"The surest way to lose a war is to refuse to recognize you’re in one in the first place."
Whether it is about tobacco, acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer, every time the same pattern emerges: when science comes up with disturbing findings that necessitate regulation of an industry, the industry strikes back with an army of highly paid deniers who sow doubt, lobby against regulation and do not even hesitate to threaten scientists and smear their reputations.
Michael Mann knows what he is talking about. As a young climate scientist, he became a direct target of the denier industry created to discredit climate science. His world-famous hockey stick graph is one of the clearest early indications that something was seriously wrong with the climate, and has therefore been attacked by climate deniers for decades.
Fortunately, climate change denial is becoming increasingly rare. The many record-breaking forest fires, heat waves, floods and super storms of recent years make it hard to maintain the lie. But the fossil fuel industry has not given up yet. Denial has been replaced by deflection, division, delay and doomism. Their objective is still the same: to stop climate action.
Deflectors distract us from the heart of the matter - holding the big polluters accountable - and pretend that solving the climate crisis is solely a matter of personal behavioural change.
Dividers attempt to sow discord in the climate movement itself, by magnifying minor disagreements into major rifts.
Delayers try to stop the introduction of the carbon tax ("one of the most powerful tools" according to Mann) and make the whole concept toxic. They even convinced part of the environmental movement to side with the fossil fuel industry on this subject.
Delayers also sabotage renewable energy developments, and propose false solutions such as CCS and geoengineering that give us a licence to continue polluting the earth.
Finally, doomists try to convince people that the earth is lost, and that it is too late to do anything about it. Doomism is all the more harmful because mainly progressive, committed people fall prey to it. "If you take the most environmentally aware progressives, lead them to despair, and convince them to dissociate from civilization, they’re not out there on the front lines participating in the political process, demonstrating and fighting for the needed systemic changes."
These are orchestrated attacks, organised by the fossil industry, the media they control (e.g. Fox News), and a group of countries known as "the coalition of the unwilling", such as Saudi Arabia, the US under Trump, Brazil, Australia, and especially Russia. To this end, whole armies of trolls and bots are deployed on social media.
Michael Mann is cautiously optimistic about the future. A number of developments give new hope: the signs of climate change are so obvious that they can no longer be denied, people want change, young people are leading the way, and even Corona has taught us useful lessons for the future. We are close to a tipping point - in society itself. When change comes, it can happen fast.
The book is therefore primarily a call to battle. Learn to recognise the tactics of the enemy and be especially wary of doomism. Support the youth climate movement, correct the lies spread by the inactivists and inform people - talk about the climate crisis. Finally, get politically engaged to demand a systemic change from our politicians.
Speaking from experience, I wholeheartedly agree with this advice. The best cure for climate depression is to join the fight for a liveable planet.
Brigitte Van Gerven - volunteer at Citizens' Climate Lobby Belgium/EU