5min books review #10

Michael E. Mann: The New Climate War. The Fight to Take Back the Planet

Martin Hudymač
5min columns


Value for money


Ebook or Bookshelf?

This deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Year, Price, Pages, Cover design

2021 by PublicAffairs; EUR 25,45; 368 pages (The content itself 267 pages; Acknowledgements 3 pages; Notes 63 pages; Index 14 pages); Hardcover

Cover design by Pete Garceau, Cover image by iStock/Getty Images, Print book interior design by Linda Mark. Nice jacket and book design. Good paper quality and reading experience (However, considering the cover, I would have expected a better quality paper).

5 sentences about the book

The book is more about language and narrative, about how we speak, when we speak about environmental change than about climate change itself. Mann’s book is optimistic and he believes that man can save the planet only when recognizing the tactic used by the movement of climate change deniers (fuel fossil corporations, right-wing media, Russians trolls, etc.)

The author recognizes old and new climate wars in science. The old one was about climate change denial and according to the author, it was defeated. Currently, even the right-wing agrees that climate change is happening. A new climate war is about action — what steps should we take — and it is still being actively waged by climate change deniers. (230)

In the beginning, the author provides historical context of the architecture of misinformation and misdirection toward such products as guns, tobacco, beverage. On top of that, he describes the tactic of responsibility shift: moving it from corporations to the individuals and connecting it with moral choice and guilt. Mann depicts the strategy of conservative media and shows examples of Russian trolls’ attacks on scientific society. This book presents the weak side of discusses geoengineering (164) and climate doomism (182) as forms that mislead us from systemic changes.

What did I learn?

  • I’ve learned that climate deniers’ narrative is a derivation of similar historical experiences with the gun lobby, tobacco industry or beverage companies. The author calls it “a deflection campaign” and describes mainly the historical context in the USA (the story about “The Crying Indian” was completely new for me).
  • I’ve learned the omnipresent power of discourse: who owns and leads the narrative can easily manipulate with it not only the masses but also bias critical thinking individuals in the society
  • One example shows the strategy of shifting responsibility from corporations to individuals — “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I came up with my own example: “”Enjoy Heineken Responsibly” is our commitment to encourage the enjoyment of beer, responsibly and in moderation, as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Similarly — in climate change discourse — there is a tendency to shift responsibility from corporations to the individuals in order to avoid system changes and regulations that are costly for corporations: “The fossil fuel disinformation machine wants to make it about the car you choose to drive, the food you choose to eat, and the lifestyle you choose to live rather than about the larger system and incentives.” 6

  • I’ve learned how the individual choice (what we eat, how we travel, overall daily lifestyle) becomes (unnoticed!) a moral choice with the tendency to blame others and self-blaming.
  • By the way, did you know that beef consumption is responsible for only 6 percent of total carbon emission, air travel only accounts for about 3 percent of global carbon emission?
  • I’ve learned that individual action is good, but is not sufficient: “We must change the system. Individual efforts to reduce one’s carbon footprint are laudable. But without systematic change, we will not achieve the massive decarbonization of our economy that is necessary to avert catastrophic climate change81 and this: “We should all engage in climate-friendly individual actions. They make us feel better and they set a good example for others. But don’t become complacent, thinking that your duty is done when you recycle your bottles or ride your bicycle to work. We cannot solve this problem without deep systemic change, and that necessities governmental action97 [my emphasis]

What was missing?

  • Very minor issue. If you expect that you will learn more about climate change itself in this book, then you can be a little bit disappointed. The New Climate War is focusing on discourse and language, and how the main protagonists behave when speaking about climate change.

Favorite quotes

“Here’s the point, though. Unlike microbes, human beings have agency. We can choose to behave like a virus that plagues our planet or we can choose a different path. It’s up to us. Our response to the coronavirus pandemic shows it’s possible for us to change our ways when we must.” 250

“Unlike coronavirus, we cannot look forward to a literal vaccine for the planet. But in a metaphorical sense, knowledge is the vaccine for what currently ails us — denial, disinformation, deflection, delayism, doomism, you know the litany by now. We must vaccinate the public against the efforts by inactivist to thwart climate action, using knowledge and facts and clear, simple explanations that have authority behind them. That’s empowering because it means we can all contribute to the cure.” 262



Martin Hudymač
5min columns

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