Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann was quick to criticize a New York Magazine article claiming that man-made global warming could make the Earth “uninhabitable” by the end of the century.
However, a transcript released Monday suggests a divergence between what Mann said publicly versus what he told the New York Magazine writer in an interview.
Mann laid into the magazine, writing on Facebook that there’s “no need to overstate the evidence, particularly when it feeds a paralyzing narrative of doom and hopelessness.” Mann said he was interviewed for the article, though he was not quoted in it.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The article fails to produce it,” Mann wrote on his Facebook wall Monday.
New York Magazine writer David Wallace-Wells wrote a 7,000-word article on how Earth could become “uninhabitable” a lot “sooner than you think.”
“If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today,” Wallace-Wells wrote.
Mann’s remarks made waves in the media, and others quickly followed suit to hammer New York Magazine for exaggerating global warming’s potential impacts. But then things got interesting.
Wallace-Wells posted the full transcript of his interview with Mann online. Mann said scientists tend to “understate risk” related to warming, and said he agreed with Wallace-Wells’s “thesis” of a “worst-case scenario” of warming. Such a scenario could yield “a four to five degree Celsius” warmer future, according to Mann.
Mann also said it was “critical to not just consider the most likely impacts, but those sort of low-probability but catastrophic sort of cost scenarios.” On Facebook, Mann said there’s “a danger in overstating the science in a way that presents the problem as unsolvable.”
Wallace-Wells admitted he didn’t actually “believe that the planet will become uninhabitable in 2100” because “our complacency will surely be shaken before we get there.” His intent was to argue that “absent a significant change in human behavior across the globe, they are plausible eventualities.”
Contrary to his Facebook post, Mann basically agreed with Wallace-Wells in their interview, according to the transcript. Mann gave Wallace-Wells the “extraordinary evidence,” pushing a more alarmist narrative behind the scenes in an interview.
Here’s what Mann told Wallace-Wells:
So, yeah, your thesis, I would agree with your basic thesis here. A worst-case scenario — and when you asked about business as usual, and I assume by business as usual you mean if we don’t really, if the world adopts a Trump-like approach to climate change over the next century where we literally don’t act at all, we continue to escalate our burning of fossil fuels, we don’t move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. In that sort of scenario, then, by the end of the century, you’re probably talking about a four to five degree Celsius, seven to nine degree Fahrenheit warmer globe. The warming is even greater than that where people live because we live on continents rather than in the oceans, and the land warms up faster than the oceans so when people quote a global average temperature that’s actually misleading. Most of us will experience more warming than the global average because the global average is held down by the oceans, that don’t warm as much. Doesn’t help us, those of us that live on land. So more than the seven to nine degree Fahrenheit warming of the globe …
Mann didn’t stop there, adding that science is “moving in the direction of the impacts being larger than we expected and part of that is a function of the reticence of scientists and the tendency to sort of be very conservative.”
For example, Mann said the U.S. can “expect to have something that, sort of a coastal storm surge, a Sandy-like storm surge, every few years.” Globally, that would mean hundreds of millions would be forced from the coast, Mann argued.
“You’re really talking about retreating from the coastline, you’re talking about retreating from some of our largest cities,” Mann told Wallace-Wells. “That is part of not just a worst-case scenario but a likely scenario by the end of this century.”
Mann said there is “an underlying grain of truth” to a “Day After Tomorrow scenario” — referring to the 2004 global warming disaster movie. He also mentioned the movie Soylent Green, set in a dystopian future where people are forced to eat their own to survive.
“So there was — it was sort of an oddly prescient, some of these early-’70s dystopian novels and films and Soylent Green foresaw exactly the sort of future that we’re talking about where climate change leads to decreased resources,” Mann said.
“A worst-case scenario — a worst-case future does not look that different from the dystopian visions that Hollywood has already provided us,” he said.
Mann did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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