A prominent climate scientist explains why scientists are taking to the streets

Apr 27, 2017

One of the most famous and vocal climate scientists is speaking out, again. Penn State researcher and author Michael Mann was recently asked by Democrats to be a witness at a hearing on climate science. It was held by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Mann called the other three witnesses fringe experts because they were questioning the science behind climate change.

“Somewhere between 97 and 99% of actual scientists publishing in the scientific literature are convinced by the evidence that climate change is real, human-caused and a problem. In this hearing, only 25% of the witnesses reflected that position: me.”

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith from Texas is the chair of that committee. It was looking at the underlying science used to inform climate policy. Smith and others claim there’s still a debate about whether people are responsible for climate change. Smith’s been called a climate skeptic, but Mann has a problem with that term.

“They’re not skeptics because good scientists actually are skeptical,” says Mann. “To deny the Earth is warming, that the human impact of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations from fossil fuels is behind that, to deny the impacts that we are now plainly seeing, in terms of unprecedented droughts, and floods and extreme weather events, to deny that is extraordinary and yet those who do deny the overwhelming evidence can’t marshal any convincing lines of evidence for their case. That’s the opposite of skepticism. That’s contrarianism or denialism.”

Mann was a featured speaker at the March for Science in Washington, and plans to march in Boston at a satellite of the People’s Climate March this weekend.

“I can tell you I’m a scientist, many of my friends are fellow scientists," says Mann. "We more or less prefer to be left alone, in our labs, out in the field, doing what we love doing, which is scientific exploration. The last thing we typically want to be spending our time doing is marching in the streets. So you know things have gotten pretty bad.”

The Washington Post reports the March for Science drew crowds in more than 600 cities on six continents last weekend.

“What it means, is that the assault, in my case on the science of climate change that’s been plainly evident for years, but under the Trump administration, we’re now seeing a wholesale assault on science. In my view, scientists’ voices need to be heard. The very thing, science and technology, it’s what we built this country on, all the modern conveniences of life, we owe thanks to science, and to turn our backs on that now is literally a threat to civilization," says Mann.

He says scientists recognize that, and as a result, are willing to speak out about it.

You can catch more of Michael Mann on the new podcast, Trump on Earth, co-hosted by Kara Holsopple.