Book Review

The New Climate War- The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, by Michael E. Mann. Published by Public Affairs – Hachette Book Group (2021)

Every once in a while a book comes along that is head and shoulders above the rest.  I find this book to be one of them.   Mann writes in a way that is clear and accessible. He has a deep command of his subject, giving the reader insights into the methods of those who seek to derail the work on climate change.  By being better informed we can move ahead more effectively 

 In the first chapter, “The Architects of Misinformation and Misdirection,” he writes,  “The origins of the ongoing climate wars lie in disinformation campaigns waged decades ago, when the findings of science began to collide with the agendas of power vested interests.  These campaigns were aimed at obscuring the public understanding of the underlying science and discrediting the scientific message, often attacking the messengers themselves.” 

 These practices still continue to fool a large number of the public.    Mann names the institutions and organizations engaged in this activity.  Furthermore, he takes an in- depth  look at the birth of deflection campaigns and the tactics of “divide and conquer” which use wedge issues to derail the climate moment.  

In the chapter titled, “The Non-Solution Solution,” he points out that there are those who want to make it look as if they are really doing something about the problem, but in fact are not.   He calls these people, “inactivists.”  He writes, “The inactivisits have sought to hijack actual climate progress by promoting “solutions” (natural gas, carbon capture, geo-engineering) that aren’t real solutions at all.  Part of their strategy  is soothing words and terms-  “bridge fuels”, ”clean coal”, “adaption”, resilience” – that convey the illusion of actions but, in context, are empty promises.”  This gambit provides plausible deniability; inactivitists can claim to have offered solutions.  Just not good ones.  They are delay tactics intended to forestall meaningful actions while the fossil fuel industry continues to make windfall profits -what noted climate advocate Alex Steffens has referred to as “predatory delay.” 

In the closing chapter, “Meeting the Challenge”, Mann says he is objectively hopeful and details the reasons for hope.  Among these is the fact that extreme weather disasters have vivified the climate change threat. Second, a global pandemic has taught us lesson about vulnerability and risk.  Also we have seen the reawakening of environmental activism across the world.   He also says that the collapse of plausible climate change deniability provides us with unprecedented opportunity for progress.  Add to that the fact that inactivitis have been forced into retreat from “hard” climate denial to “softer” denial.  All of these points, and others, are given in depth coverage in the final chapter which also gives us guidance for our ongoing work.  This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.  


Michael E. Mann is a distinguished professor of atmosphere science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.  In 2019 he received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.  

Submitted by Larry A. Deyss                                                                                    

About Rev. Larry Deyss, HR

Larry Deyss is Pastor Emeritus of the Delmar Presbyterian Church where he served for 30 years, a past moderator of Albany Presbytery and currently a member of the Peacemaking Task Force with a focus on environmental issues. He and his wife live in Delmar.

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