In The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving us Crazy, climate scientist Michael Mann joins with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles to take on climate change denialism. Mann, the Director of the Earth System Science Center at The Pennsylvania State University, augments his prose with cartoons from Toles, who normally draws for the editorial section of the Washington Post. Together, Mann and Toles set out to debunk the main arguments that special interest groups use to undermine climate change policy.
The book begins with an introduction to the scientific method and its application to climate change science. It then describes the current and potential effects of climate change on everyday life. In its second half, the book transitions to the politics surrounding climate change in the United States. A major focus of the book is the “war on climate science,” the phrase Mann and Toles use to describe how the fossil fuel industry has created misinformation to discourage action on climate change.
The Madhouse Effect was published in 2016, at a moment when the United States was choosing between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates whose climate change agendas differed wildly. The book’s publication failed to avert the election of President Donald Trump, a climate change denier who has referred to the phenomenon as a “hoax” created by China. Still, The Madhouse Effect presents a valuable depiction of the underground currents that influence climate change politics in the United States. The underlying idea—the challenges political responses to any topic face where the objective truths are being undermined—remains valid.
This review will first summarize Mann’s views on the science of climate change and “the war on climate science.” It then discusses how Mann’s arguments about the efforts of the fossil fuel industry to discredit climate science explain the meaning behind President Donald Trump’s election. Finally, the review will discuss whether Mann’s emphasis on a top-down approach to climate change is a feasible and effective solution for addressing climate change in 2018.