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City Club With Dr. Michael E. Mann, Ph.D

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Nothing could have been better on Good Friday, March 30th, than a good gathering at the City Club of Cleveland which is exactly what we enjoyed. In this case, the speaker happened to be Dr. Michael E. Mann, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University and Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, who was there with us to talk about the reality of Climate Change (which virtually the entire scientific community agrees upon) and the dangers posed by those who deny it. 

To be sure, Dr. Mann made a very convincing case (not that he had to really convince us personally) that climate change is a major force behind the super intense storms and hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and heat waves that have been increasingly plaguing our planet. Perhaps just as importantly, these environmental conditions have been known to be significant contributors to civil unrest which leads to violent confrontations (some involving the military) in unstable countries. 

As for climate deniers, a lot of them are connected with the fossil fuel industry (which Dr. Mann indicated would be inevitably replaced by renewable energy as the years go by) that benefits from very little governmental regulation and is a major contributor not only to the problem itself but to the financial coffers of politicians. Accordingly, Dr. Mann urged us to make voting the worst of our lawmakers out of office and to reach out to others (who are not villains but victims of disinformation) and present them with scientific evidence that Climate Change is an actual threat but it is not to late to come around.

Along these lines, he maintained that satire and humor can be effective tools and thus he has written a book in cartoon format (along with Mr. Tom Toles, a distinguished cartoonist) titled "The Madhouse Effect-How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy" which was for sale that day in the City Club lobby along with another book by Dr. Mann which was titled "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars-Dispatches from the Front Lines".

This presentation was "The Stanley and Hope Adelstein Endowed Forum on the Environment" and was introduced by Mr. Michael Melampy from the "Sierra Club" an organization, along with the "Union of Concerned Scientists" that Dr. Mann asked us all to support. 

Prior to the start of the program, we talked with Ms. Kelly Siman who is on her way to earning her own Ph.D. in Integrated Bio Sciences at the University of Akron. Ms. Siman shared with us an article dated December 11, 2017 by Mr. Richard Gonzales that appeared on NPR (see https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwoway/2017/12/11/570036260/macronawards-u-s-climate-scientists-grants-to-make-our-planet-great-again) titled "Macron Awards U.S. Scientists Grants to 'Make Our Planet Great Again''.

The above article talked about how President Macron of France awarded research grants to 18 climate scientists; 13 of whom were U.S. based researchers. These recipients will re-locate to France to pursue their work perhaps because the current administration in Washington, D.C. has so far given a thumbs-down to the Paris Climate Accords making the U.S. the only country to do so. From what we read in the article, over 1800 climate researchers applied for these grants and 2/3 of them were from the U.S.

During the Q and A, we asked Dr. Mann about whether we could expect a further "brain drain" of scientists but he indicated that at this time it wasn't very likely because, even though it is quite disturbing that the Trump Administration has placed a number of climate change deniers in important positions, the U.S. Congress relievedly did not cut funding for scientific research (for the most part) from its latest budget. 

After the program was over, we asked Professor Harsh Mathur (Physics at CWRU and an instrumental figure in terms of bringing Dr. Mann to the City Club) about this and he said that he believed that the current hostility of the United States Government regarding climate change might discourage young international scientists from wanting to re-locate to the U.S. and, in time, might motivate our own scientists to seek a more supportive environment elsewhere.

In terms of international issues, another point that was brought up during the Q and A was China's record of complying with international environmental requirements. Dr. Mann said that in the last ten years, China had emerged as quite a leader because it witnessed first-hand the severe costs of carbon emissions and pollution. In fact, the Trump administration had to place a tariff on solar panels imported from China because they were proving to be so popular here in the United States. Dr. Mann believed that part of the reason that China's carbon level might have risen last year was because "Trumpism" had provided China with an excuse not to work as hard as it had; in short, if the U.S. refuses to be a leader how can we expect other countries to do what we will not do?

So in the end, Dr. Mann indicated that it all came down to whether or not we, as activists, can inspire our fellow citizens to become involved and cry out for appropriate environmental regulations to address the climate change problem  in much the same manner that our young people are inspiring the rest of us to call out for stricter gun regulations.

A telling question was asked by Mr. Matthew Gray, Chief of the Mayor of Cleveland's Office of Sustainability, about whether or not we could use next year's 50th anniversary of the infamous fire on the Cuyahoga River as a platform to make a statement on the need for sustainability.

Since the Cuyahoga River fire proved to be a catalyst in the movement for better environmental controls, Dr. Mann certainly believed that the possibilities were terrific because, as he reminded us, recalling past incidents (i.e. storytelling) has a record of being a successful learning tool and it would be a lost opportunity for us, as Clevelanders, not to make full use of it.  

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC