When I was first asked to review Glenn Beck's new tome Agenda 21, I feared I could not accomplish the task objectively. After all, Beck--as recounted in my own book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars--once suggested that I, and indeed all of my fellow climate scientists, commit hara-kiri out of shame for promoting the purportedly bogus science of climate change. Hard not to harbor a bit of a grudge after that.
So I was relieved to learn that Beck did not actually write the book. In her recent article "I got duped by Glenn Beck!" (Salon.com, November 19), Sarah Cypher--the editor for an early draft of the book--revealed that Agenda 21 was in fact ghost-written by one Harriet Parke. Beck, it turns out, simply purchased the right to claim he'd written the book. Possessing an even lower opinion now of Mr. Beck, but satisfied there was no longer any conflict of interest, I proceeded to read the book with as open a mind as I could muster.
The premise of Agenda 21 lies in a set of principles, outlined in an actual early 1990s United Nations document of the same title, emphasizing the importance of environmental sustainability in plans for global economic development. In the book's paranoid imagination, however, such precepts become an Orwellian prescription for a future gone terribly awry. Agenda 21's dystopian vision resembles the remains of a fatal three-way collision between The Matrix, Soylent Green, and Atlas Shrugged.
While the story told by Agenda 21 is purely fictional, a very real agenda emerges. The author, and her facilitator Glenn Beck (as well as ultraconservative entities like the Scaife Foundations and the Koch Brothers who fund the larger anti-environmental disinformation campaign within which this latest propaganda effort is embedded) would have you believe that policies aimed at preserving our environment are the true threat to our future. The author imagines a society where human beings are trapped in concrete cells separated from the planet's natural fauna, flora, and water, and even their children (who are taken away from them at birth). They consume "nourishment cubes" in place of more recognizable food items. Adopting measures to preserve the health of the planet has somehow led to a world in which human beings have become more isolated from their natural environment. No satisfactory explanation for this paradox is ever provided.
The implausible premises don't end there. The author (and Beck) suggest that support for environmental policies was a diabolical plot to create a socialist world government that now rules the planet (chillingly referred to as "The Republic"). Yet the very same week the book was released, the World Bank—an organization founded on free market principles—issued a report confirming that business-as-usual carbon emissions represent a near and present danger to civilization. The report explains how our global infrastructure—agriculture, transportation, and energy systems—would be fundamentally compromised by warming of just a few more degrees. "We don't have time to lose" [in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions] the World Bank's Rachel Kyte was quoted as saying. This is one of the sternest warnings yet issued on the threat of climate change inaction. And in total contradiction to the book's' thesis, that warning comes from an organization whose very reason for creation was to guard against the potential rise of socialist governments (in the wake of the mass upheaval resulting from World War II).
The book would also have you buy into the canard that principles of environmental sustainability are somehow in conflict with religious faith. The future envisioned in Agenda 21 is one where individuals are disallowed from open practice of religion. But in reality, some of the most passionate advocates for action to avert dangerous climate change are faith-based organizations such as Interfaith Power and Light who see protecting the environment as part of humankind's covenant to serve as stewards of the Earth and preservers of creation.
And what about the book's treatment of matters of science? I'm usually willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good fictional narrative. But the conceit that human beings might in some dystopian future be imprisoned as beasts of burden and raised and kept alive purely for the energy that can be harvested from them goes too far. Such a scenario problematically neglects the laws of thermodynamics. It makes little if any sense, after all, to employ a primary energy source (be it the incoming radiation from the Sun, the heat escaping from Earth's core, or the energy released from the burning of fossil fuels) to manufacture proteins or raise crops, only to feed an army of macrofauna (i.e. human beings), only in turn to harness the energy they produce. If it is only energy that is being sought, such a chain of energy conversion processes is inefficient to the point of absurdity. The only sensible option would be to exploit the primary energy source itself.
I did my best to ignore the implausibility of this plot device when it first reared its head in The Matrix. But it is far less tolerable when used as a foundation for a misguided anti-environmental narrative. We are forced to accept, without explanation, how decades into the future no effort has been made to take advantage of far more plentiful and efficient renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy (which, by some estimates, could provide 70% of our energy needs in the U.S. in less than two decades). Not only have renewable energy technologies apparently not benefited from the increased efficiencies expected after decades of further research and development, they appear to have vanished altogether!
Bad science is hardly the greatest sin in Agenda 21. The real problem is its transparent agenda to sow distrust and cynicism in good faith efforts to protect our environment. The great works of dystopian fiction yield lucid, cautionary tales of the potential dangers that may lurk in our future—be they nuclear holocaust, environmental catastrophe, or the subjugation by machine overlords—if we make imprudent choices in the present. The very worst of the genre, however, do the opposite; they obscure an actual looming threat (e.g. human-caused climate change) by instead drawing our attention away to a false, manufactured one. Nothing could be more dangerous or misguided than a screed like Agenda 21 that attempts to do just that.
Michael E. Mann is a climate scientist, the director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center, and the author of two books: Dire Predictions and The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars. Follow him on Twitter here.
Gee, Mr. Mann has a problem with the book - what a shock. IMHO, Michael would be better served figuring out new ways of "Hiding the decline".
Mr. Mann and other "writers" for Propaganda Pseudo Science make some nice coin from the lecture and book circuit promoting climate change. Not much money to be made showing the truth. Basically Mr. Man makes a living of promoting climate change.
Man made climate change only happens with air conditioning and on small areas GLOBAL man made climate change is still just a dream.
Humanity has raised CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. CO2 traps long wave radiation. More long wave radiation means more heat in the atmosphere. Now, using simple A=B, B=C so A must = C aritmetic, we can see that humans have changed the amount of heat in the atmosphere*. We can debate about how much 'till Kingdom come, but to say humans have not affected the global climate is simply absurd.
As for the money comment, I would much rather believe someone who make a couple grand for selling his books on climate change than those people who spend millions upon millions 'informing' the public that their billion dollar oil company can't possibly be the cause, and those people making a few bucks off a book are just in it for the money.
*Yes, I know it's far more complicated than this, but this is the TL;DR version.
This is a disgraceful smear article against someone the author simply disagrees with. Why this garbage is given a platform is beyond me. Popsci has officially become an opinion page and is therefore being removed from my bookmarks and RSSfeed. sad.
Care to support your opinion with credible sources and facts?
It frustrates me that people continue to discuss how they don't believe in man made climate change. Putting political agendas aside, I'd like people to actually discuss why they don't believe in man made climate change, and what evidence compels them to believe that. I encourage people who have strong opinions that man doesn't contribute to global warming to read peer reviewed empirical research on the subject (even if it is very difficult to understand) and refrain from using Internet websites of biased organizations to formulate opinions. There are plenty of reviews out there that people can access free of charge that discuss the matter, which may be easier to comprehend for the layman. I am in now way trying to condemn people's opinions in a comment section of popsci. I am rather trying to promote good scientific practice and encourage people to be responsible citizens by looking into what is considered "credible" in the scientific community.
I found this to be an excellent and well written article.
It's seems there is confusion about what "hide the decline" actually means or implies. It does NOT refer to temperature data. It refers to tree ring proxies that typically correlate well with temperatures. The "trick" involves plotting reconstructed temperatures along with other proxies to find correlations.
This decline in tree rings (again, not temperature or other proxies) has been openly discussed in scientific literature (http://tinyurl.com/b3xohqc).
The fact is, there is an overwhelming scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change (http://tinyurl.com/a78wy4v), and it's not because they're getting rich off of it (have you ever met a climate scientist?). It's because the evidence in favor of it is absolutely unequivocal. Global warming is happening, and humanity is affecting it.
I think this is a great article, not because it was well written, but because it sums up the climate debate.
Two people (writer of book/writer of article) with different opinions and a belief system. Yes, opinions and beliefs. Both sides. If you don't think derived reason from scientific theory is a belief, then your not questioning enough.
Each side takes leaps of faith(not in the religious sense) with their logic or reason. Then gets angry at the other side for lack of debate on the topic.
Here is a comment to the authors: you both sound the same.
(1) We can all agree that Pop Sci is a left leaning rag (left leaning for some time, raggish in the last few months of shoddy writing and abusive diatribes). So, them printing a contrarian review is expected.
(2) As far as contrarian reviews go, this one was modest and better thought out that you would expect if it had been written by Nosowitz or other common contributors to this publication.
(3) Some of the criticisms are valid. The "humans as batteries" thing is ridiculous (and was, even in the Matrix).
(4) Some of the criticism are not valid. Ghost writing is very common, not just in "media driven publications" like Mr. Beck's writings, but in books "written" by Presidents or other famous/important people as well as in genre literature (Stephen King, for example, has had many ghost writers through the years to increase production). Wholesale purchasing of titles is less common, but does still regularly occur in fiction where there is a plethoria of good writers, but only a few brand names that assure the publisher of sales.
(5) World Bank is hardly a bastion of free enterprise economics. They are, however, heavily vested in microloans in 3rd world nations who would suffer the brunt of climate change. Some climate change would actually move the grainbelt northward - expanding the amount of landmass useful for cultivation into Canada and Siberia, which would result in an increase of total food/wealth production for the globe - just not for the 3rd world.
(6) What part of the environmental movement is not about telling people what they cannot do (or must do)? Concrete cells are a bit of hyperbole, but as boring a symbol as that might be, it isn't a hard one to interpret.
(7) Contradicting a consipracy theorist (the greenies are out to get us) is more convicing without a consipracy theory (the koch demons are funding it).
(8) Sustainability is a terrible goal - because it leads to stagnation. Needs, shortcommings, peril, and even greed drive innovation. Imagine if the world had stopped with sustainability before the iron plow, the mechanical tractor, or the Green Revolution. We would still be at the whim of famine and drought, most of our potential advances would have been wasted in the minds of men tilling the soil by hand, and we would still be one space rock away from extinction (these days we might just save ourselves).
(9) Mr. Beck thanks you for the attention. His book was going to sell millions anyways, but the more people who disdain it and denegrate it, the more money he will make on it (remember - media driven publication).
Intellectuals used to make comments here. It seems that POPSCI has become a sounding board for Becks followers. Your ability to read and regurgitate books by Beck doesn't make you intelligent.
I don't Understand why many people seem to think that climatologists are out to get them. They are the people who know the most about this subject. why would anyone take the unsubstantiated claims of a talking head like Glen Beck over the peer reviewed research of an expert like Dr. Mann? There is very little argument in the scientific community that humans have produced enough CO2 to effect the global climate and without a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions there will be negative consequences for the global population. Why Would we ignore these experts and their research?
This is analogous to taking your sick child to 10 doctors and having 9 of them tell you he has cancer and needs to start chemo immediately. Yes, the chemo will cause many negative effects in the short term, but it gives that child a chance to survive in the long term. any good parent in this situation would ignore the 1 doctor who told him his kid was fine and immediately start treatment. Why should we act differently when the entire global population is at risk?
@jargund Completely agree, popsci used to have a lot of great articles. Now so much of it is just opinion, it's lost a lot of credibility from more than a few of it's reader. I agree it was simply a smear article. I walked away from this article with no more information than when I started it, that's just wasteful.
I believe in climate change, but I'm not about to smear anyone that doesn't agree. You want to change people's minds on climate change popsci? Then more articles with less opinions. No one's stupid here, we all saw it was a smear article on a fictional book from a conservative. Well guess what, I'm a Republican that has read popsci for over a decade. RSS deleted until you work your problems out.
State of Fear
I like the concept of a real scientist ripping into works of popular fiction. "Bad Astronomy" had a good run there. I would however, first, like it to be on a book (or movie) that I would actually read, and second, not be agenda driven.
So, less preaching more science please.
I did a little math to get an idea how much humans actually affect green house gas.
Lets be clear this is rough math and isn't using data I collected from my own science experiments but is from digging on the internet.
Co2 is the main gas we humans have been accused of killing this world with, so lets measure that.
To properly measure how we cause global warming, we need to measure our output of those gases into our atmosphere.
Source : Historical response of SI for European tree birches (B. pendula and B. pubescens) to global atmospheric CO2 increase from 287 to 356 ppmv. The training set includes mean SI values for herbarium material (•) collected in The Netherlands and Denmark ...
The reconstructed CO2 record shows a fluctuating pattern (Fig. ?(Fig.2).2). Inferred CO2 minima with averages of ˜275 ppm by volume (ppmv) occur at ˜8,680 years B.P. and between ˜8,430 and ˜8,040 years B.P.; prominent maxima with values of 300–325 ppmv occur at ˜8,640 years B.P. and between ˜7,920 and ˜7,270 years B.P. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC129389/)
So from this we can assert that a long time ago the Co2 has reached an excess of 300+ ppm. Currently, as in from data taken in 2007 ... the Co2 ppm rose from 280 pre-industrial age to 380. And in a study done in 2011 is now a wopping 390.(ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/co2_mm_mlo.txt)
Of this, the associated contribution from humans or Anthropogenic contribution is more like 35% of that increase. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2412.htm)
So in essense we have increased the CO2 from 280 to 390, or since 300 to 325 has been found in a natural enviroment.
280 is 71.79% of 380 or an increase of 28.21%.
So if we have Anthropogenic contribution 28.21% of the increase to the CO2 levels, which is highly doubtful considering that natural causes could have added to this increase.
According to a study done in 2005 gageing gase's contribution to the green house effect. (http://web.archive.org/web/20060330013311/http://www.atmo.arizona.edu/students/courselinks/spring04/atmo451b/pdf/RadiationBudget.pdf)
Gas Formula Contribution(%)
Water vapor H2O 36 – 72%
Carbon dioxide CO2 9 – 26%
Methane CH4 4 – 9%
Ozone O3 3 – 7%
As you see CO2 is responsible for roughly 26% of total greenhouse production. And this is with clear skys in mind. Cloudy skys assessment puts CO2 down to 22%.
So we then take our Anthropological contribution of 28.21% of the 26% = 7.33%. to get our actual affect on the atmosphere.
So we humans in the modern day are only responsible for 7.33% of green house affect. And this is assuming all increase in CO2 is caused by humans.
Lets take another look at it from a more reflective standpoint. Volcano eruptions on a yearly measure only about 1% of what humans produce each year. This is a common comparison when people argue the importance of human expulsion of CO2 in the air. However, massive volcano eruptions have been known to cause epic scale CO2 levels on the planet. An example of which( the snow earth period was ended about 550 Ma, by a colossal volcanic out gassing that raised the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere abruptly to 12%, about 350 times modern levels, causing extreme greenhouse conditions and carbonate deposition as limestone at the rate of about 1 mm per day. Thats far past lethal to humans. Forget global warming, we would just die is anything like that happened today. Thats an extreme example, but I think you get the point.
I think it's important to know that no where in here am I trying to say that we shouldn't move to cleaner, renewable sources of energy. I just think people are alarmists on both sides trying to stretch the truth for political advantage. Yes, we have an impact on the environment...no it's not huge. We still should respect our planet and reach for technologies that will bring us forward.
Great review! Makes we want to go out and get the book today! Love Glenn Beck. Thanks, PopSci!
5. To finish with the math, by calculating the product of the adjusted CO2 contribution to greenhouse gases (3.618%) and % of CO2 concentration from anthropogenic (man-made) sources (3.225%), we see that only (0.03618 X 0.03225) or 0.117% of the greenhouse effect is due to atmospheric CO2 from human activity. The other greenhouse gases are similarly calculated and are summarized below.
Anthropogenic (man-made) Contribution to the "Greenhouse
Effect," expressed as % of Total (water vapor INCLUDED)
Based on concentrations (ppb) adjusted for heat retention characteristics % of Greenhouse Effect
Water vapor 95.000%
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 3.618%
Methane (CH4) 0.360%
Nitrous Oxide (N2O) 0.950%
Misc. gases ( CFC's, etc.) 0.072%
I was sure I missed something but I only had to research during my lunch...lol.
I wonder if Beck's protagonist overcomes the environmental conspiracy by buying gold from Goldline.
Rampant outgassing from Glen Becks anus is killing wolves people!!! We nee to put a plug in it before some pencil necked tree hugging gatherer has a stroke! Seriously!!! Popular Science should rename themselves to 'Liberal Politics' or something to that effect....
Disgusting that an inexplicably influential celebrity would buy a work of fiction, put his name on it and then tie it in to his political rants. There is just no way he believes what he is saying but he's getting rich that way. Same goes for anybody on the other side. They are a scourge on society, encouraging us to enjoy mud-slinging, getting quickly bored with real dialog. We are as much to blame as they are for this. I used to enjoy a show on CNN called Crossfire, until I realized what it really was (pure mud-slinging entertainment).
Glad to see some of the posters above doing some calculations rather than just passing along talking points from folks like Beck. Yes, mankind's contribution to CO2 may be relatively small but it may represent a tipping point. Climate change (periods of warming and cooling) happen naturally but on a much longer time scale. A degree a century is a remarkably fast rate. I think the actual measurements indicate that the rate could be even faster. Even still that is not the most worrisome detail.
Can this warming accelerate? If we start seeing even rapider melt off of glaciers in the next few years, the acceleration is almost certain to be serious. Perhaps at the moment, the melt water is keeping some ocean currents cooler than they would normally be ... like an ice cube in a glass of water. At some point though, this cooling feedback effect will be gone and things will get much worse quickly. By then it will be too late so we'd better figure it out well before then.
What? PopSci is spouting climate change nonsense and smearing people who disagree, all under the guise of "science"? Wow, what else is new?
Quit with the politics and lets have some real science...
"So we humans in the modern day are only responsible for 7.33% of green house affect. And this is assuming all increase in CO2 is caused by humans."
The greenhouse effect is responsible for the Earth being 33C above what it would be otherwise. So, assuming we're responsible for 7.33% of that, humans are responsible for 2.41C of that temperature.
Obviously using multiplication of percentages and such is silly in such a complex system, which is why they use the most powerful computers on the planet to calculate these things.
First off this book was not written by Glenn Beck. The true author of the book is Harriet Parke. Glenn Beck paid her to let him publish the book under his name. She is listed at he ghost writer of the book. Glenn Beck is nothing more than a plagiarist that paid for another authors work.
Read about the reality of Agenda 21 here. http://www.salon.com/2012/11/19/i_got_duped_by_glenn_beck/
As much as some of us would like to think, we really don't understand the environment as much as we'd like, nor how it manages to regulate itself. Take for example, the rabbit infestations in Australia, or the spread of other invasive flora and fauna across the globe.
Even based off of rough calculations, 7.33% of change in the natural world could be a massive amount. I'm sure those poor fools who first set loose a bunch of rabbits in the Australian outback thought they were doing a great thing. But then combined with an elimination of native predators and the perfect breeding climate, the rabbit population exploded quickly becoming a prime pest eating all the vegetation in an already strained environment. Even today the country is spending billions of dollars fighting what has become the cause of many problems including species loss, soil erosion, and native plant loss.
The arguments that 'human causes' are too small to be influencing the change in climate May have some merit. But you have to consider the other side of that argument too.
Sure, letting loose tons of extra CO2 might prove harmless in the end. But then again, like the Australian rabbits, it could prove an incredibly expensive problem that our future generations will curse us for in centuries to come.
Weighing the potential consequences against present difficulties, I'd really rather have the public and the government taking a much harder look at climate change than continue this pointless mud-slinging.
There is comparable warming of other bodies in the solar system with Earth. It is caused by the sun. Although people should be doing more to prevent contributing to the ruining of our planet, to say coal plants, cow farts, and SUVs are the cause of climate change is just plain funny.
Also, the energy output required to make the steel in all the worlds currently existing windmills won't be recovered by those windmills for another 125 years. Solar is not much better.
you've got to be kidding. We have enough trouble understanding climate on the Earth. Do you really believe we have any idea about what is happening to other planets and moons? As for the comment about windmills, you don't seem to have much of an understanding about energy production and utilization. Furthermore, those very windmills won't be around in 125 years which would make such a "fact" about their efficiency all the more astounding, if it had any merit.
I just used a calculator. I could have done it long hand if it made sense. Many natural factors influence the increase in CO2 besides humans. However in those studies they make the direct correlation between the rise in CO2 and the industrial revolution.
That kind of observation is just speculation and wouldn't hold up as fact. The true facts here are hard to prove, because we can't track our own CO2 as it moves through the atmosphere. All we can do is measure it leaving certain factories, and calculate what the average car produces multiplied by how many we think are running.
The same could be said for us existing in the first place. The whole "butterfly effect" theory grows old, because I won't apologize for being born. The cold hard truth is this, there are alarmists on both sides. They want you to believe we need to dramatically change our course or X will happen soon. Not all climatologists are pushing socialistic agendas, and not all Conservatives hate science. I bet it's more like a silent majority of each get caught in this crossfire of panic mud slinging.
Overall, I would be happy if we pushed towards newer, cleaner technology... but not at the cost of free enterprise being crushed by over regulation.
Wasn't this the guy that was caught falsifying climate data? Why do we give him the time of day let alone review a book of Fiction? Glenn Beck did not write this but it does have his name on the cover. Why? Because he owns the publishing company that put the book on the shelves!
There is no doubt that humans have change the climate of the world. But to say that we are the ONLY cause and we can do anything about it is absurd. Also the statements made by some other people about using solar and wind to replace our energy in 10 years is a dream. If we covered the US in solar panels it wouldn't make enough to support our current needs. Also, these solar farms are now causing massive erosion problems in many areas where they are installed. No talk about this in any Popular Science magazine I've seen. You have to clear cut everything to put them in, and nothing grows underneath them. Big improvement. The number one killer of Bald Eagles is windmills. As long as China can pollute as much as they want, there is no level playing field so we can't compete with them and there is no point in putting more restrictions on us that will just destroy our economy. The best we can do is be reasonable and do what we can where we can.
The far left slant of this magazine is why I would love to stop my subscription, but there is no alternative so I try to ignore it the best I can. It is getting to the point where it is no longer tolerable though.
Mr. Mann must be related to Jerry S. as they both live in alternative universes!
Few people believe that our climate is not changing. It is changing, whether for good or bad or whether it will reverse itself is impossible to know.
What we do know is that their is tremendous arrogance in the academic "liberal" scientific community. To go against certain belief systems or "laws" that have been blessed by the very strident (man is always the problem) members of this community is heretical.
The fact is man and its manmade system are very puny and weak compared to natural occurrences. Sunspots, up until Margaret Thatcher needed a scapegoat for her policies, have always been generally considered responsible for large climatic shifts on the planet.
There is much evidence to support that position, both historically and now!
Much like the flat-worlders of Galileo's time, the academics have jumped on the "man is responsible" for all the problems of the world bandwagon by making climate change OUR problem.
The fact is that most non-academic meteoroligists have no clue as to why things are happening other than the aforementioned sunspots (thats from the AMA). The models and evidence does not exist to answer these questions in any other way because their is such a short history to the models and any evidence.
I think Mr. Mann would best serve the public by going into some other field that PSU is better noted for like agronomy and let the serious work on this subject stay with professionals!!