mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


Calling Out the Climate Cranks

This is Mark Hertsgaard writing, the author of HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. Thanks, Leo Hickman, for writing about my book and our effort tomorrow to confront the climate cranks on Capitol Hill. I hope this doesn’t sound churlish–I truly do appreciate your bringing attention to what we’re trying to do–but it’s a bit odd for you to warn me about having my facts straight when your post is filled with inaccuracies, starting with the title of my book (which is HOT, not Generation Hot) and on through what I supposedly wrote in the book about the climate cranks (which actually was written in a piece for the Nation, where I’m the environmental correspondent). But I know you mean well…. Anyway, rest assured that ALL of what I write in HOT has been deeply reported, scientifically and legally vetted and independently fact-checked. My statement about water in California by the time my daughter is grown up is a summary of an entire chapter’s worth of reporting and scientific research, including interviews with the state of California’s top experts on the issue. Finally, I disagree with the well-intention suggestion that I should calibrate what I say according to what might irritate the climate cranks. From long experience (I have covered climate change for 20 years for publications including The Nation, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, and even written the occasional piece for the Guardian), I have learned that the cranks will attack their opponents no matter the opponents say. Indeed, just as I’m typing this post, my inbox beeped with a slanderous piece of nonsense from Senator Inhofe’s long-time flak. None of this is to say that our science shouldn’t be solid or that we should not choose our words carefully. But shrinking from standing up to these people is not a winning strategy. They are bullies and bullies need confrontations. They have held our nation’s response to climate change hostage for too long already.



5 Responses to “Calling Out the Climate Cranks”

  • Leo Hickman says:

    Thanks for taking the time to respond, Mark. I don’t doubt for a moment your long and distinguished pedigree as an environmental journalist. I know full well that you write about these issues with a lot of passion and depth of research. That’s exactly why the remark about how the Californian snowpack will have melted by the time your daughter reached your own age caught my ear. Enough so, in fact, that it led me to look it up because it seemed such a startling thing to hear from you. But all I could find was the CA Dept of Water Resources saying that scientists were predicting 25% of the snowpack to be gone by 2050. That’s alarming enough, which I guess goes some way to support my central point. We hardly need to over-egg the news about what climate science is telling us – it should be more than arresting as it is. (But if your book Hot has this point fully referenced then please forgive me. Without access to the book, all I had to go on was the statement you made in the video.)

    shrinking from standing up to these people is not a winning strategy. They are bullies and bullies need confrontations. They have held our nation’s response to climate change hostage for too long already.

    I agree, but I guess we disagree on the strategy. I’m with @JRWoodman on this in that we need to be “straight, honest and firm” and not resort to “their” tactic of name-calling and exaggeration (eg “eco-Nazis”, “Climategate” etc) . We shouldn’t need to lower our standards by playing them at their own game. We both know how this works – they get to be wrong 99 times out of 100 on the science and we get to be wrong just once. But guess who wins the war for the public’s hearts and minds? Give them a crumb and, as we both know, they will quickly fashion it into a mountain with the result that your main message is drowned out in the noise they have whipped up. I sincerely hope you do manage to get these people with obvious vested interests defending their anti-science stance on camera, but, as I argue in the article above, I worry they will easily dismiss your valid efforts because you call them “cranks”. Why give them a free hit when your argument is already so compelling?

    This comment was posted here in response to your earlier comment…

  • James says:

    Hey warmer,

    Try this site for peer-reviewed scientific evidence that refutes the claims of CAGW.

  • Mark, Why do you run scared from a debate on these issues? My co-author of Slaying the Sky Dragon:Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, Dr. Martin Hertzberg has repeatedly tried to get you to respond to his debunk of your criticisms of him. Yet you ignore him. Be a man and face the people you seek to slur and engage in open public debate and stop all this doomsayer hand waving.

  • Ben says:

    Hi Mr. Hertsgaard,

    It`s sad to see how you try to make a point with your false 97 or 98% cientist concensus claim.
    I think you missed the point that in the meantime most of the people know what is going on……..
    In this way you will end up with nothing, no job, no respect, no nothing and look like a clown (even for your children…).
    Perhaps it`s not to late to come up with something serious and regain dignity!
    For more info check:

    Best regards,

    Ben v. K.


  • weatherhappens says:

    I can well imagine who “independently” fact checked this piece of pure propaganda–possibly James the gross exaggerater Hansen, or possibly Michael Mann the climate hack from Penn State, or maybe it was Joe the Egyptian crisis was started by global warming Romm. Once you have Roy Spencer, John Christy, Willie Soon, Joe D’ Aleo, Tim Bell, Patrick Michaels, and S. FRed Singer “fact” check it, then let us know. Until then it remains political science, not science.

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Latest Book


Hertsgaard’s latest book, HOT, describes how his five year old daughter and the rest of Generation Hot can cope with the massive climate impacts that are now inevitable. Packed with eyewitness reporting on existing solutions for "avoiding the unmanageable and managing the unavoidable," HOT shows how we all must think--and act--differently now in the fight against climate change. Read more

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About Mark

Called "one of America’s finest reporters" by Barbara Ehrenreich, Mark Hertsgaard is the author of six books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Earth Odyssey and On Bended Knee. He has covered climate change, politics and the media for leading media outlets around the world, including Vanity Fair, The Nation, Time, The New Yorker, NPR, L’espresso, Die Zeit and Le Monde Diplomatique.