Quantcast

Fossil Fuel Industry Continues Wrath on Renowned Climate Scientist Michael Mann

By Sierra Rayne

Despite—actually, because of—the innumerable peer-reviewed studies and national academies that have affirmed his work, Prof. Michael Mann from Penn State University continues to be on the receiving end of the fossil fuel industry's wrath.

Penn State University professor Michael Mann.

In Canada, ground zero for the climate change debate is currently the prairie province of Saskatchewan. The province's premier is a public relations agent for the oil and gas industry, all the while fighting desperately to derail the federal government's proposed price on carbon.

So it wasn't surprising when a representative of the oil industry and board member of right-wing organizations such as The Fraser Institute, the C. D. Howe Institute and the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary authored a hit piece on Prof. Mann. What was unfortunate is that one of the major newspapers in the province, the Regina Leader-Post, published it.

Herb Pinder made so many erroneous claims that Prof. Mann was forced, yet again, to defend his scientific record in an elegantly scathing reply that the newspaper, whose opinion pages are largely a propaganda outlet for the fossil fuel industry and its many shills littering the region's political, academic and media scene, surely did not want to have to publish.

But there are a few remaining problems from Mr. Pinder's article that still need to be addressed.

Pinder makes the bizarre claim that the Earth is six billion years old. Actually, it is 4.5 billion years old, making for a 33 percent error in Pinder's "science." Sadly, some of the other claims in his op-ed have a much larger error. If you can't get the age of the Earth correct, then subsequent attacks on a leading climate scientist will inevitably fail.

Pinder questions how a compound such as carbon dioxide, which comprises a very small fraction of the atmosphere, can have such a disproportionate impact on the planet's climate. In fact, there is nothing either unscientific or even surprising about this fact.

There are a large number of compounds in each part of the Earth system, including and especially living organisms like us, that exert an impact well out of proportion to their concentrations. Poisons, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and on the list goes, clearly and collectively show one should never be fooled into thinking that just because a compound is present in very low concentrations that its effects on any system are negligible.

It is simple physics that explains why carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a large number of compounds are even far more efficient in terms of their global warming potential. This is undeniably "settled science."

Pinder also writes, citing the work of Ross McKitrick at the University of Guelph, that "there has been no statistically significant temperature change for the past 15-20 years." This is not accurate.

The major climate centers (e.g., NOAA, NASA, etc.) clearly show, using both parametric and non-parametric statistical approaches, that the warming trend over the last 15-20 years is highly significant. If the global heat wave in 2016 stays on-course, the rapidly increasing trend will become even more "statistically significant."

Even a cursory view of the global warming trend that has taken place over the last century reveals it is far more than "periodic spikes in the world's temperature as a result of a natural phenomenon called La Nina," as Pinder suggested. There are indeed periodic spikes, but these pale in comparison to the overall warming trend.

Saskatchewan's fossil fuel industry dominated economy has also fallen apart under Premier Brad Wall's "leadership." The province is running a massive deficit, its credit rating has been downgraded and it has one of the worst performing economies in the country. When Wall came to office in November 2007, the province's unemployment rate was nearly 2 percent below the national average. That gap has decreased to just 0.7 percent, making for the worst relative employment performance of any Saskatchewan premier in at least a quarter-century. Clearly hitching your wagon to climate change denying policies and industries isn't working out so well.

As Prof. Mann noted, we need to "get past the fake debate about whether the problem exists and on to the worthy debate about what to do about it." Despite the anti-science fantasies of some, there are real scientifically determinable boundaries in terms of our relationship with the Earth system and we are rapidly coming up against them. Inconvenient truths they may be, but truths nonetheless.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.


PxHere

Americans like wind turbines as neighbors, at least when compared with the alternatives.

Read More Show Less
Offutt Air Force Base after flooding on March 17. U.S. Air Force / TSgt. Rachelle Blake

The historic flooding that devastated Nebraska last week has also submerged one third of an Air Force base, offering a further illustration of the threat posed to national security by climate change.

Read More Show Less