As everyone who pays attention knows, Michael Mann, the self-appointed media darling for climate science, is famous for attacking doomers as being worse than climate deniers. But what has become clear after reading the content of Mann’s attacks is his nearly complete ignorance of what it means to be a doomer.
For example, here is what he wrote in this Guardian article from February 27, 2021:
“Doom-mongering has overtaken denial as a threat and as a tactic. Inactivists know that if people believe there is nothing you can do, they are led down a path of disengagement. They unwittingly do the bidding of fossil fuel interests by giving up…
Many of the prominent doomist narratives … can be traced back to a false notion that an Arctic methane bomb will cause runaway warming and extinguish all life on earth within 10 years. This is completely wrong. There is no science to support that.”
On September 26, 2023, in Yale Climate Connections, Mann wrote:
“One of the premises that’s very prevalent among climate doomers, those who say ‘It’s too late,’ is that methane escaping from the permafrost will warm Earth beyond the level that humans can tolerate and lead to our extinction.”
Then three days ago (November 13, 2023), Mann wrote:
“Climate doomers insist it’s too late to act. They claim we’ve triggered runaway warming due to a putative, unstoppable release of methane escaping into the atmosphere as the Arctic permafrost melts. They draw an analogy with past major extinction events, like the so-called ‘end Permian extinction’ or simply ‘the great dying’ 250m years ago, associated with the loss of 90% of Earth’s species. They claim the event was driven by a similar runaway warming event to what is occurring today.”
These quotes, and many other recent statements Mann has made about doomers, show that he believes doomers are myopically focused on permafrost methane. He seems to think this is what we talk and write about, that almost every video, essay, blog post and Twitter post is about methane, permafrost and extinction. The absurdity of this reductionism never occurs to him. Self-reflection and self-doubt, the keystone qualities of a scientist who wants to avoid bias in their work, seem entirely absent from his writing about doomers.
Unequivocally, I have never stated that humanity has already triggered a methane bomb or that such an event will bring on near-term human extinction. In fact, I routinely argue against this claim by citing isotope studies and posting CAMS methane images, including an update to methane in this article I wrote just a few weeks ago.
Though methane from the East Siberian Arctic Sea and permafrost may become an issue over the next few decades, it is not what is driving the collapse of global industrial civilization or the sixth great extinction. That honor belongs to one and only one source: human overshoot.
Somewhere in his history Mann latched onto this idea that all doomers think the same way about doom. Somehow he got stuck on the methane bomb. Somehow he thought all doomers agreed on the inevitability of near-term human extinction. Somehow he got the notion that we don’t understand physical processes, including those that led to the Permian extinction. And above all, he believes doomers are ignorant in general about climate science.
Maybe Mann’s delusion was the result of watching the Nova episode on permafrost methane. Maybe his delusion began after he read the July, 2017 essay “The Uninhabitable Earth” by former doomer David Wallace-Wells. Maybe it started after he watched one of the near-term human extinction videos from Guy McPherson. Or maybe Mann’s rejection of doom is his own suppressed fear. The false narrative Mann is putting into the mouths of doomers may be his own way of coping with his psychological transference.
Whatever the source, Mann is repeatedly demonstrating his stubborn ignorance of what it means to be a doomer.
Sam Mitchell of Collapse Chronicles fame stated that if you were to ask ten doomers to define what it means to be a doomer, you would get eleven different answers (I may have four or five definitions myself, depending on how I feel). Yet none of those eleven definitions, or any of the others I’ve heard or read, comes close to Mann’s definition.
Michael Mann’s definition was created specifically to suit his rhetorical needs. It allows him to attack something that does not exist. He gets to win the argument over and over against his strawman, an invisible doomer boogeyman of his own creation.
But the damage Mann does with this simplification reaches far beyond that boogeyman. It harms those who are invested in journalism, science communication and education. It harms climate and social scientists whose research includes worst-case scenarios. It harms those who want to know the full scope of future possibilities. It harms those who are learning for the first time about the planet’s dire situation. By casting a shadow over all those who want to talk about the 50% of the bell curve that lies on the other side of collapse, Mann risks the future suffering of billions who might otherwise have had time to at least consider preparations for what’s coming.
Being a doomer means many things, but it absolutely does not mean sitting in front of your computer in your underwear doom-scrolling and smoking joints until Armageddon comes (with apologies to all doomers and anyone else who likes to do this). Being a doomer does not mean believing fringe climate science. Being a doomer does not mean focusing obsessively on permafrost methane and the Permian extinction. Being a doomer does not mean thinking that human extinction is inevitable by 2026, 2030, 2050, or at all in the near future. Being a doomer does not mean we stop educating ourselves and others. And being a doomer does not mean that we are not activists and environmentalists.
Michael should just stop it. He is too smart to be this ignorant. He is too smart to repeat such stupid stereotyping over a span of years. He is too smart to be so profoundly intellectually lazy on this one issue.
Mann is well-know for his use of the terms “urgency” and “agency” in his writing about climate change. It is “urgent” we do something now. And we have “agency” — at least those of us who are first-world privileged humans — to take action to avert the worst outcomes.
Michael Mann should take one of the “urgency agency” pills he hands out with such self-glorifying frequency in his media appearances and educate himself on doom.