On February 28, 2021, the Al Franken Podcast did an episode with Michael Mann, a famous climate scientist.
Michael Mann starts out by declaring that climate change is without a doubt leading to more extreme weather such as superstorms, wildfires, heatwaves, droughts, and floods. He points out that climate change didn’t necessarily create these events but made them more extreme, more damaging and more deadly.
Climate Change and the Polar Vortex
He adds that there is a legitimate debate (unlike the fake debate as to whether climate change is real) between scientists about the connection between climate change and the polar vortex.
Essentially, Michael Mann explains that we are warming the polar region faster than the rest of the planet. As we melt the sea ice in the Arctic, there is less sunlight reflected back into space and this causes more warming (this is known as a positive feedback loop). Hence, the Arctic is warming faster than most of the United States (the lower 48).
The contrast in temperature between the very cold Arctic and the warmer subtropics and mid-latitudes is responsible for the jet stream and the polar vortex (a very tight band of westerly winds that trap cold air up in the Arctic). As you reduce the temperature contrast by warming the Arctic faster than the rest of the planet, you slow down the jet stream and you weaken the polar vortex in the winter, in particular. As you weaken the polar vortex, that cold air is no longer so tightly bottled up in the Arctic anymore so you are more likely to get blobs of cold Arctic air spilling out into mid-latitudes.
This is essentially what happened in Texas in February 2021, in the weeks before this podcast. However, Michael Mann is mentioning that scientists are still debating the precise connections behind climate change and these events. Nonetheless, Michael Mann says he is compelled by the studies that argue there is an increase in the frequency of these events and it is related to the mechanisms he described.
However, he mentions that this does not mean we are getting record cold temperatures since the Earth is warming. The cold air from the polar vortex is not as cold as it would be a century ago. It seems cold because temperatures have been warming and these cold events have become rarer. He says it is like old fashioned 1960s or 1970s cold.
In reality, we are seeing more hot temperature records than cold record temperatures.
In the podcast, they also discuss how renewable energy was being blamed for the blackouts in Texas (in February 2021) but it was a failure in fossil fuel infrastructure.
The following video discusses this as well. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe explains this phenomenon.
The New Climate War – A book by Michael Mann
Michael Mann wrote a new book called “The New Climate War.” Essentially the old climate war was when climate change deniers were attacking the basic science of climate change and attacking climate scientists.
The new climate war is basically people saying that it is too late to fight climate change or that we can’t do enough about it.
Essentially, whether people deny the reality of climate change or say we are doomed, the intention is to get us not to act and hence give more profits (in the billions) to the fossil fuel industry.
In his book, Michael Mann refers to the people promoting inaction as the “inactivists.”
ClimateGate – During the Old Climate War
Al Franken and Michael Mann discuss ClimateGate. Basically, a university in the UK was hacked. The hackers broke into this server which housed thousands of emails between climate scientists including Michael Mann. Michael Mann says the hacking was probably state-sponsored due to the sophistication of the effort.
The hackers combed through thousands of emails and critics looked at information which they could take out of context in order to make it seem like climate scientists were admitting that climate change was a hoax.
ClimateGate happened right before Copenhagen Summit in 2009 and climate change deniers turned it into a massive disinformation campaign that hijacked the important climate event.
One famous example was that a climate scientist used the word “trick” and climate change deniers were claiming the climate scientists tricked people into believing in climate change. However, in reality, the climate scientists were using the word “trick” to denote that they were using a clever way to solve a scientific problem.
Later, Al Franken and Michael Mann talk about Senator Snowball, also known as Senator Jim Inhofe. Senator Inhofe infamously used a snowball on the United States Senate floor to show that, in his opinion, global warming was a hoax. On a side note, Al Franken said certain people would talk about ClimateGate many times on the Senate floor.
New Techniques from New Climate War
Al Franken asks Michael Mann about the new techniques from the new climate war. Michael Mann explains:
- Deflection – The deniers say that we don’t need policies to tackle climate change because we just need to act on the individual level (they discourage carbon tax, giving subsidies to renewable energy, and stopping subsidies to the fossil fuel industry)
- Discrediting – Attacking climate activists such as Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio or climate envoy John Kerry (Fox News anchor Sean Hannity telling people that he is a hypocrite because he flies on planes)
- Division – Trying to get people to argue against each other
Michael Mann said that there are state actors such as petrostates (like Russia) who have interfered in our social media platforms, have used bot armies and trolls to try to create conflict and to turn progressives against climate action by promoting doom and gloom or fighting against each other over lifestyle choices (being vegan, using planes, having children, etc.).
One thing that was mentioned is that developing countries need to leapfrog fossil fuels and go to renewables in the expansion of their economies.
Michael Mann says that we don’t need to use natural gas as a transition fuel because we could spend that money on renewables such as solar and wind. He states that a type of fossil fuel cannot be an answer to a problem created by fossil fuels.
On a side note, Michael Mann mentioned how an unprecedented drought in Syria led to the national security problems that happened there. Essentially, the national security community in the United States (including the Pentagon) stated that climate change is a threat multiplier that takes existing tensions and worsens them as there is more competition for resources.
Al Franken and Michael Mann have a discussion about a carbon tax. Michael Mann says that there is a carbon tax in Canada and he states that we need a carbon tax in the United States. He adds that carbon pricing can be done in many ways including a carbon tax or a cap and trade system.
Michael Mann says we need subsidies for renewable energy and to prevent additional new fossil fuel infrastructure (no more pipelines or coal mines).
Mann mentions that there are only 200 to 300 permanent jobs that would happen if all of the Keystone Xl Pipeline was built, but there would be far more jobs, thousands, in the sector of renewable energy.
For more information, you can listen to the podcast.