Credits: C A. Mazzai

“The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving us Crazy” is the title of the book that in 2016 Distinguished Professor Michael Mann co-authored with Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles and it is also the starting point of the speech that Professor Mann held on the 20th June 2018 at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. The “madhouse” effect is a playful distortion of the greenhouse effect: a situation in which climate change is heating up the planet to the point of driving all of us crazy.

In fact, according to Prof. Mann, the major discourse of climate change denial and skepticism dominating in the USA is foolish; and the decisions of the USA administration, the false believes of some scientists, scholars and politicians, and the wrong attitude of the society in general concerning climate change, all constitute obstacles to the attempt of fighting it and threats to the future opportunity of defeating it.

Although climate change is not the source of all existing problems, Mann said, it is a phenomenon that strongly exacerbates current issues, such as extreme weather and natural disasters. In other words, climate change is a risk-multiplier, an event having linkages and effects on other sectors besides the environmental one: such as the agricultural one but also on food security, migration and national security in general. Future scenarios of fights for food and water resources are possible, and such situations are already visible: The Professor addressed current massive migrations from Africa talking about “environmental” or “climate refugees”, underling how impactful climate change can be for political systems and the security of all the countries.

Prof. Mann warned against stereotypes and wrong beliefs claiming that climate change is “natural” and “normal”, and that is “too early” to act against it; according to him, there is no right time to act, but now. In this sense, the Paris Agreement was a good international political effort to take some steps in this direction, but he underlined that more concrete and specific work should be done.

Finally, Professor Michael Mann is mostly optimistic about the future, explaining that a win-win situation is possible, in which climate change can be faced and the global economy can prosper from it, especially considering current technological progress. He concluded with an inspiring and encouraging suggestion for all the scientists and scholars to spread the scientific knowledge on climate change, and take the opportunity to speak and influence the public about the truth of this important global issue.

The event was organized in collaboration with the CMCC (Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change), the SISC (Italian Society for Climate Sciences) and IDPA (Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes).
Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC), discussed with the Director of the CMCC RAAS Division (Risk Assessment and Adaptation Strategies) Prof. Jaroslav Mysiak and with Carlo Barbante, President of the SISC, Director of CNR – IDPA Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes, and Professor at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.