Climate science: the fightback

Suzanne Goldenberg’s article in the Guardian today features the embattled Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. As is common with such biographical pieces, there is a book behind it, and Mann’s soon to be published “The hockey stick and the climate wars: Dispatches from the front lines” looks to be one worth reading.

Mann can be a bit cantankerous, but in science that goes with the territory, and it is particularly understandable given Mann’s personal experience of the climate change debate. In recent years I have had some correspondence with Michael, and am convinced he is one of the good guys.

The fightback from climate scientists against entrenched political and business interest groups, many of whose members are best described as morally challenged, is well underway, and Mann’s contribution is but one of many. Others, including Raymond Orbach, whose inbox has contained such original gems as “I know where your kids go to school”, are also speaking out. See, for example, the article by Toni Feder in the current issue of Physics Today.

Sad to say, climate denialism of the form described by Mann and his colleagues is very rational. Far more than the usual contrarianism and robust political dialogue of a mainstream news media battling for survival in the face of competition from the blogosphere, it is a war of attrition that for the past few years has seen many diligent, hardworking research scientists become bogged down in the trenches, with some suffering breakdowns as a result of coordinated character attacks.

Climate science is currently off the political agenda and newspaper front pages, but that is only in part due to the economic downturn. Climate change, on the other hand, remains a reality, and a policy as well as scientific and engineering challenge that cannot be avoided.

With thanks to Michael Mann and others for their service.