Book Review: ‘The Madhouse Effect’

”Right there, we had a prima facie case that we were warming the planet and affecting Earth’s climate system.” The Madhouse Effect



The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy 
by Michael E. Mann and Tom Toles  
Columbia University Press; $24.95.

Once Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America, it took no time at all for nearly all references to climate change to vanish from the White House website. In March, Trump’s newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, appeared on CNBC. In an interview, host Joe Kernen asked whether “it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?” Pruitt answered, “No. I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact.” 

I’m not sure what is more disconcerting: The absurd idea that there is a control knob for climate, as if we could simply adjust it to our liking in the same manner we adjust a radio dial for reception on a Pens game, or perhaps the false claim that there is “tremendous disagreement” in the scientific community regarding the negative impact of human activity regarding climate change.

Authors Michael E. Mann and Tom Toles have dropped a much-needed voice of reason into the current volatile and highly politicized debate on climate change in their new book, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.” Mann is a distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, while Toles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Washington Post who has addressed the climate-change debate in his editorial cartoons for many years. Together they have created a calmly rational guide to the decidedly irrational arguments surrounding this looming planetary crisis.

The authors set the tone right away. “There is a fire in the house, almost a literal one. But even as the evidence has become unmistakable, and even though the alarm has been sounded several times, public policy has been paralyzed — sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from uncertainty, but often from a campaign of deliberate misinformation.” Nor do they mince words when peeling layers of opinions away from the central truth: “Two basic facts underlay climate science, and they were there from the beginning. First, carbon dioxide (CO2) was well known to be a heat-trapping gas. Second, humans were significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We were in fact well on our way to doubling it. Right there, we had a prima facie case that we were warming the planet and affecting Earth’s climate system.”

What follows is a breakdown of how political language can corrupt the original intent of concepts such as scientific theories, how the media plays up the debate and what the planet has to look forward to if the current administration refuses to acknowledge climate change as the problem that it is. And Toles provides plenty of funny cartoons throughout “The Madhouse Effect” — like a spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. 
 

Speak Up


 

May 12/ Marissa Landrigan celebrates the launch of her new book, “The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat: A Young Woman’s Search for Ethical Food” with a signing party at White Whale Bookstore. An assistant professor of writing at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Landrigan has published essays and food writing in The Atlantic, Guernica and Salon. She runs the local Acquired Taste Reading Series. (4754 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/224-2847, whitewhalebookstore.com)

May 26-27/ The 2017 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference brings together publishing professionals, literary agents, editors and writers with the goal of walking you through “everything you need to know about writing and publishing narrative nonfiction today.” Editors will be on hand from major publications such as Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s and The Paris Review for the keynote discussion on Friday. Writers of all levels are welcome. (Point Park University, Downtown; creativenonfiction.org) —KC

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Rightsizing PIT - Will Landside Terminal, Tram Be Needed?

Rightsizing PIT - Will Landside Terminal, Tram Be Needed?

Big changes are expected as the Allegheny Airport Authority draws up a new master plan for the 25-year-old midfield terminal.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Watch: Pittsburgh's Italian Chefs Cook Up an Amazing BBQ

Watch: Pittsburgh's Italian Chefs Cook Up an Amazing BBQ

The fire-cooked meal organized by Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino, included dishes prepared by chefs from Pittsburgh’s Italian restaurant community.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

The tacos-and-tequila bar and restaurant on the South Side doesn't do anything wrong, exactly, but has room to grow.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

As the team prepares the inaugural class of its Hall of Honor, Mike Prisuta selects the four members of the Steelers family most deserving of inclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

No. 14 Boutique in Lawrenceville put together this chic outfit for the tricky period when summer cools into autumn.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

Reviews of "The Hitman's Bodyguard" and "Wind River," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Popping the Question Far Away from Home

Popping the Question Far Away from Home

Three grooms share how they carried their rings long distances to keep their brides-to-be in the dark until the moment they got on one knee.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Bombs Away: Arsenal 201 Apartments Open After Cannonball Removal

Bombs Away: Arsenal 201 Apartments Open After Cannonball Removal

Months after the Civil War-era cannonballs were discovered at the former arsenal and munitions factory in Lawrenceville, residents are given the green light to move into the 243-unit apartment complex.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module