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Mann: Reality and threats of climate change are clear

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Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2013 12:00 am

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli certainly has some odd characters coming to his defense in this paper for his attempts to go after climate scientists like myself.

First came Charlie Battig, who sought to defend Cuccinelli’s 2009 attempt to subpoena my personal U.Va. emails with dozens of other climate scientists around the world. Cuccinelli’s actions were widely viewed as a fishing expedition intended to find something embarrassing that he could use to discredit scientific research on climate change. His actions were blasted as a “witch hunt” by The Washington Post, while in The Times-Dispatch, A. Barton Hinkle (5/4/11) described them as a “search warrant without probable cause (that) might be kosher in totalitarian states.” The state Supreme Court rejected Cuccinelli’s subpoena with prejudice last year.

Battig also conveniently ignored the overwhelming evidence for humanity’s contribution to climate change, and in his personal attacks against me and other scientists accused of impropriety, failed to mention that the National Science Foundation’s inspector general investigated and thoroughly dismissed all allegations of misconduct made against me personally.

Most recently the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley of Edinburgh, Scotland, used offensive personal attacks and completely false statements in another attempt to defend Cuccinelli’s use of state funds to engage in a politically motivated attack on both me and Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. Monckton failed to mention that his qualifications for speaking on climate science include claiming to be a member of the House of Lords despite their continued statements that he is not, and being banned for life from the United Nations climate process for impersonating a delegate from Myanmar during the last round of talks in Doha, Qatar.

Lord Monckton goes after the “hockey stick” work published more than a decade ago showing that recent warming is unusual over at least the past 1,000 years. Despite Monckton’s rambling attack, the hockey stick most certainly has not been disproved. The highest scientific body in the nation, the National Academy of Sciences, affirmed our research findings in an exhaustive independent review published in June 2006. Dozens of independent groups of scientists have independently reproduced and confirmed our findings, and more recent work by other groups summarized in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report shows that recent warmth is unusual over an even longer timeframe. There are in fact numerous independent lines of evidence that humans are warming the planet and changing our climate by burning coal and other fossil fuels. And despite Monckton’s and Battig’s claims that global warming stopped 16 years ago, in fact NASA found the warming continues unabated with the past decade the warmest on record.

In what is the most personally offensive part of Monckton’s letter, he says that references to climate “ ‘deniers’ and ‘denialists’ would be illegal in Europe as being anti-Jewish, racialist hate-speech.” This is particularly troubling to me both because I am Jewish and because it does not make any sense. No one is attempting to subpoena or prosecute climate change deniers. We are simply trying to make sure the public understands what the overwhelming majority of scientists believe is happening.

The reality and threat of human-caused climate change are clear. Those such as Cuccinelli, who would silence scientists, and those like Monckton who are misleading the public about this critical issue, are doing a grave injustice not just to us, but to our children and grandchildren who will inherit the legacy of the energy choices we are making today.

Unfortunately, those of us working hard to better understand the implications of climate change have to face these kind of attacks all too often. One has to wonder if Cuccinelli wants people like this coming to his defense. It is precisely these sorts of attacks by climate change deniers such as Battig that led me to write my recent book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” where I discuss my experiences as a reluctant figure in the climate change debate, and what I’ve learned from them.

It is long past time to accept that climate change is real and it continues unabated, that the primary cause is fossil fuel burning, and that if we don’t do something to reduce carbon emissions we can expect far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts on us and our environment in the decades to come.

Instead of peppering important policy discussions with misinformation, outright falsehoods and personal attacks, Virginia should be talking about the very real impacts of climate change and what can be done about them.

Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. Follow him

at Twitter: @MichaelEMann; further contact information available at www.michaelmann.net.

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