Michael Mann is the most prominent and popular climate scientist since James Hansen. His book The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet (Scribe, 2021)* tells in detail how vested interests retard meaningful progress on climate change. The science is in. And climate deniers have been replaced by climate ‘inactivists’. The forces of inaction now employ a range of more subtle tactics than the deniers. They are “downplayers, deflectors, dividers, delayers and doomers” (p.45) and each of Mann’s categories is examined in detail in the book. All climate activists should be able to recognise them and counter them where possible.
Resident in Australia during the black summer Mann is conversant with the climate denialism of the current Canberra incumbents. He noted “there is no will in the current Australian government to do anything about it [climate change] other than promoting ‘adaption and ‘resilience’. Such framing has been front and centre in the messaging of Australia’s fossil-fuel-industry-coddling prime minister, Scott Morrison.” (p.175)
Mann describes in detail how the fossil fuel industry uses social media bots and trolls to manipulate public opinion and sow division and cause polarisation. “A favoured approach is to seed a prospective online discussion with trolls or bots aggressively advocating opposite positions and acrimoniously attacking each other. Pretty soon a melee unfolds. This has, of course, been specifically done in the climate arena.” (p.71)
The question of individual actions verses those of governments is a theme throughout the book. Of course, individual action is to a certain extent important as teaching by example and leading the way. But the guts of the matter is that we will never make headway in the climate emergency without concerted government actions across the globe. Mann details the ‘crying Indian’ campaign as a subtle but persuasive example of deflection. The Morrison government promotion of technological cures and a ‘gas led’ recovery are good examples of deflection, ignoring the need to get to zero emissions as soon as possible.
In the introduction Mann lists a four point ‘battle plan’ to counter the ‘inactivists’: 1) “disregard the doomsayers” 2) “a child shall lead them” 3) “educate, educate, educate” and 4) “Changing the system requires systemic change”. (p.6) I like them all but especially the ‘educate’ advice. To find out more please read the book and act as best you can for systemic change.
*copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library