Given the recent increase in extreme weather events, the battle over the scientific fact of climate change is essentially over, Michael E. Mann asserts in his punchy and illuminating new book, The New Climate War. What remains of the opposition has retreated to a new do-nothing battleground he calls “inactivism,” a position that will not save us from the severe consequences of climate change for human life on the planet.
Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist who teaches at Penn State University, uses both peer-reviewed climate science research and combative wit to expose the strategies of people and industries bent on deflecting responsibility and limiting the systemic change necessary to move the world away from dependence on planet-destroying fossil fuel. He also calls out those on the extreme opposite side, the “doomers” who proclaim it is simply too late to act.
In examining the deflective arguments of those most responsible for climate change, Mann notes that their stalling tactics have focused on convincing us that this is an issue of individual responsibility—personal recycling, eating less meat, driving less and flying a lot less. Yes, he says, these are certainly helpful practices, but they cannot solely address the scale of the problem or enact the vast changes needed worldwide from business, industry and government to save the planet. At the same time, he promotes an optimistic view. We are not yet on the precipice of doom, he says. We have agency and can act—but we do need to act immediately.
Mann clearly has skin in this game. Both his professional and personal reputations have been viciously attacked in response to his work. Here he fights back, settles some scores and argues for the necessity and possibility of aggressive, systemic changes. It’s a bracing read—both eye-opening and even fun.