Mann, one of eight lead authors of the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Scientific Assessment Report published in 2001, found himself the target of such attacks following the publication of his well-known ‘hockey stick’ graph depicting temperature changes over the past thousand years. The graph emerged as an iconic image of human-caused climate change, conveying a simple, straightforward message about the reality of global warming. 

As a result, “I was subject to what The Washington Post and The New York Times denounced as an ‘inquisition’ and a ‘witch hunt’ by politicians in the pay of fossil fuel interests, looking to discredit my work,” he writes.

To counter the so-called Serengeti Strategy, Mann says he has become “a passionate believer in the role of the ‘scientist-advocate'”—and has become one himself, eager to convey the facts and implications of climate change and to engage with skeptics.

Citing the late Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University climate change scientist who Mann says was one of the earliest victims of such attacks, he adds: “[B]eing a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. If scientists choose not to engage on matters of policy-relevant science, then we leave a void that will be filled by industry-funded disinformation.”

Mann concludes on a note of optimism. “We scientists must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the deniers-for-hire,” he declares. “We must be honest as we convey the threat posed by climate change to the public. But we must also be effective. The stakes are simply too great for us to fail to communicate the risks of inaction.”

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