‘The choice is ours’ | Former professor’s upcoming book details climate change history

Originally published by Julie Ann Caro for The Daily Collegian on August 14, 2023

In hopes to inform people of ways to prevent climate change, former Penn State Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science Michael Mann plans to release a book on Sept. 26 that reviews the lessons that Earth’s history teaches us about the climate crisis.

The book titled “Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from the Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis” was an opportunity for Mann to “get back to the science” of the climate crisis, while informing people about the impacts of future climate change if not addressed.

Mann’s scientific career has centered around researching the history of Earth’s climate changes and what it indicates for the climate system. In his previous books, Mann discussed the politics and policy dimension of the climate crisis. “Our Fragile Moment” allowed him to “connect these things” together.

The book looks back over Earth’s history and provides examples of both the stability and fragility of Earth’s climate.

“In this book, I seek to resolve this paradox, examining how Earth’s climate remains stable when pushed to a point,” Mann said. “[However], it can spin out of control if pushed too hard.”

According to Mann, if individuals “transition rapidly away from the burning of fossil fuels,” they can prevent the warming of our planet.

“If we fail to do so, all bets are off,” Mann said. “The choice is ours.”

With the release of his book just days after the official end of summer, Mann hopes that readers understand it’s not too late to help change the world.

“There is understandable worry over whether it’s too late, whether we’ve crossed some tipping point,” Mann said. “That makes it a particularly critical moment for the lessons from this book — that it’s not too late, it’s still up to us. There is urgency, but there is agency, too.”

According to Mann, this summer will be “unlike any summer [that has been] yet witnessed,” with recent weather events.

“There is a pervasive sense of doom that I witnessed among many who are witnessing the onslaught of dangerous and deadly extreme weather events,” Mann said.

Administrative Coordinator for the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media Heather Kostick said Mann’s upcoming book will “provide context and hope” to the world.

“We are inundated with doomism messaging around climate change,” Kostick said. “I hope that folks read this book and see that it’s not too late, and we can use Earth’s past history to inform our future.”

Editorial Director at PublicAffairs Colleen Lawrie said she hopes that Mann will continue to “be the voice of reason in a world full of noise” on the issue of climate change.

“Among his many talents, Dr. Mann is one of the best science communicators out there,” Lawrie said. “His book zooms through paleoclimatic history, and Dr. Mann uses vivid stories of events past to shed light on our current climate crisis.”

Despite the opinions of others, Mann said following his heart and trusting his instincts has gotten him to where he is today.

“I chose to lean in and embrace the opportunity to inform the public discourse over the greatest challenge we arguably face, and I’ve never looked back,” Mann said. “I consider myself privileged to be in a position to inform this critical conversation.”