Fighting for science in the era of 'fake news'

June 04, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Michael Mann began his career, he was far more comfortable being in the lab than in the public eye. Over the past 20 years, he’s found his voice and used it to stand up for peer-reviewed science amid attacks from corporations, legislators and the media.

Now more than ever, Mann says it’s critical for scientists and other experts to make their voices heard amid the chaos of "fake news" and research that’s funded to sow doubt about climate change and other issues. Mann discussed his part in the national conversation about climate change and the role of experts in a democracy on the latest episode of the Democracy Works podcast, produced by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

“Over time I've come to embrace this role because, in the end, what more noble pursuit could I be engaged in as a scientist than this pursuit to inform the public conversation about what may be the greatest threat we face as a civilization,” Mann said.

Mann is a distinguished professor of atmospheric science and the director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center (ESSC). His research involves the use of theoretical models and observational data to better understand Earth's climate system. He was a lead author on the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001. He contributed, with other IPCC authors, to IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, "Climate Change 2007," for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore.

Mann said there’s power in the scientific community coming together to fight for its work. The power of many voices speaking as one makes it much more difficult for those looking to discredit science to be successful. The same principle applies to democracy, he said, where the power of the collective is stronger than any individual vote.

“I would say ultimately the only real solution is democracy and the democratic process and people getting out and voting,” he said.

Hear the full interview at or by subscribing in iTunes or Spotify. For more information about Michael Mann, visit

  • Michael Mann

    Michael Mann discusses the role of expertise in a democracy on the McCourtney Institute's Democracy Works podcast.

    IMAGE: Michael Mann
Last Updated June 06, 2018