Why Parents Should Read “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

 I’m not usually one of those people who reads the last page of a book before starting it, but in the case of Dr. Michael Mann’s new book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”, the last page makes for essential reading for parents because it’s where his daughter enters the story.  The book chronicles Dr. Mann’s ultimate victory over attacks on his scientific integrity that were funded by the coal, oil and gas industry, and has good takeaways for parents everywhere. 


First, key facts about climate science are woven throughout his story and presented in an accessible way for parents.  I’ll admit that there are a few short, but dense parts on statistical methodologies, but those sections are clearly delineated for easy skimming/skipping.  The story itself is mostly a riveting drama that involves false accusations, stolen emails, and Congressional hearings that evoke memories of McCarthyism.  Dr. Mann has even received death threats because of his scientific publications.  His, is also a story of triumph, however, since Dr. Mann is repeatedly exonerated of any wrong doing after each encounter. 


Dr. Mann ends the book with incredible optimism and hope.  Mann is a parent himself and end the books with a story about his daughter’s love for the Florida Keys – a place that has been loved by generations of Dr. Mann’s family, and is now threatened by climate change.   Dr. Mann does not believe that we will ignore the warning signs and imperil our children’s future.  He argues that stepping up to the climate challenge is the right and responsible thing to do.  He is confident that we will change course and make the decision as a society to use renewable energy rather than the dirty forms of energy that are causing the climate to change.   His belief that America can rise to this challenge is empowering.


The second reason that this book is relevant for parents is perhaps a bit more tenuous.  But, as Dr. Mann told me himself, there are certainly lessons on parenting that can be extracted by his experience with climate deniers.  “Their antics are far worse than any occasional tantrums we faced with my daughter”  he told me when I spoke to him about the similarities between parenting and being a climate scientist.  It’s true.  There is nothing that any of our kids do that could rival the disinformation campaign of the fossil fuel industry, but we simply cannot allow Big Oil and Big Coal to rig the system and block American solutions.


Despite going up against a well-funded coordinated attack, Dr. Mann certainly does his part stand up to their threats.  He gives many public talks, and ends all of his talks with an image of his 6.5 year old daughter.  In the image, she’s at the Pittsburgh zoo, walking under a plexiglass tunnel watching a polar bears feeding.  The image evokes the ethical dimensions of the climate change issue, he explained to me,



“It’s not just a matter of economics, policy, science.  It’s about ethics.  We are making decisions today that have profound implications for our kids.  Part of what motivates me to participate in the public discourse is the importance of making the right decisions now so we don’t leave a legacy of a degraded planet for our children and grandchildren.  All of this is really is about my daughter and the world that she inherits and the legacy I leave behind for her.” 


Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to make sure that scientists like Dr. Mann are heard and that we do the best by our kids.  Most importantly, we can arm ourselves with information, by reading books like this one, and then we can spread the word.

About Keya Chatterjee

Keya Chatterjee is a Climate Change and Environment expert, and Director for International Climate Policy at World Wildlife Fund. Her work focuses on the environmental crisis facing the planet, and what policies and measures should be taken to ameliorate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Keya’s commentary on climate change policy and sustainability issues has been quoted in dozens of media outlets including USA Today, CNN, and NBC Nightly News. Keya resides in Washington, DC with her husband Andrew and her son Siddharth. She enjoys practicing yoga, biking, and spending time with her friends and family. She is working on a book about how to have a baby without raising your carbon footprint to be published in 2013 by Ig Publishing. Keep up with Keya’s writing on the nexus of climate change activism and motherhood at www.keyachatterjee.com.


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