Nov 10, 2010
Late the morning of November 7, Mann stepped in front of a crowd of reporters just off the campus of Yale University, as part of a plenary panel at the annual Council for the Advancement of Science Writing meeting. It was a friendly crowd, most of whom had spent years covering the overwhelming scientific evidence that greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere by human activities are causing global temperatures to heat up.
Mann concluded that “there’s not just a hockey stick — there’s a hockey league.” Some scientific uncertainties do remain about climate change, such as the precise effects of clouds in a changing climate. “There are legitimate uncertainties,” Mann said, “but unfortunately the public discourse right now is so far from scientific discourse.”
I’ve seen Mann in this frame of mind before; several years ago he testified in front of some of his staunchest critics at a National Academy of Sciences panel set up to review the hockey stick work. The jaw I saw clenched back then seemed not to have loosened, even when the audience was a group of friendly journalists rather than aggressive panel questioners. (The final NAS report reaffirmed the basic science underlying the hockey stick reconstruction.)
Yet Mann remains keenly aware of the political import of every word. He ended his talk with an impassioned plea to action, complete with a picture of his daughter marveling at swimming polar bears at the local zoo. “I can’t imagine having to tell her when she’s grown up that the polar bears became extinct,” he said, “because we didn’t act soon enough to combat a problem that we knew was real but that we couldn’t convince the public of.”
This article was posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:49 am