Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and was recognized in 2007, with other IPCC authors, for contributing to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a lead author on the "Observed Climate Variability and Change" chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report. Mann contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
In his recent Washington Post Op-Ed "The myth of 'settled science,'" Charles Krauthammer delivers on only one small piece of what his headline promises: Myth. His commentary is a veritable laundry list of shopworn talking points, so predictable now in climate change denialist lore that one can make a drinking game out of it.
His cry that it is "anti-scientific" to declare climate change a "fact?" A swig of vodka to start things out. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has concluded that "Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities , and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems."
Trotting out a solitary maverick scientist willing to defy the conventional scientific wisdom? A chaser of beer. The physicist Freeman Dyson has impressive credentials in physics, but he is clearly beyond his depth in his forays into climate change. And despite Krauthammer's implications to the contrary, Dyson does not deny that humans are warming the planet and changing the climate.]
Quoting University of Alabama Huntsville scientist John Christy on climate models being "consistently and spectacularly wrong?" A double-swig of scotch for this one. [Christy recently co-authored a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed where he argued that temperatures haven't warmed as much as climate models predicted, based on an extremely misleading and inappropriate comparison of models and observations. Adding to the irony is the fact that Christy is largely known for a satellite temperature estimate that was once used to argue that the globe wasn't warming. When other scientists finally got ahold of his data and reverse-engineered his calculations, they determined this to be an artifact of errors in his algorithm in algebra and sign (i.e. a "-" sign in his calculations where there should have be a "+" sign).
The tired claim that "there has been no change" in global temperature for 15 years? A sip of Baileys on the rocks. Global temperatures continue to increase, and to the extent that warming has slowed slightly in recent years , it appears that natural factors are only temporarily masking Earth's increasing heat content.
Dismissal that climate change had anything to do with the devastating impacts of superstorm Sandy? A sip of Piña Colada from a "Hurricane glass," of course. Sandy was an unprecedented storm meteorologically. It had the lowest central pressure (one key measure of strength) of any storm ever to travel north of Cape Hatteras in the Atlantic. Unusually warm, late-fall ocean waters helped feed this intense storm. Sandy was the largest tropical storm on record in the Atlantic, and the unusually large area of tropical storm-strength winds meant larger storm surges along the U.S. east coast. The storm surge was roughly a foot higher than it would otherwise have been, because of global sea-level rise due to global warming.
A similarly themed claim that tornado activity is actually decreasing? A shot of gin! Krauthammer claims extreme tornado activity is down, but actual tornado experts have pre-emptively cried foul on such claims; the data are not reliable enough to determine what the trend is.
And finally, an exploitive, cynical attempt to denounce use of the term "climate change denial" as a reference to "Holocaust denial?" A snifter of Brandy before we call it a night. Denial is a catch-all term for the dismissal of what is plainly evident. It has no Holocaust connotations. One suspects Krauthammer is shedding crocodile tears. I might add that, as someone of Jewish descent, I find such cynical exploitation of the tragedy of Nazi Germany deeply offensive and completely unacceptable.
The night's festivities may sadly come to a close now. But worry you not — we'll see this game played over and over again, just as long as there are cynical columnists around who are all too willing to shill for powerful vested interests even when it means jeopardizing the health of our planet.
Mann's most recent Op-Ed was "Does Polar Vortex Mean 'So Much for Global Warming?'" Mann is author of two books, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines" (Columbia University Press, 2012), which is now available in paperback with an update and a new guest foreword by Bill Nye "The Science Guy", and "Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming" (DK Publishing, 2008). You can follow him on Twitter: @MichaelEMann. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.
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Michael E. Mann is presidential distinguished professor and director of the Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of the new book "Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis." (PublicAffairs, 2023) and "The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet" (PublicAffairs, 2021).