Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Book Review: 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, 2016, 186 pages, $24.95

Book review by N.R. Mallery

I just want to start with saying that I wish everyone I know (or dont know) would read this book, before the election!

With one candidate denying climate change – or denying that it is caused by humans – the effect on our future of our ailing planet is being jeopardized. Mann and Toles both understand this clearly and have brilliantly addressed how real the threat of climate change is, backing it with the facts that cannot be denied.

The combination of a climate scientist and cartoonist seems like an odd match to seriously tackle the climate denial industry. This is explained at the start, where they say in the preface, “What would bring a pointy-headed, lab-coat wearing, left-brained scientist and a laid-back, artistic, right-brained editorial cartoonist-satirist to collaborate on a book?”

The answer is simple, climate change.”

Bill McKibben, founder of reviewed this combination beautifully when he said:

Michael E. Mann is one of the planets great climate scientists, and Tom Toles may be the great climate communicator—together, they are a category 5 storm of information and indignation, wreaking humorous havoc on those who would deny the greatest challenge humans have ever faced.”

Award-winning climate scientist Michael Mann has authored many books, including, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, that featured the now famous hockey-stick graph. He also wrote Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change with scientist Lee Kump, and is very active as a research scientist as well as on social media.

2016-10-02-1475447158-314648-epaandparisTom Toles is the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist of the Washington Post. His main focus seems to include politics, but he has a particular interest in climate change and works consistently to advance understanding on this subject at the same time. Andy Scuce from says,”His cartoons have often featured climate science and the absurd lengths that many American politicians go to in avoiding the facing up to the reality of global change.”

With this incredible background, the authors have created a well-thought-out arrangement for how to best tackle the problem of denialism. They have outlined and addressed it from brilliant angles, and have successfully done this in eight chapters.

  1. Science – How It works;

  2. Climate Change: The Basics

  3. Why Should I Give a Damn?

  4. The Stages of Denial

  5. The War On Climate Science

  6. Hypocrisy: Thy Name Is Climate Denial

  7. Geoengineering, OR What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

  8. A Path Forward

This is the kind of book that you can simply not put down. You end up putting markers all through it on the things you want to share with others. My copy probably has more pages dog-eared than not. I think I am going to have to go out and buy enough copies to pass out to my family and friends. Every library and bookstore should have it on display for all to see, borrow or buy.

As the authors say at the start of chapter two, “The basics of climate change are actually very simple and always have been. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat, and we are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. The rest is details.”

Here is where the team of Mann and Toles really shines: the scientific facts are irrefutable. They absolutely show that unless you are smarter than what scientific research proves, it just does not make any sense to deny this reality. It’s time to let greed and fossil fuels gotta go. Toles’ cartoon illustrations have an important impact that really drives home the reality and the insanity of denial with a delightful humorous tone. How important this is, as we face what is the most serious issue humanity has had to face.

One illustration shows a man at a gas station about to fill his gas tank, At the top of the gas pump is a sign that says, “CHEAP ENERGY.” Step one is to “SELECT RESPONSE.” The options are: “SAVE CLIMATE” or “DESTROY CLIMATE.” The man has his hand over his mouth aghast at the decision he has to make in order to get the gas for his vehicle.

The cartoon clearly shows how we must now face our future by making the right choices as we confront the war on climate change. We must face it head-on and win this battle.

Read this book and share it far and wide!

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