If you're reading PopSci, you probably already know all about the latest efforts to offset carbon dioxide emissions, engineer clean building materials and combat pollution from traditional energy sources like coal and oil.
But you may be less aware of the more insidious climate villains--the quieter ones, which aren't necessarily belching toxic gases or currently destroying the Gulf of Mexico. Their damage is more indirect, but that doesn't make it less harmful.
A problem as immense as climate change stretches beyond the obvious. Did you know, for instance, that your TV weather man (or woman) likely doesn't believe in climate change? Were you aware that the sirloin steak at your favorite chop house is a bigger contributor to global warming than your car?
Sure, we've made great strides in environmental protection since the days of burning rivers and the Crying Indian commercial. But it's a heck of a lot warmer now. Most Americans still believe humans are to blame for this, but there are plenty of climate villains who are working to shift public opinion the other way.
Here are five of the worst:
The G20 and China
Plenty of people were responsible for the bungled opportunity that was the United Nations Climate Change Conference last winter. But the majority of the blame lies with the leaders of the world's largest economic powers.
Developed nations should have formulated a meaningful agreement that would have actually led to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, their leaders politicked the conference to death and came away with a document that does little more than acknowledge climate change is a problem—something even George W. Bush was able to do almost 10 years ago. It was a flop, and it secured climate politics a spot on the back burner in many countries.
The world's biggest economies must participate in international climate change agreements or they will be meaningless. The G20 group is responsible for more than three-fourths of the world's pollution, so a 30 percent emission reduction in Lichtenstein isn't going to help much if the big economic powers don't clean things up. For instance, China, which emits more sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide than any other nation, balked at provisions that would have required dramatic greenhouse-gas reductions.
Ultimately, the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa drafted the non-binding accord, excluding most UN members. Here's hoping the next conference in Cancun later this year provides more inspiration than Copenhagen.
How to vanquish: At the voting booth
James "Mountain Jim" Inhofe might be proud to make this list -- he's one of the most vocal skeptics of global warming in the country. He's compared the environmentalist movement to
the Third Reich and has called the threat of catastrophic climate change "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
Though he lost his chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee when the Republicans lost the upper chamber, Inhofe can still do plenty of damage. One senator can do a lot to stop a carefully crafted climate bill (or any bill, for that matter), thanks to the byzantine rules of the Senate. This is important, given recent movement toward a climate vote sometime this summer.
On June 11, Democrats blocked a bill that would have prevented the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, which means the Obama administration might come up with emission regulations without any Senate action. But Democrats are still hoping for bipartisan climate legislation this year. Inhofe could employ various parliamentary tactics to grind things to a halt, if not derail them completely -- such as placing a "hold," which would require 60 votes to break, or offering countless amendments that would weaken the legislation.
Across the pond, Christopher Monckton, AKA Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, could fill Inhofe's shoes. He's been getting plenty of press lately for misrepresenting climate science in humorous, well-attended speeches in the United Kingdom (bad news when only 30 percent of Britons say climate change is "definitely" a real issue).
How to vanquish: Learn the facts so these politicians can't fool you
Many climate-change skeptics put on an air of authority, masquerading as working members of the academic or scientific communities. But often, these naysayers will lack the specific qualifications or publications to back up their claims. The result is further public confusion and more fodder for deniers.
Danish professor Bjorn Lomborg is one of the best-known examples of this type of skeptic. In his controversial books "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and "Cool It," Lomborg claims many of the most-publicized theses about global warming are wrong. He adds that there's nothing to be done about it anyway, and that the world should refocus resources on solving problems like malaria, AIDS and malnutrition.
While those are admirable goals, it's unrealistic to pit climate change against other issues in a zero-sum contest to decide the world's worst problem. But the bottom line is that Lomborg is a political scientist, and he's not qualified to contradict the work of climate scientists.
Social scientists are not the only villains, however.
"There are lot of other scientists who have credentials in science, but are quite ignorant in climate matters," says Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis department at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "That gets into play in the war of words, and get used by various groups in different ways, and certainly that is a problem."
Trenberth says Richard Lindzen, an MIT atmospheric physicist, is an especially prominent example. Among climate change skeptics, Lindzen's credentials are hard to beat--he's published more than 200 scientific papers, participated in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He published a paper earlier this year that claimed human-produced greenhouse gases will warm the world less than most climatologists claim.
Note that his paper says it will warm, just not as much as others predict. Despite that, deniers latched on to the paper as proof that climate scientists are hyping the evidence for warming. Trenberth and other climate scientists rebutted Lindzen's findings on several grounds, including criticizing the team's research methods. For his part, Lindzen said in an e-mail that he's taken Trenberth et al's criticisms to heart, re-done the study and his findings stand.
The point is, it's an intricate, complex argument, and that complexity is usually lost in the public debate. In truth, most scientists who study climate--not geology, not economics, not atmospheric physics, but climate--accept that humans are contributing to global warming.
A study published in the January 2009 newsletter [PDF] of the American Geophysical Union asked 3,146 earth scientists whether they think human activity is "a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures." Among climatologists who actively publish research on climate change, 97.5 percent answered yes. But among scientists who were non-climatologists and didn't publish research, only 77 percent said yes.
The findings suggest that as the level of research and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement that humans are having an impact.
There are also plenty of scientists who do not dispute the fact that the climate has been warming — they simply disagree about why. Some suggest other causes like solar and cosmic rays or ocean currents. But studies [PDF] of those phenomena show they're not nearly enough to account for all the warming.
For a nice list of scientific organizations endorsing the consensus that humans are causing climate change, go here.
How to vanquish: Read climate scientists, not pseudo-scientists
Your TV Weather Personality
There's about a 50-50 chance he or she doesn't believe in global warming. But that doesn't mean he or she is qualified to tell you you're wrong for being concerned--far from it. Even if your weather person is a trained meteorologist (only half of them are), meteorology is not climatology.
Climatologists study weather patterns over long periods of time. Meteorologists study weather patterns over a few days. Some forecasters scoff at the idea of climate scientists modeling the weather 100 years from now, when they can barely predict the weather next week. But they're two different things.
Think of it this way: In Chicago next Monday, it looks like rain. That's a weather prediction. In Denver in December, it will be cooler than it is today. No one can tell whether it will be sunny or snowing, but we can say, almost without a doubt, that it will be cooler. That's a climate prediction.
That difference in perspective is a unique challenge for climate scientists like Trenberth.
"There's so much going on that you can always cherry-pick a few things that look to be at odds," he said. "You can convince somebody that there is no global warming, yet in the larger context there is a relatively straightforward explanation."
More than half of Americans trust their weathercasters to tell them about global warming more than they trust other news media outlets or public figures like Al Gore or Sarah Palin, according to the New York Times. And in the same AGU study that polled physical scientists, only 64 percent of meteorologists agreed with the statement that humans are contributing to global warming.
Results of a survey by George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication and the University of Texas-Austin are even worse: 27 percent of weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was a scam. In another study by the same group, fewer than a third of meteorologists believed that climate change was "caused mostly by human activities." And to top it off, about 90 percent of the weathercasters say they've lectured about climate change at Kiwanis Club-type speaking engagements.
Trenberth has given speeches to the weathercasters, and he's taken to polling members of his audience before and after they see his presentation. The percentage of those who accept that humans are contributing to climate change usually increases once he puts down the PowerPoint clicker.
"Part of it does related to how open-minded people are to information. It's the ones that are close-minded that are of course the biggest problem," he says.
How to vanquish: If your local Brick Tamland starts talking about global warming, change the channel.
Consumers familiar with the term "locovore" know that learning the path your food took on its way to your plate is becoming more and more mainstream. But an often overlooked oart of that story is the fertilizer, oil, toxic gases and deforestation that played a more indirect but significant role in its production.
Livestock use 30 percent of the Earth's entire land surface, according to a 2006 UN report, including 33 percent of the globe's arable land. Huge swaths of the Amazon have been cleared to make way for feedlots and cattle grazing.
Land-use conversion is bad enough, but cattle production is also responsible for huge percentages of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, especially nitrous oxide, methane and ammonia, according to the UN study. Of the global methane that is induced by humans, cattle produce 37 percent of it.
Oil, coal and gas firms are obviously bigger villains, but that makes beef somewhat more insidious; it's not often mentioned in the same breath as other huge polluters, so it's harder to fight.
How to vanquish: Sous-vide some free-range chicken for dinner, with electricity provided by your backyard wind turbine.
Well, OK, us. As a PopSci reader, you're probably ahead of the curve -- you've recycled your old laptop, read up on how to build an environmentally friendly dream house and you may even track your own energy usage.
But no matter how much you recycle or ride your bike, you--all of us, we Western consumers--are major contributors to global warming. Our love for gas-guzzling automobiles, cheap imported clothes and fun gadgets like iPads pegs us as all as climate villains.
From the dawn of the industrial age, our hunger for growth has been changing the environment. Probably the most famous example is the saga of the London peppered moth, a creature whose colors changed because of human-caused pollution.
Soot from London factories blackened the trees at the start of the Industrial Revolution, exposing the moths--which are naturally light-colored--to predators. Darker moths survived to pass on their genes, and eventually, London's moths were predominantly black.
But there is a happy ending. With stricter environmental controls, the soot cleared up and lichens recovered, mottling London's trees with pale green and white spots. And the light-colored moths returned.
So the good news is, things can change. And you, dear reader, can help.
Shouldn't this list include the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. They destroyed in a few weeks the confidence Al Gore spent decades to build.
Also, "villainize" those who speak against climate change but aren't published, but didn't the CRU actively prevent publication of those who disagree?
"Many climate-change skeptics put on an air of authority, masquerading as working members of the academic or scientific communities." -- Rebecca Boyle
Speaking of masquerades... Ms. Boyle did you miss the incriminating emails that exposed the distortion of global warming models by the academic, global warming charlatans?
The villains behind global warming: weathermen, cattle, and the readers of Popular Science. I had to double check the publication date on this article. I thought it might be from April 1st edition of Popular Science.
This article is as biased as those you seek to refute, even more aggressively so. Why dont you post some hard data and let people decide what to believe for themselves? If the data stands up for itself, then people can see that. The only reason there is need to ridecule people is to try to shame them into beliving as you do without actually showing them why. Maybe you dont believe the data is conclusive yourself or you wouldnt have a problem publishing it.
Great points JCincy and dontcallmechief!
The reason there are so many skeptics is because there is so much to be skeptical about. The faces of global warming such as Al Gore push their own agendas like religion and laugh their way to the bank.
Now that I know which side you're on and the contempt you hold for climate change skeptics (excuse me, deniers), I won't be renewing my subscription. I hope others do the same.
Take this from someone who is about to graduate with a degree in Atmospheric Sciences.
The data isn't always straightforward. For example, the idea of global warming itself is a little skewed, because with more research we've been able to figure out that it really causes more extremes (both cold and warm). Like how last summer we had some of the hottest temperatures on record and how this winter we saw one of the coldest winters (for some spots like the east coast of the U.S. that got pummeled with snow).
Plus, there's MANY parts to factor in to figure out what could be causing climate change. Is it anthropogenic pollution? Is it increased activity of the sun? Could it be less sunlight reflected from the earth due to snow and ice melting at the poles? Or could it be due to less ozone reflected UV radiation in the stratosphere?
The thing is, this issue in anything but simple. And we as a society wish to put things into black and white as much as we can. There's no simple answer.
In my mind, it doesn't hurt to be cautious. If things are on as bad a course as climate scientists say they are, then great, we're trying to be proactive before it's too late. If we do nothing and pass it off as arrogance that we could even conceive we could have any effect on our planet, then we might be in even worse shape down the road.
You guys are amazing. My thanks in advance to everyone who actually reads the article carefully before diving into the comments. The rest of you are doing nothing but confirming several of the points Rebecca makes above. Thanks for being you!
Lets face it, writers for the most part are leftist liberals. It's what comes with a degree in english, besides a very bleak career path. As a liberal, for anyone to speak out against Gore (other than a massage therapist) is blasphemy. Sure the planet gets hotter, but then it gets colder, and then...wait for it, hotter again. They are called seasons. As for an average change of global temperature over a span of time, well we really dont have the data or equipment to truely test the hypothesis of global warming. That being said we most DEFINATELY DO NOT have ANY way of trying to pin and untestable hypothesis on a particular cause. Therefore it is idiotic not to mention pretentious to presume that humanity has any effect on global climate change. However, in Mrs. Boyle's defense, pretention comes with the territory for liberals and english majors and their french hats, expensive coffee, and clove cigarettes. Speaking of which, lets see how much carbon Starbucks adds to the atmosphere.
Really? James Inhofe? The guy is a garden variety authoritarian sadist who's been bought and paid for by the oil industry. He's never put together a credible argument, he just gets in peoples faces and yells and tries to intimidate them.
You know the milkshake scene from "There will be Blood"? That's this guy.
I created an account just to comment on this article. I have subscribed to popsci for about 7 years now and have been enjoying the magazine less and less. It seems like every second or third issue for the last two years has featured a cover story about how the world is ending and how we can stop it. I have been dealing with it because there's also some good information in the articles.
This article, however, draws the line. I can't believe how political my former favorite science magazine has become...calling out politicians by name? Attacking industrialized agriculture?
I particularly liked your comment about how to vanquish big beef. You complain about how 30% of all land on earth is used by animals, then you suggest eating free range chicken. Free range chickens take more space to raise and gain weight much less efficiently. If you were really worried about emissions and land use, the way to go would be the method that evolved from free range to efficiency in order to feed the world, which you call "factory farming" for the negative connotation it implies.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about everything. If the science on this matter was settled, there wouldn't be so many people that didn't believe it. I'm sad to see that I'm not "ahead of the game" for reading popsci, as you suggest. I must be on the other side of the issue, and thus evil, if I don't believe why our planet was in a period of warming up to 2000 is completely solved. Therefore, I will not be renewing my subscription when it comes up. Moreover, I am saddened at the thought that my subscription fees could have paid for one meal for the person who thought this article was professional enough to publish.
This article is WAY too biased on the side of science!
I mean NUMBERS?! MADE BY ACTUAL SCIENTISTS?!?! Fairy Tales!
To those about to jump on me about the leaked emails, they didnt say that GW doesnt exsist or that the temperatures were hyped.
Steve Carell? he's behind all this, and a cow, I knew it all along
Exactly proving my point. Nothing intelligent to say so you flame people.
This article is absurd.
"Most Americans still believe humans are to blame for this, but there are plenty of climate villains who are working to shift public opinion the other way."
Climate villains looking to shift public opinion. HAHA!
You mean the people who don't agree with you? You call them villains? I hate that I love so many articles from popsci and despise some others. It discredits the other things that I read.
okey there is just one major contridiction i notice here.
"the bottom line is that Lomborg is a political scientist, and he’s not qualified to contradict the work of climate scientists"
what about gore? he has absolutly no scientific training and the mans word is considered gosple.
i would take the word of a scientist with training in at least some science on this issue befor i listent to a moron who believes he is responsible for the internet.
and as for the cows that are killing the planet, what about all of the millions of bufflow in the plains, and the hundreds of thousands of caribo in alaska before whites came to america, they would pump out as much if not more of the same gases.
secondly the cows firtilize the ground feeding plants which take away co2 and make o2 so the cows gas is compisacted for naturaly.
I believe in global warming... I believe the Earth has been warming up since the last ice age. I also believe there are a myriad of factors which affect Earth's temperature besides human and animal emissions (for example, solar output).
While I don't believe humans are solely responsible for global warming, I do believe we should to everything in our power to reduce our impact on the earth.
It worries me that some of these leftist loons want to counter act global warming, how do we know our efforts aren't going to harm the environment more? How do we know this isn't a path the planet was going down already, and by interfering we are actually getting in the way of natural processes?
This is a political propaganda piece
Typical "climate change" liberal dishonesty
It reminds me of keith olbermans "worst person in the world"
Pure politics of type you claim to be against in your piece, YOU are the one making this political as are the high priests of this phony religion
So many provably untrue things you say
You said "But it’s a heck of a lot warmer now"
You must not have gotten the memo, it's "climate change" now, that way when it's not "a heck of a lot warmer now" the coldness ALSO PROVES CLIMATE CHANGE (Don't say warming don't say warming, ooops you said warming)
I'm sure you'll point to this or that studay showing that even though clearly it's NOT warmer (I wasn't born yesterday, it simply IS NOT WARMER WHERE I AM) it really is, who are gonna believe me or your lying eyes/skin
These number get modified before going into ANY report, and of course we should just trust that you are doing it for a good reason cause we just aren't smart enough to realize that any numbers that don't show warming need to be adjusted up (Pure coincidence)
Ever heard of the "Micheal Mann Nature Trick", funny you don't mention it here, that's because there is no room for debate, you worship these beliefs and anyone who disagrees is an appostate
If the numbers don't come out right you just adjust them to "Hide the Decline"
Google these terms people, the numbers are being rigged, instead of going after REAL problems (YES THERE ARE REAL POLLUTION/ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THIS WORLD) we must fight CARBON... Why? Because then we can tax EVERYTHING (And of course just chance that the only way to fight global warming is a new tax on EVERYTHING) Everything required carbon to create or transport to you EVERY THING
You said "Plenty of people were responsible for the bungled opportunity that was the United Nations Climate Change Conference last winter"
Not really, the main problem is that someone released the emails of East Anglia University before the conference to save us from enviro dictators who want a world tax on EVERYTHING/CARBON
They are rigging the numbers, the emails make that clear
NONE of the results of Micheal Mann or ANY of these so called scientists can be reproduced, the un adjusted numbers aren't released, the data used to create the hockey stick just can't be released
You must take it on faith, like religion that Micheal Mann wouldn't lie to us, he would never use a "Nature Trick" to make his hockey stick graph shoot up at the end
If it was real we could see the numbers, but no these numbers are only for the high priests of your religion to see, "just trust us, we are saving the world"
The claim that anyone who disagrees with you isn't a real scientist because the high priests of your religion haven't approved them by publishing them in politicaly controlled publications is the biggest lie
We saw in the east anglia emails how the "scientists" worked to prevent anyone who disagreed from being published instead SHOWING US THE NUMBERS AND SCIENCE INVOLVED
Time after time we see people rigging the number and FLAT OUT LYING about for instance Glaciers melting in the himilayas, and you just keep repeating your nonsense
None of these people has credibility, the world is NOT warming (I can walk outside and see that, you are LYING I mean just flat out LYING when you say "But it’s a heck of a lot warmer now", it flat out IS NOT, anyone can see that, we don't need scientists to rig charts to show us, we know that the weather today is NOT "a heck of a lot warmer now"
It could even BE warmer, You MAY even be right about global warming
Dishonesty like this claim and the way you simply dismiss and ignore HUGE problems like the himilayan glacier LIE and the east anglia corruption makes it so people no longer believe you
I don't know if you are one of the brainwashed zombie masses or one of the high priests of this religion, it doesn't matter, it's just dishonest
now that's some cow hatin right there. going green is good, very good to use responsible sources of energy ect. especially when those sources are available all over. I believe is climate change, but not like ya'll with the chaos. the earth is resilient and massive, where does science get off with all the figures? Millions of years old, changing constantly. I'm not worried about a thing just these cow haters 'cause I like burgers.
To say that scientists who are not climatologist have no right to question the conclusion of climatologists is a moot point. It's not the conclusion they are questioning, it's the methods. Anyone who has passed a college statistics course is qualified to judge whether the "infallible" climate scientists have properly applied the principles of statistics in their data interpretation.
If they had used the scientific method and actually proven their theory that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are going to be responsible for catastrophic climate change, there wouldn't be such a controversy. But they haven't used the scientific method, they've used politics- aka a "consensus". A consensus doesn't prove that a theory is true. If it did, we shouldn't be arguing over the Fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Christianity is the religion with the most followers. We have a consensus.
For Ms. Boyle to accuse Bjorn Lomborg of "Pseudo-Academics" is the height of irony.
I'll give you one right here. THE CLIMATE NEVER STOPS CHANGING!!!!!!! Why does everyone have to be so stupid. Stop polluting my air and water because it's mine!!! Property laws people. Amend them to specifically include the air above your property and viola! No more polluting your neighbors air! It's ILLEGAL! Then we get ready for climate change. Why? Because nothing we can do will ever stop our climate from changing!!! :D
How's that for black and white?
Dear Pop Sci, I have been reading your magazine and coming to your site for years. But you go to far when you're telling I shouldn't eat a freak en burger because it's bad for the environment. I sick of all your biased opinions, George Bush is not the source of all the world's problems and I am canceling my subscription to your magazine.
Keep the politics out of it!
Entertaining article. Thanks for the humor break.
Can I say talking points directly from the White House? Ms. Boyle obviously has done NO research into what she wrote about. You only Need to go to www.climatedepot.com to completely debunk everything she and the talking points provided by the White House have pointed out.
I find it hard to believe that for a supposedly scientific magazine they would publish such a piece. This article gives me pause to the credibility of the entire magazine now.
VERY disappointed reader.
Ms. Boyle, your climategate denialism is showing.
Hilarious. But obviously too subtle for most!
I have been a loyal subscriber to your magazine for over 15 years. After reading this absolute DRECK masquerading as "objective journalism" I am canceling my subscription IMMEDIATELY - and I am additionally removing all links to your magazine from my website, twitter, and wordpress blog.
Now that I see you have bought into this eco-marxist CRAP fully, I promise to give your publication a MILLIONS DOLLARS of free advertising in my social circles.
The kind of advertising that will insure anyone I speak with never purchases, reads, or subscribes to what was once a respectable magazine.
It has been my experience that any discipline that includes the word "science" in the name isn't one.
Physics is a science. Chemistry or geology are sciences. "Earth science", "environmental science" and "social science" aren't sciences. Neither is "climate science", because you can't do experiments, you can't come up with falsifiable explanations, and the people who claim to be "climate scientists" refuse to modify their THEORIES when the FACTS don't support them.
People who change their theories to fit the facts are scientists. People who bend the facts to fit their theories are frauds.
Citrus Heights, CA
No, your worst villain is the Crazed Sex Poodle, Albert Gore’s alter ego. Valiant efforts like writing this article can’t turn the tide. For a while, you had everything going for you. Now your own troops are demoralized and defecting. Liberals will not be laughed at. It’s over, Ms. Boyle.
Hey, you know what they say:
No one expects the Climate Inquisition!
But apparently it's here. Who knew that Popular Science would one day be giving Monty Python a run for its money. (Not to mention the Catholic Church of a half a millennium ago. Science did its part in lighting the way for the Church back then. Is it now time for the Church to return the favor and, drawing on lessons hard-earned, help liberate science from its new, approaching Inquisitorial Dark Age.)
This article was a joke. You ought to be embarrassed and shame-faced for printing it. When a science magazine comes to resemble a Monty Python skit you know you have a serious problem.