Author Michael E. Mann offers insight into climate change at Virginia Festival of the Book event – The Cavalier Daily
Prominent author and climate change expert Michael Mann visited the University on Thursday to speak and spark discussion about his latest book, “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.” Dr. Mann addressed an overflowing conference room of college students and community members at an event hosted by the Virginia Festival of the Book in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Science. Other participants also joined via Zoom.
A professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University and director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, Dr. Mann has degrees in physics and applied mathematics, as well as a Ph.D. in geology and geophysics. “The New Climate War: The Fight to Reclaim Our Planet” is his fifth book.
At the start of his hour-long presentation, Mann summed up his latest book by explaining how the challenges faced in dealing with the climate crisis are largely political in nature, especially in the present day.
” The impacts [of climate change] are no longer subtle – we see them in real time in the form of these extreme weather events,” Mann said.
Mann believes that those who contribute significantly to climate change, primarily fossil fuel companies and their enablers, can no longer deny climate change. Instead, their strategy shifted to “deviation, division, doomism and delay”.
A narrative that environmental degradation is in the hands of individuals — that citizens need to be more responsible with their consumption — is false, according to Mann. He noted that discussing the carbon footprint of individuals when it comes to a simple 100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions divert attention from needed systemic change.
Due to the extensive propaganda and fear campaigns surrounding the subject, many feel a sense of helplessness, choosing to believe it’s too late to save the planet. According to Dr. Mann, the way forward requires urgency and capacity for action.
“We need to stop polluting the atmosphere with carbon… It’s not too late to take meaningful action,” Mann said.
He urged the public to vote against climate laggards and vote for climate advocates, not only in the presidential election, but also at the national and local levels. Mann insisted, asking listeners to fight voter suppression, pressure Congress to act on behalf of the people, not the polluters, and divert funds to renewable energy sources. Mann pointed out that as the largest historical carbon polluter on the planetthe United States must be a leader in this fight.
“We need to get countries to commit to keeping the promises they’ve made,” Mann said.
Mann smiled as he concluded his speech with the reasons for his optimism – young climate activists. In recent years, figures such as Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor and countless others have bravely led the environmental community – and the world – in the conversations needed for a better future.
“It’s a question of ethics – what kind of planet do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?” Mann asked the audience. “It’s up to us, but we can’t put it all on the kids… We have to take this opportunity they gave us.”
The Virginia Festival of the Book hosted a variety of hybrid, in-person and virtual events in the Charlottesville and Albemarle County area from March 16 through March 20. For more details or to support the festival, visit their website.