08/02/2017 11:06 AM AEDT | Updated 08/02/2017 1:32 PM AEDT

Climate Scientist's Defiant, In-Your-Face Message To Trump

How to make America great again? Michael Mann has a one-word solution.

Michael Mann knows he's in for the fight of his life.

The 51-year-old climate scientist has been fighting like hell for 25 years, but this is the big one.

U.S. president Donald Trump has stacked his cabinet with people who -- like Trump himself -- reject the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.

Now the real fight starts.

"Science has become a full contact sport," the 51-year-old professor at Penn State University told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's not what I signed up for. Little did I realise that I was putting myself on a trajectory that would take me to the very centre of the most contentious debate we've ever had societally. But having found myself at the centre of that storm, I've ultimately come to terms with it and really embraced it."

Mann is best known for producing the famous "hockey stick graph" which first showed in really clear terms the scale of the upward climate trend which was in direct correlation with CO2 output.

Wikimedia commons
Many have tried to discredit this graph. All were either a) proven wrong or b) proven wrong and found to have links to fossil fuel industries.

For this and other peer-reviewed research, the Penn State University professor has been subjected to a series of personal and professional attacks straight out of the tobacco lobby playbook -- often, by some of the same mercenary lobbyists.

An unimposing figure with deep brown eyes, Mann has been likened to holocaust deniers and child molesters. A U.S. governor tried to strip his academic credentials. He and his family have been sent suspicious packages and received death threats.

That sort of prolonged harassment would break most people. Mann, who first studied physics, could have gravitated into more lucrative fields where his mathematical skills would have ensured a much healthier income -- not to mention a healthier emotional environment.

But he is committed to his research, and through it, to stopping human-caused global warming. When asked what message he'd give President Trump if the two were alone in a room, it was all about three things -- renewables, renewables and renewables.

Still cheery after all these years.

"He has said that he wants to make America great again. Some of us think it's a pretty great country already, but if he truly wants to make America great, then he has to make sure we are not left out of the great 21st century revolution, which is the renewable energy revolution," he said.

"He's got to embrace that. He's got to make sure that we don't cede that ground to China and other countries. If he doesn't want us to get left behind economically, he has to embrace the transition towards renewable technology."

As for what he calls "the assault on climate science" under Trump, Mann retains his optimism.

"The good news is that the U.S. alone can't really turn back the tide. If you look at the nations of the world, they are moving dramatically towards renewable energy. China is the largest emitter of carbon but is also now investing far more in renewable energy than the U.S. or any other country," Mann said.

"It's pretty clear that the world is moving in that direction. Fossil fuel energy is outmoded technology, the economic revolution of the 21st century is going to be the renewable energy revolution. So the question that the U.S. and Australia and other countries have to ask is 'are they going to get on board or are they going to be left behind?'"


Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State

Getty Images
Dude with grey hair and glasses.

"Tillerson was CEO of ExxonMobil, so effectively now the United States is a petrostate. Our secretary of state, who is in charge of our foreign policy, was literally the CEO of the world's largest fossil fuel industry."

Scott Pruitt, Head of the Evironmental Protection Authority (nominee)

The Washington Post via Getty Images
Dude with grey hair and glasses.

"At the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] we have Scott Pruitt, who was the former attorney general of Oklahoma who sued the EPA to try to prevent them from regulating carbon emissions. Now he's in charge of the very organisation he sued. He's a climate change denier who's on record dismissing climate change as natural, as not human caused."

Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy (nominee)

Stephen J. Boitano via Getty Images
Dude with greying hair and glasses. Who says there's no diversity in the Trump cabinet?

"The former governor of Texas had a famous moment where he was going through a list of departments he would eliminate if he was the president, and he couldn't remember the Department of Energy. He's now leading the department and is a climate change denier."

Michael Mann will speak on Wednesday night at a Sydney Environment Institute lecture at the University of Sydney. The topic of the talk is "The madhouse effect: climate change denial in the age of Trump". The talk is at 6pm, at the University of Sydney Business School.