Famine. Economic Collapse. A sun that cooks us. A New York Magazine story about the problems climate change could wreak on humanity is certainly designed to make an impact.
One climatologist, however, is throwing cold water on Wallace-Well’s alarming scorched-Earth tale.
Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University and director of the school’s Earth System Science Center, called out the “doomist framing” of the piece in a lengthy Facebook post, noting that there is a danger in overstating the dangers of climate change.
Mann says the article overstates some of the science in order to paint a bleak picture of an Earth that could be uninhabitable by the end of this century. For instance, Mann points to the near-term threat of climate “feedbacks” involving the release of frozen methane, noting that the science is actually more nuanced than the article indicates and doesn’t support the notion of a “planet-melting methane bomb.”
Mann also has problems with a specific line in Wallace-Well’s piece that claimed: “satellite data showing the globe warming, since 1998, more than twice as fast as scientists had thought.”
“That’s just not true,” Mann wrote. “The study in question simply showed that one particular satellite temperature dataset that had tended to show ‘less’ warming than the other datasets, has now been brought in line with the other temperature data after some problems with that dataset were dealt with.”
Mann said the accounting for the new corrected data, the warming of the planet is progressing fairly close to what climate scientists predicted, which he notes “is bad enough.”
“The evidence that climate change is a serious problem that we must contend with now is overwhelming on its own,” Mann wrote. “There is no need to overstate the evidence, particularly when it feeds a paralyzing narrative of doom and hopelessness.”
Wallace-Wells did not respond to a request for comment, but he did respond to Mann’s lengthy critique of his story on Twitter late Monday morning.
Some useful pushback to my worst-case climate story. I feel less “doomist” than “scared,” but also that fear is important motivating force. https://t.co/sqnIePPdEc
— David Wallace-Wells (@dwallacewells) July 10, 2017
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