly as much as it should, though, because they’ve often lacked the communication skills to get their point across. If anything, their scientific training has tended to hobble them in a brass knuckles fight such as this one. And that, to me, is where Mann’s new book matters the most: It shows that he has developed the communication skills to match his unquestionable scientific talent—and moreover, that he has done so because the right forced him to.
That’s why Mann is such an inspiring example for all who care about the climate issue—and why his book is required reading. From the early “hockey stick” battles all the way up through “ClimateGate” and the Ken Cuccinelli inquiry, Mann didn’t give an inch. He didn’t back down; to the contrary, he showed what toughness actually means. And in the process, from the founding of RealClimate.org in 2004 up through the publication of this book, he evolved into a passionate communicator and advocate. Having had him on my podcast Point of Inquiry and heard him lecture, I can assure you that many scientists should take a lesson from him. Read more