Renowned scientist to speak at UF/IFAS York Lecture Series

Published: November 14 2013

Category:InsideUF, Top Stories

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Renowned scientist Michael Mann will give the keynote address at the 2013 E.T. York Lecture Series Nov.19 at the Emerson Alumni Hall at the University of Florida.

Mann, a distinguished service professor of meteorology at The Pennsylvania State University, will talk about the “Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.”  The 2 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public.

In his book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” Mann discusses his experiences in the center of the climate change debate resulting from a graph he and his co-authors published 15 years ago, demonstrating the unprecedented nature of modern climate change. The line of the graph charted global temperatures over the last 1,000 years, starting to spike upward in about 1850, resulting in a graph that resembled a hockey stick.

“It quickly became an icon in the climate change debate, in my view, because it told a very simple story,” Mann said. “You didn’t need to understand the complexities of climate science to understand what it tells us: that there is something truly unprecedented about modern warming, and by inference, we probably have something to do with it.

“So the Hockey Stick graph presented a threat to vested interests who continue to want to deny the reality and threat of human-caused climate change,” he said. “That made the hockey stick − and me, specifically − an object of attack.”

To this day, Mann has doubters. An October Pew Research Center survey showed one-third of Americans still do not accept climate change as fact, but Mann said science simply does not support their beliefs.

“The greenhouse effect is basic physics and chemistry that we’ve known for nearly two centuries,” he said. “The fact that we are increasing greenhouse gases through fossil fuel burning is indisputable, as is the fact that the Earth is indeed warming in response to that increase, as predicted. That’s all you need to know to realize that human-caused climate change is real.”

In his lecture, Mann will cover, among other topics, how special interest groups try to skew discourse about science. Unfortunately, he said, there’s a long history of this.

“We saw it in the case of tobacco,” Mann said.

Internal documents released as part of a lawsuit settlement show the tobacco industry knew many decades ago that their product was highly addictive, and that it was killing people, he said.

Fossil fuel interests today are using the same strategy, Mann said. They employ similar front groups and the same types of paid scientist advocates, he said, in a campaign aimed at convincing the public that there is no link between fossil fuels and the planet’s health.

“By some measures, it is a far greater crime than even what the tobacco industry engaged in, because many, many more people will suffer and perish at the hands of dangerous climate changes, if we do nothing to combat the problem,” Mann said.

“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” explores these themes in the context of his personal story, a scientist who found himself reluctantly at the center of debate and the object of attack by climate change deniers.

The presentation is part of the York Lecture Series. The lecturers have achieved outstanding international distinction in agriculture or a related discipline. The scholar is encouraged to spend time on the UF campus, participating in lectures, workshops and seminars. The lecturer also may establish a continuing relationship with UF as a visiting professor.

E.T. York, a former vice president for agricultural affairs at UF, established the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the university in 1964.

 

 

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Brad Buck, bradbuck@ufl.edu, 352-294-3303

Category:InsideUF, Top Stories