Michael Mann reveals his account of attacks by entrenched interests seeking to undermine his 'hockey stick' graph.
It is almost possible to dismiss Michael Mann's account of a vast conspiracy by the fossil fuel industry to harrass scientists and befuddle the public. His story of that campaign, and his own journey from naive computer geek to battle-hardened climate ninja, seems overwrought, maybe even paranoid.
But now comes the unauthorised release of documents showing how a libertarian thinktank, the Heartland Institute, which has in the past been supported by Exxon, spent millions on lavish conferences attacking scientists and concocting projects to counter science teaching for kindergarteners.
Mann's story of what he calls the climate wars, the fight by powerful entrenched interests to undermine and twist the science meant to guide government policy, starts to seem pretty much on the money. He's telling it in a book out on 6 March, The hockey stick and the climate wars: Dispatches from the front lines.
"They see scientists like me who are trying to communicate the potential dangers of continued fossil fuel burning to the public as a threat. That means we are subject to attacks, some of them quite personal, some of them dishonest." Mann said in an interview conducted in and around State College, home of Pennsylvania State University, where he is a professor.
It's a brilliantly sunny day, and the light snowfall of the evening before is rapidly melting.
Mann, who seems fairly relaxed, has just spoken to a full-capacity, and uniformly respecful and supportive crowd at the university.
It's hard to square the surroundings with the description in the book of how an entire academic discipline has been made to feel under siege, but Mann insists that it is a given.
"It is now part of the job description if you are going to be a scientist working in a socially relevant area like human-caused climate change," he said.
He should know. For most of his professional life has been at the centre of those wars, thanks to a paper he published with colleagues in the late 1990s showing a sharp upward movement in global temperatures in the last half of the 20th century. The graph became known as the "hockey stick". More