Michael Mann on Climate: “There’s Still Time to Make the Right Choices”

Climate scientist Michael Mann from Penn State recently spoke at a TED event, and what he says in this video is nearly the same as in the article I wrote a year ago after hearing Mann speak — but now you can hear it from Mann himself.

The real shame here is that he needs to keep telling these same stories despite the overwhelming scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change.

38 Replies to “Michael Mann on Climate: “There’s Still Time to Make the Right Choices””

  1. I read the review articles in Science and other journals. I am not a climate scientist by any means, but from what I can see the science is fairly clear.

    I found this quote by Martinus Veltman (1999 Nobel prize winner with ‘t Hooft for QCD)interesting. It goes far in portraying this so called debate or controversy over climate warming:

    We are living in a totally ridiculous world. We have all kinds of things from horoscopes to Zen Buddhism to faith healers to religions to what have you. All kinds of things are going around in the world […], including what politicians do and the kind of nonsense they let us swallow. The whole world around us is full of nonsense, baloney, big speak and what have you. And that of course is not new. 99% of what people do usually moves in the sphere of something which is irrational, not correct, what have you? So in this whole world of all the baloney that goes on why does it [science] exist? It’s because […] a few hundred years ago Galilei, Copernicus and these people discovered the scientific method. And the scientific method is something that allows you to make progress whereby your statement is this: In the scientific method […] the only criterion we have is that it can be explored experimentally and if we have a theory we will believe it if it produces something that can be verified experimentally. And in this way without telling us why and how it is there we have separated our science from religion. We have found a basis on which we can access without being put on a stack and set to fire. So for science it’s very essential that we take a position that through the scientific method that keeps us away of all the irrationalities that seem to dominate human activities. And I think we should stay there. And the fact that I’m busy in science has little or nothing to do with religion. In fact I protect myself, I don’t want to have to do with religion. Because once I start with that I don’t know where it will end. But probably I will be burned or shot or something in the end. I don’t want anything to do with it. I talk about things I can observe and other things I can predict and for the rest you can have it. — Martinus Veltman


  2. Nancy, years ago I used to read Scientific American every day. They then decided to take the global warming side of the debate and the site has spiraled into the gutter every since. The name calling and vitriolic comments have made a joke out of the on-line magazine. Lots of comments with capitols and exclamation points and name calling.

    There is debate on the theory of AGW, and there are many educated and brilliant minds on both sides of the issue. We, as scientists, are supposed to follow the scientific method, not follow the crowd as done in consensus science. Models are great tools, but cannot be made yet to accurately predict the future. Check out how many different spaghetti graphs are produced for each hurricane, and usually none of them are accurate. While those modeling programs are different from those used by the climatologists, they work the same way. I’m not saying we should stop trying, but, test them in the real world and if they fail, start over. Never should the observed evidence be adjusted to fit the model.

    It seems to me that accurate science is a lot more important than following the crowd.

  3. Maybe I missed it, so correct me if I’m wrong, but the speaker didn’t seem to mention how inefficient our agriculture of meat is. It takes almost 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, as opposed to 25 gallons per pound of wheat. Over 10 times as many fossil fuels will be used to to produce a pound of meat protein than a pound of plant protein. In my opinion, If one doesn’t deny the warming, this should be on the table for discussion.

      1. An adjustment in financial incentives would help alleviate the problem. A thoughtful application of subsidies, taxes and rebates could be used to shift the relative costs of meat and non-meat products on the consumer market and reduce meat demand.

        I believe that this is a shift that will happen anyway, in the normal operation of the free market, as it responds to climate change and fuel shortages. But a lot of greif could be saved by nudging the markets now.

      2. I’m pretty sure that the meat eaters are responsible for so many animals being born to die in factories. I would love to save these animals, but most of them can’t even survive in the wild anymore.

    1. 2500 gallons per POUND? So a single, 800 pound cow takes 2 million gallons of water to grow from a fetus to fat adult, which translates to 2700 gallons a DAY for a single beef cow with a 2 year lifespan. That seems pretty outrageous, even if you count the water for the grain they eat.

      1. Alright, I was unfamiliar with the concept of virtual water, now I am, and see the figure is sound; I also see that it’s a useless figure in the context you used it, as the virtual water cost of an item is irrelevant to how the water used to produce it is acquired.

        The concept of virtual water is brilliant for economics in dry countries. It’s completely worthless in determining the efficiency of something. It says nothing about CO2 emissions, energy used to get the water, the amount of wheat that could be produced if the cattle farm would have switched to wheat; nothing. It’s unreasonable to say that beef is 100x less efficient that wheat because of the figure.

        Now, the figure of over ten times the fossil fuel for a pound of meat protein, that’s applicable, and I’m not interested in debating vegetarianism.

        Have a nice day=)

  4. In another 50-100 years, our children and our childrens children are going to LAUGH at this generation and label us as the ones that actually believe humans can change the temperature of the planet! This rubbish has to stop now. There are other more significant environmental issues than carbon dioxide.

    1. I highly doubt that the children will find the temperature change funny. If the implications of the warming are real, I sure hope that it’s not the least of our environmental issues.

    2. When the cup is empty there is only a problem, wen it’s filled there are thousands.
      Now in the western world it’seems we’re going to empty our cup so we can have less problems to deal with. Good luck!

  5. Our children and our childrens, children are going to look back at this generation and LAUGH at how ridiculous we all are for actually believing that humans are capable of changing the temperature of the planet!

  6. The science stems from the empirical fact that carbon dioxide scatters IR radiation strongly. The molecules O==C==O exhibits vibration modes which are resonant with the infrared band of EM radiation. This means the molecule absorbs and re-emits this radiation readily. The physics here was one reason some of the first lasers were IR lasers that used CO_2 in the lasing cavity. For this reason a CO_2 molecule appears in a quantum mechanical context to be huge to an incident IR photon, and so scatters strongly. This is the cross section one can calculate with quantum mechanics. So an increase from 280 parts per million to over 400 ppm in the atmosphere means IR photons are more scattered around in the atmosphere. This means the thermal energy in the atmosphere is increased.

    That is the chemical physics behind this. The model systems employ the data one derives from this to estimate what will happen to the thermal balance of the atmosphere. The work on this has almost universally demonstrated an increase in thermal content of the atmosphere. Using past data on CO_2 content these models reproduce what has been observed in the past. The prognostication is then something we should take seriously. It is estimated that by the end of this century CO_2 will increase to 1000ppm and the heat trapping will result in 3 to 5C thermal increase.

    I am not sure whether we will really do anything to reduce our carbon output. Estimates have it that we will need to reduce it by 50% by mid century to avoid another 1C warming. Given the inertia on the part of those who really run this world (financial and corporate power) I doubt that will get started soon enough, and the practical problems of such conversion are daunting. So I suspect that in 25 years there will be a great “oh shits report” that will outline what has become obvious. From there we may then have to engage in geo-engineering, which could involve space based screens of nanofibers meant to scatter solar radiation away from Earth. The average half life of a CO_2 in the atmosphere is over 500 years. So if we are forced into geo-engineering we are forced into doing this over the long haul.

    It might sound crazy to think we could change the climate on the planet. Yet it is in line with how our species, in its amazing capacity to exploit resources, has changed the landscape of this planet enormously. We are on a different planet than what our Pleistocene ancestors would have recognized.

    One encouraging bit, though I may be premature in making this observation, is that the howling chorus of AGW deniers is not as strong this year. Back in 2009 an AGW article appeared here on UT around this time of the year, and it filled up with over 100 comments from a herd AGW deniers who came out of the woodwork. So far that does not seem to be happening, but today may yet be telling. So this might mean the anti-AGW crowd is losing its steam.


  7. Wonder why climate fear mongers claim that rising carbon dioxide is human made effect. It is known that ocean water which is 3/4 of our planet surface releases carbon dioxide because of rising water temperature. This implies that global warming is a natural process.

    1. How do we know that humans are responsible for the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere? There several ways, but the simplest is straightforward book-keeping. We know from global economic data how much coal, oil, etc we burn each year. From that, it’s easy to calculate how much CO2 we dump into that atmosphere each year. Converting figure into PPM (parts per million) in the atmosphere is a high-school homework exercise.

      Do that, and you will find that humans have put about twice as much CO2 into the atmosphere needed to account for the actual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. So simple arithmetic can prove that humans are responsible for all the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, and that the oceans have been absorbing, not releasing, CO2.

      But don’t take my word for it. Look up the numbers and crunch the data yourself. Like I said, it’s a high-school math/science homework exercise.

      1. Water absorbs more CO2 when is cooled, in fact cooling is the way we put CO2 in sparkling water, not warming, ask any x-cola productor.

  8. It’s a shame the writer of this article can’t write an objective piece without injecting her opinion into the story…

    1. Have you considered the possibility that it’s an opinion piece? Opinion pieces are liable to contain opinions.

      Also, I think you’re being rather generous in describing it as an “article” or a “piece” anyway. It’s literally two sentences.

  9. Tom Nicolaides The real shame is that so many people keep buying into this bogus “science” supported by predictions of rigged “models.”

    1. By all means, please link to some peer reviewed scientific publications by climate experts that show this to be true.

  10. For an Astronomical website, I am continually surprised at how ignorant of astronomical effects and their effect on climate you appear to be.

    The only extant theory which explains planetary climate change over eons and can predict future climate change is Henrik Svensmark’s theory of cosmic rays and cloud formation. Michael Mann is a charlatan and a crook. His hockey stick has been proven to be a fabrication.

    But for those true believers in AGW, nothing can change their belief in the tenets of their new religion. Far from being objective, which was the basis of science as I remember it.

    1. I’ve never heard of this speaker, so I don’t know of him personally, but he clearly missed many of the issues. Which effects have we been ignorant of? I don’t want to risk misunderstanding the assertion.

      1. I do get disillusioned with the CO2 only idea, it tends to distract from many other relevant issues. I won’t have time to watch all of those yet, but thanks for sharing links.

      2. The cloud experiment is meant to measure the nucleation of water droplets due to occurrence of high energy particles. This is in effect a form of the old Wilson cloud chamber. The phase transition of water vapor to liquid in droplets requires something which breaks symmetry, or that acts as “dirt” to catalyze the phase transition. This can include ordinary dust or the occurrence of a high energy particle. So there is no problem with the idea that cosmic rays play some role in the formation of water droplets and whole clouds.

        Things become dicey when it is conjectured this accounts for the warming of the climate. To make such an assertion it requires there to be some change in the overall flux of cosmic rays incident on Earth. That crucial part of the alternative climate model with cosmic rays is missing.


      3. Why it’s missing? Solar cycle is proven to vary GCR flux. GCR flux is proven to form droplets from water vapour. Droplets form clouds and clouds reflect sunlight in space. More GCR more (low level) clouds and more sunlight reflected in space less ground heating

      4. The solar cycle is periodic, with a period of 22 years. The solar cycle is not such that there has been some net increase or decrease in solar flux over the last 100 to 150 years which is coincident with climate warming over this time period.

        The sun produces charged particles which impact the Earth in the KeV range of energy. Largely these particles are deflected by the geo-magnetic field, where some spiral into the polar regions to produce aurora displays. Cosmic rays have energies in the 100 GeV to 10TeV range on average, which are a completely different energy domain. Cosmic rays are due to supernova or GRB events where shock wave compressed magnetic fields accelerate particles (mostly protons) to these high energies. This cloud experiment is using the LHC protons to simulate cosmic ray particles at around their peak flux and energy.

        To claim that cosmic rays are a cause for global warming it requires there to be some change in their flux. As a rule if there is an effect measured there has to be some causal source; the system is tweaked by A and the response of the system is B. So the warming of the climate must be due to some causal source which is changing. Cosmic ray fluxes have not changed in some averaged monotonic manner, so cosmic rays are not a good candidate for climate change.


      5. Solar cycle has a mean period of 11 years, not 22. Other longer periods of Solar activity are known to exist. Increases shielding from GCR affecting thr Earth’s magnetosphere,

  11. I have been discussing with someone that the barycenter could put the sun closers to Earth and thus causes 2% of energy increase.
    If you combine the big planets and align them you can get indeed a 1.5 million km sift of the Sun’s rotation point.

    However shifting the Sun’s bary center does not automatically mean that it is 1.5 million km closer to Earth. I think (need simulation to check this) that Earth also shifts in the same direction..

    Second the close approach of Earth would be short, since the alignments would not stay aligned.

    Third there are no alignments currently occurring.

    So what are your viewpoints on this?

    1. I think that it is completely wrong talking of terrestrial orbital shifts in such a short time.
      Orbital and axis inclination variations need hundred thousands years periods.
      Take a look to “milankovitch cycles” to get an idea of.
      There are some “correlations” (which means we are not sure but it’s worth to investigate)

      1. — I think that it is completely wrong talking of terrestrial orbital shifts in such a short time. —
        No, the same forces acts on the Sun and Earth at the same time. If the sun gets pulled one way then Earth also gets pulled the same way. I think we can easily check this using a gravitational planetary simulator. I think the distance Earth Sun stays almost the same.

      2. Ok. Think in terms of gravity center of the sol-jupiter system. It happens that the gravity center of the two main bodies of the solar system lies near the surface of the sun. But for the much shorter distance of earth from the sun the earth orbits our star not considering so much the effect of jupiter

      3. I calculated that the distance shift can be 1,500,000 km form the sun’s centre if the 4 big planets align. But that does not mean that Earth will be 1,500,00 km further from the Sun since the same forces also acts on the Earth pulling it in the same direction as the Sun gets pulled.

        We can only confirm this with a simulation using gravity and see what happens on an alignment. Normally those that claim that is will have an effect on climate change must provide the proof.

        The proof can also measured physical by simple triangulation. Measure the sun’s angle and thus the distance.

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