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Former UVA (Now at UPenn) Climate Scientist Michael Mann – Who Was Persecuted by Climate Denier Ken Cuccinelli – Lays Out the “Urgency and Agency” of the Climate Crisis in His Brilliant New Book, “Our Fragile Moment”

Oh, and definitely make sure you never vote for anyone who denies or minimizes the climate crisis.


We’ve talked a lot over the years on Blue Virginia about the climate crisis, of course, and also about one of the world’s greatest climate scientists – and climate communicators – Michael Mann (who taught at UVA from 1999 to 2005; then at Penn State; now at the my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania). For just a short sampling, see:

For those of you who weren’t following Virginia politics closely when climate science denier (and all-around far-right extremist/nutjob/fossil fuel industry tool, etc.) Ken Cuccinelli was Attorney General, from 2010 to 2014, the above articles – and many more – provide a stark reminder of the disgraceful lengths to which the fossil fuel industry and its allies – almost all in the Republican Party – will go in their attempts to cast doubt on the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing disastrous climate change; to smear climate scientists like Michael Mann; and of course to DELAY ACTION on switching from dirty/plant-trashing fossil fuels to CLEAN energy sources.

Why was Ken Cuccinelli attacking Michael Mann, anyway? Mostly, because Mann was one of the main developers of the famous – and highly accurate – “hockey stick” graph, which clearly and dramatically shows the sharp uptick in global temperatures during the 20th century.  Why have we seen this sharp uptick in global temperatures? At this point, there’s certainly no doubt, with the *overwhelming* evidence showing that this has been caused by human activity – mostly production and burning of fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, and also deforestation and other changes which have fueled dangerous, potentially catastrophic disruptions to the earth’s climate, which had remained relatively stable for many years prior to the 20th century (going back to the last ice age 11,000+ years ago).

So you can see why the “hockey stick” graphic – and other evidence for human activities causing dangerous climate disruption, heating, etc. – would be threatening to fossil fuel interests, as it starkly illustrates the necessity and *urgency* of humans switching off of oil, gas and coal ASAP.  Of course, the concept that a heavily subsidized, highly destructive/polluting industry should be able to spew out planet-trashing emissions (not to mention anti-clean-energy propaganda) indefinitely is completely insane. And yet, thanks to their bought-and-paid-for influence on our political system, along with a highly flawed media. they’ve managed to buy themselves decades to do just that…the planet be damned!

Which brings us back to Professor Mann’s brilliantly written, highly informative and fascinating new book (Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis), and specifically its emphasis on not just the URGENCY of dealing with the climate crisis, but also the fact that we humans have AGENCY to decide what type of future we’re going to have. Right now, in fact, nations of the world are meeting in Dubai (at the COP28 talks) – ironically, a petrostate – to discuss/debate what the next steps should be. As they do so, it’s important to keep in mind the AGENCY part of what Professor Mann’s talking about; as he tweeted this morning:

“Don’t play into the fossil fueled-psyop ‘It’s too late to limit warming to 1.5C’. The obstacles remain neither physical nor technological but political. To insist it is politically impossible is a self-fulfilling act.”

Professor Mann is absolutely right, of course; today, we have ALL THE TOOLS WE NEED – although obviously, we should continue research and development to find even cheaper/better ones – to switch off of fossil fuels and on to clean energy (solar, wind, energy efficiency of course, etc.). For instance, we need to – and are able to – triple renewables by 2030, just over six years from now. At the same time, we need to commit to phasing out fossil fuels on as rapid a timetable as is possible. We also need to make major changes to agricultural, land use, forestry and other practices. And, of course, as part of this transition, we need to embrace a broader cleantech revolution, switching to highly efficient heat pumps, electric vehicles, energy efficient appliances and homes, etc.

The good news is that these goals are all doable AND will all make the world a better place to live in, reducing the risk of climate catastrophes – potentially massive sea-level rise and flooding; droughts and intense storms; ocean acidification; loss of biodiversity; you name it – as long as we use our AGENCY, reject destructive “doomism” and *take action*. Because, as Professor Mann states over and over again in his book, it’s really in our hands what type of future we’re going to see – whether or not we “act before it truly does become too late” to make sure that this “fragile moment” doesn’t turn into unmitigated catastrophe in coming years.

Bottom line: given all this, let’s all make sure that when we vote, we ONLY vote for candidates who: a) agree that we need to take urgent climate action; b) obviously, are NOT climate deniers (that should be an automatic disqualifier, at all times/everywhere); c) commit to making this a TOP PRIORITY (along with safeguarding our democracy). And these days, it’s just a fact that this eliminates pretty much any/all Republicans from consideration for your vote, as today’s Trumpified GOP has morphed from Teddy Roosevelt environmentalism and Richard Nixon creating the EPA to…yep, the anti-science/anti-environment (not to mention anti-democracy, anti-women’s reproductive freedom, etc.) nightmare it is today. In short, to paraphrase the bumper sticker: no, Democrats aren’t perfect, but Trump Republicans are CRAZY!

P.S. See here for some great comments about Professor Mann’s book, including:

  • Bill Nye: “Mann shows that over the last few hundreds of millions of years, Earth has been snow-ball cold, tropic hot, rainforest wet, and desert dry. Its atmosphere has been oxygen poor, oxygen rich, or choked with deadly gas. But Earth has never been through anything quite like humankind. Our current comfortable climate is disappearing— because of us. It’s cause for thundering alarm, but is not cause for despair or doomist gloom. It’s time for action. Don’t believe me? Read this book.”
  • Al Gore: “Mann has a tremendous depth of knowledge about the history of our planet’s climate, which is why his words of warning and optimism are so important. This book provides important lessons from humanity’s past to empower readers to help protect our future.”
  • Jeff Goodell: “Reading Our Fragile Moment is like taking a spectacular hike through billions of years of Earth’s climate history with one of the great scientists of our time. Oh look — there’s the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs! There’s the great ocean conveyor! There’s the Rossby waves! When you reach the summit of Mann’s wonderful book, you will understand just how rare and beautiful our moment is — and why we need to fight harder to protect it.”

P.P.S. Bonus points to Professor Mann for quoting The Police song, “Walking in Your Footsteps (“Hey Mighty Brontosaurus, Don’t You Have a Lesson For Us?”) and for the fact that it VERY much relates to the subject of his book! Also, more bonus points for explaining the concept of “hysteresis” (“a lag between input and output in a system upon a change in direction”) and other scientific concepts in such a clear and compelling way.




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