As one who has been directly involved in the publishing of 31 science books as an author, co-author or editor, I am intimidated by having reviewed his1220 endnotes, appearing on 111 pages, supporting everything he has written. I must conclude that he is among the best researchers and writers I have encountered, and clearly one of the smartest. So one must ask why it took him a quarter century to learn and understand the truth.
This first of 3 articles on Mr. Shellenberger and his book is not intended as a book review. Many have already been written , all positive except for some disgruntled leftists. I will tell you straight out, unless you are confident that you have all the facts on the false assertions claiming man plays a significant roll in controlling the Earth’s thermostat, I strongly recommend that you buy the book at Amazon now.
My intent is to interpret the book for you in the same easy fashion in which it is written and entice you to share its contents with others in an effort to make the authors confidence in its value , a reality. I will begin with an honest wish that the author had not been on the wrong side of science for so very long, sewing the very seeds that could yet destroy us if wrong headed people seize the leadership of the United States on Nov 3 of this year.
Mr. Shellenberger was a political and environmental activist for the better part of his 30 year career, not understanding the damage he was doing. A few years back he evidently had an epiphany allowing real science to intrude on his many wrong-headed ideas. As one finds with many religious converts, they become the most passionate. The author fits that bill and may well turnout to be the very best weapon real scientists have to fight the battle many of us have waged for much of our professional lives.
In the first third of the book Mr. Shellenberger piles up the horrendous scaremongering in recent years, practiced by the New York Times, The Washington Post and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and even a NASA scientist who predicted the collapse of food systems on many continents. This was in total disregard of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations saying that increasing carbon dioxide was resulting in significantly increasing crop yields.
It is probable that the radical New York Congresswomen who presented the Green New Deal played a major roll in opening the authors eyes, or Britains Extinction Rebellion whose dystopian view of the future was difficult to stomach.
It was actually way more than that, he had traveled the world as early as 2014 with his wife to see first hand what he once thought were the good works of the Non Government Organizations (NGOs). While certainly not all NGOs had politically motivated goals to grow government and socialism, a great number do.
He says “anyone interested in seeing the end of the world up close and in person could do little worse than to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa. The Congo has a way of putting first-world prophesies of climate apocalypse unto perspective.” He learned there that most everything the NGOs were doing to save Gorillas and provide fuel through harvesting charcoal was really convoluted and flat out stupid.
When Shellenberger was only 16 he raised money for the Rainforest Action Network to save the Amazon, but in recent years he learned that almost everything he thought he knew of the Amazon rainforest was wrong. They are not the lungs of the Earth. Their contribution to the planets oxygen supply is a net zero. Actual deforestation is minimal and allowing the inhabitants to turn some forest land into farms to yield their food supply is not a bad idea.
He exposed the near hoax that the National Geographic produced when they flew over the Amazon with Tom Brady’s wife, Brazilian model Gisele Bundechen, with the head of Greenpeace Brazil in 2016 exposing her only to the sites that would yield a false picture of devastation. The authors new knowledge of the real and imagined problems in Brazil are frankly worth the price of the book.
Shellenberger tells us accurately that new tree growth exceeds tree loss during the past 35 years by an area that would equal that of Texas and Alaska combined. Yes you read that correctly.
Well into the writing of this book the author and his wife vacationed in New Zealand where they learned more misinformation as to penguins being threatened by climate change. They realized the problems were being focused in the wrong direction when over-fishing was more important to understand. However he never puts climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions completely aside feeling it still exists but of little consequence.
A favorite chapter of mine is titled Enough With The Plastic Straws. In 2016 a young marine biologist Christine Figgener videoed a colleague extracting a plastic straw from the nose of a sea turtle. The video eventually had 60 million views and the rest is history. Shellenberger interviewed Ms. Figgener in 2019 and learned a great deal about plastic waste which he described well in his book. It turns out that much plastic degrades faster than most scientists believed and that plastic straws make up only .03 per cent of the nine millions tons of plastic that ends up in the oceans each year.
One of the most insightful elements in the book is a telephone interview which Shellenberger made with Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University and formerly with Environmental Defense. Oppenheimer ranks among the most strident wrongheaded fear mongers in the nation and with Princeton University behind him totally he wreaks great damage on our nations understanding of real science.
Oppenheimer who is convinced that sea level is now rising way more than the 7 inches per century over the past millennium is unmanageable. When Shellenberger was asked why if the Netherlands managed to withstand the sea encroaching on its land why could not Bangladesh and other low lying countries be able to manage as well. His weak unscientific answers when cornered said volumes about the alarmists we are up against.
I can not say enough about the value of this book. In part two of the Shellenberger Chronicles I will unveil what he has learned about how the planet’s environment can be protected intelligently.