Michael Mann's 'Dire Predictions' Provides Ultimate Guide on Understanding Climate Change


If you find it difficult to fully grasp the concept of climate change, you're not alone. But, thanks to esteemed climate scientists Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump at Pennsylvania State University, understanding the reality of climate change has never been easier.

Mann and Kump's new book, Dire Predictionsexpands upon the essential findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 5th assessment—which evaluates the risk of climate change brought on by humans—in a visually stunning and extremely powerful way. If you've always wanted to better understand the data behind climate change and be able to share this information with your family and friends, this illustrated guide is for you.

I had the chance to interview Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, last week about his book and here's what he had to say:

Q. Your book provides difficult to understand information in a very digestible way. What was your biggest challenge in boiling down the IPCC data in a clear-cut way?

A. Yes indeed. As a scientist who does research on this topic, it is always a challenge to look that at the data, graphs and projections, not as I would as a practicing climate scientist, but as someone who is not familiar with the topic, does not have a technical background and is seeing this stuff for perhaps the first time. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience in doing that now because of the time I spent on public outreach more generally. This book is a joint venture of both Pearson (a traditional academic publisher) and DK (who specialize in picture/photo-driven guides and books), and the supporting cast at Pearson and DK really helped us digest the information and bring it alive in the form of vibrant graphics that come out of the page, and supporting prose pitched at the right level for our audience.

Q. When contemplating the reality of climate change, one can get very depressed. Just the fact, as presented in your book, that "Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases increase" is a huge indication that we're in serious trouble. What would you like to share with EcoWatch readers to provide hope?

A. Yes, there is a fine line between urgency and pessimism. We do try to communicate as clearly as possible both the serious nature of the problem and the urgency of taking action, while stressing that real solutions exist, now. There is no reason we can’t solve this problem, and there are reasons for optimism.

There are signs of real progress today. Both the executive branch (through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and groups of states are enacting policies to lower our carbon emissions, and on the international stage, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon, the U.S. and China, have entered into an historic agreement to lower carbon emissions. There is indeed quite a bit of reason for cautious optimism, going into the Paris summit later this year, that we will see meaningful progress this year. We’ve provided a considerably expanded discussion of the history of international policy agreements on climate change in the book this time, to make sure that readers have a sense of where we stand today in terms of this historical context. Among other things, we provide examples (e.g. acid rain, ozone depletion) where international cooperation has indeed led to solving global environmental problems in the past. There is no reason this time has to be any different.

Read page 1

Q. What role do individuals play in reducing carbon emissions? Is the role of the individual enough? Or is the role of government policy the critical piece to mitigating climate change?

A. Certainly, each person can make a difference. By taking actions to reduce our energy consumption, we can each save money, be healthier and reduce our carbon footprint. But to make the sorts of reductions in carbon emissions that we need to make to avert ever more dangerous warming of the planet, we must incentivize a transition away from reliance on fossil fuels for energy. In the absence of any congressional leadership on this issue, we must turn to other avenues for progress. That includes executive actions like those taken by current administration in the form of the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal fired power plants and higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. It also includes efforts by the states, including the New England states, and the west coast consortium of California, Oregon and Washington, to introduce carbon emissions reduction plans. And finally, it includes a bold new plan by majors of major cities, including LA, Houston and Philadelphia, to reduce carbon emissions in the country's largest cities.

Q. You hit on geoengineering in the book. People ask me all the time about this and I direct them to an article by Dr. David Suzuki, which I think takes a common-sense approach to the topic. What is your take?

A. Yes, well David is a personal hero of mine. I remember watching him early on in my scientific career and saying to myself, "I hope that someday I can be anywhere near the science communicator that he is.” David, unsurprisingly, hits the nail on the head (and his take is similar to what we say in the book). Geoengineering is to often these days used as a crutch for not doing the hard but necessary work of solving this problem the safe way, i.e. reducing our carbon emissions.

Q. If you could control the outcome of the climate talks in Paris, what would the final agreement look like?

A. Hah—some of my critics, ironically, do seem to think I have that sort of power. Alas, I do not. But nonetheless, I would insist, first and foremost, that the discussions accept as a starting point what the science has to say, i.e. that climate change is real, caused by human activity and already a threat. There are still some heads of state who deny the overwhelming scientific evidence, and who use that denial as an excuse for bad faith negotiation. In order to obtain an agreement with teeth in it—an agreement that really has the potential to lead to the substantial necessary reductions in carbon emissions—we must have good faith participation from all parties. We must accept that the problem exists and that the time to solve it is now. I would urge other heads of state to take, as a template, the historic agreement for substantial reductions in carbon emissions already reached last year by the world’s two largest emitters—China and the U.S. It provides a blueprint for what a global agreement that takes account the needs and interest of both developing and industrial nations would look like.

Q. What are the top three takeaways you want readers to get from your book?

A. 1. Climate change is real, caused by human activity and already a threat.

2. The threat will get much worse if we don’t act on the problem.

3. Solutions to the problem are available NOW in the form of renewable energy and policies to incentivize a shift away from fossil fuel energy. There is no excuse for further delays in action.


7 Reasons President Obama Is Concerned About Climate Change

Group Claims Immigrants Are Causing California Drought

Bill Nye Under Attack for Linking Texas Floods to Climate Change

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A vegan diet can improve your health, but experts say it's important to keep track of nutrients and protein. Getty Images

By Dan Gray

  • Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
  • A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
  • It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.

New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.

Read More Show Less
Students gathered at the National Mall in Washington DC, Sept. 20. NRDC

By Jeff Turrentine

Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.

Read More Show Less
samael334 / iStock / Getty Images

By Ruairi Robertson, PhD

Berries are small, soft, round fruit of various colors — mainly blue, red, or purple.

Read More Show Less
A glacier is seen in the Kenai Mountains on Sept. 6, near Primrose, Alaska. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the glaciers in the area since 1966 and their studies show that the warming climate has resulted in sustained glacial mass loss as melting outpaced the accumulation of new snow and ice. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Mark Mancini

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

Read More Show Less
Members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America table at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18. Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.

Read More Show Less
StephanieFrey / iStock / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Muffins are a popular, sweet treat.

Read More Show Less
Hackney primary school students went to the Town Hall on May 24 in London after school to protest about the climate emergency. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Caroline Hickman

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?

Read More Show Less
Myrtle warbler. Gillfoto / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bird watching in the U.S. may be a lot harder than it once was, since bird populations are dropping off in droves, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less