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Book review: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines by Dr. Michael Mann, Ph.D
Columbia University Press; Cost $10 to $30

Imagine a place where you and your family are threatened, your employer pressured by the most powerful people on earth to fire you, your email hacked and posted by the usual suspects in accusatory snippets, and where a mysterious letter containing white powder mixed in with tons of traditional hate mail land in your inbox. A suspected communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era, or a Muslim in the wake of 9-11? Nope. All because you helped make one of the most important scientific discoveries in a generation. That’s life in the land of the free and the home of the brave for prominent climate scientists these days, which is why I was personally thrilled to feature one yesterday who not only didn’t shrink an inch, he is fighting back, hard.

Dr. Michael Mann’s new book lays bare the cruel intersection of science and conservative politics faced by a small group of researchers whose crime was simply developing the foundation on which modern paleoclimatology rests. It’s a David and Goliath struggle between scientific truth and corporate propaganda, with nothing less than the biosphere of planet earth in the balance. But the best part, in my science-geeky opinion, is readers of this book will enjoy a dazzling, informative tour of the science underlying climatology and especially the analysis that went into the diagram that caused all the ruckus, first published in Nature by Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1998: the Hockey Stick.

Climate science is perhaps the poster child for complexity and chaos, any layperson could be forgiven for assuming this is a discipline that simply lays beyond appreciation. But in Mann’s able hands that critical background is deftly explained. Other popular climate science books have covered similar topics, but none specifically reviews the science underpinning the book’s visual namesake, along with the nightmarish consequences of being marked for destruction by the rightwing misinformation and character assassination industries, in quite the precise blow-by-blow detail presented in Hockey Stick. There’s something for political junkies and science aficionados alike, as fascinating science sets off every weapon in the powerful politico-energy arsenal, from creepy anonymous threats ginned up by outlets like Fox News and reckless wingnut bloggers, several pointless academic investigations (Each of which found Mann’s scientific work and professional conduct admirable), to public interrogation by fossil fuel puppets Smoky Joe Barton (R-Bought) and Oily James Inhofe (R-Paid For).

If you want to learn more about this landmark discovery, subsequent witch-hunt, and send a clear message of support for Mann, his colleagues, and the reality-based community, consider picking up a copy of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.


Michael Mann is a professor at Penn State University, a founding member of the popular science blog Realclimate, and has appeared on virtually every major news and science cable network. He is active on Twitter @MichaelEMann and joined in the comment section of Daily Kos for a lively discussion.

Comments

  1. StevoR says

    Cheers. I’m certainly considering it. Very keen to read this one. If only I wasn’t so durn broke .. Sigh.

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