Book Review: Earth In Human Hands (Synopsis)

“We only have one planet that serves as an example and in science it’s not good to derive information from a sample size of one.” -David Grinspoon

Although there will never be a shortage of doubters, the scientific evidence is overwhelming that humans have impacted the planet, particularly over the last few millennia, like no other species ever has. It’s not only the climate that’s changed, but the oceans, atmosphere, freshwater, land use and even the plants and animals that can survive and thrive in the environment. We might be averse to thinking of it as such, but we’re already conducting a terrifying experiment in geoengineering.

Industrialization and mass production have brought many benefits to humanity, but there continues to be an ongoing environmental cost that needs to be addressed and dealt with. Public domain image.

Industrialization and mass production have brought many benefits to humanity, but there continues to be an ongoing environmental cost that needs to be addressed and dealt with. Public domain image.

The Earth has forever been changed by what humanity has already done in leaving our mark on the world, and it’s up to us to steer it in the right direction from here. If we do it wrong, all we’ll leave is a legacy of having plundered and scarred our world, but if we do it right, this might only be the beginning of the most remarkable journey any species in our Universe has ever taken.

The Solar System, atop, and the planets that fall into the habitable zone and (in red and orange) the extended habitable zone. Image credit: Chester Harman; PHL at UPR Arecibo, NASA / JPL / APL / Arizona.

The Solar System, atop, and the planets that fall into the habitable zone and (in red and orange) the extended habitable zone. Image credit: Chester Harman; PHL at UPR Arecibo, NASA / JPL / APL / Arizona.

We truly are living in the anthropocene: the time of humans. David Grinspoon has a book out that examines exactly what that means, and I’ve got a review for you!

19 Comments

  1. “We only have one planet that serves as an example and in science it’s not good to derive information from a sample size of one.” -David Grinspoon
    Although there will never be a shortage of doubters, the scientific evidence is overwhelming that humans have impacted the planet, particularly over the last few millennia, like no other species ever has. It’s not only the climate that’s changed, but the oceans, atmosphere, freshwater, land use and even the plants and animals that can survive and thrive in the environment. We might be averse to thinking of it as such, but we’re already conducting a terrifying experiment in geoengineering.
    Industrialization and mass production have brought many benefits to humanity, but there continues to be an ongoing environmental cost that needs to be addressed and dealt with. Public domain image.
    The Earth has forever been changed by what humanity has already done in leaving our mark on the world, and it’s up to us to steer it in the right direction from here. If we do it wrong, all we’ll leave is a legacy of having plundered and scarred our world, but if we do it right, this might only be the beginning of the most remarkable journey any species in our Universe has ever taken.
    The Solar System, atop, and the planets that fall into the habitable zone and (in red and orange) the extended habitable zone. Image credit: Chester Harman; PHL at UPR Arecibo, NASA / JPL / APL / Arizona.
    We truly are living in the anthropocene: the time of humans. David Grinspoon has a book out that examines exactly what that means, and I’ve got a review for you!

    Related

  2. philip coleman

    Hi Nathan,
    My snarky location line is liable to land me in an internment camp next year, but what the hey. Enjoy your freedom while you have it.
    While I agree with you that we are conducting an experiment in geoengineering, and while I think it is a really really stupid experiment, likely to have a very very unfortunate overall outcome, it is not terrifying to me. And I am not sure why that is. I think that the worst effects may be avoidable. Or maybe the fear of the destruction of America from within by forces sympathetic to the worst villains in history has my emotional attention now. I don’t know. I think that we have to learn to manage our fear, and push on through it. “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” So I quibble over your use of the word terrifying.
    Cheers

  3. Space the final frontier with a ongoing recycling matrix. Chances are remarkable that other life forms are greater or lesser. If Earth survives humanity and the correct proportioned governments persist through a one command center we have a chance.but the center must be logic in science and humanities.

  4. Michael J.Schmitz

    i have the perfect solution… get rid of all the humans.

  5. If man was’nt here Earth & all planets would be taken & destroyed by end of 2018. http://globalcommand.net/pressrelease2.aspx I’m the ONLY expert from earth that knows the cause, location & how to turn the cause of Global Warming off. As is I’ve assigned an experienced Nation to find it again & instead of just turning it off again. Use my experiment I described & after you find the location put it on the exact location to see if when it comes on only in daylight hours to see if it will destroy itself. Mike

  6. Take a chill pill and quit hating yourself so much. If the climate forecasters are as biased and group-thinked as most of academia, the problem is far more psychological than environmental. If anyone is aghast that I should even suggest such a thing,
    Please do inform yourself on the success rate of past climatic predictions. In the 1930s the experts thought the polar ice caps would be completely gone in a couple of years. Whoops, didn’t happen.
    I was very much alive in the 1970s and I vividly recall the concern we were going into a new ice age. All manner of charts, graphs, and predictions graced the front pages of prestigious science magazines. Some were actually suggesting we start considering large scale geo-engineering to prevent the oncoming disaster, good ‘ol Carl Sagan even weighed in…and were already demanding immediate action, and collectively sounded like a lot like high pressure car salesman. Time passed, we didn’t freeze.
    Whoops, didn’t happen.
    More time passed. Then…OMG! GLOBAL WARMING! We must act now, we can not wait! We reach the point of no return if we do not act now, oh buy the way, give us money. They still sound like a high pressure car salesman. Great article read from 1989:
    “San Jose Mercury News (CA) – June 30, 1989 – 3F General News
    GRIM FORECAST
    A senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of “eco-refugees,” threatening political chaos, said Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program. He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human… ” Welllll,
    Whoops, didn’t happen.
    Well heck, maybe the really smart people were just having a bad few decades and would now temper their sensationalist predictions with more accurate forecasting… no such luck,
    UN IPCC chairman Pachauri in 2007: ‘If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment’
    OMG!! Quick, to the life boats, we’re all gonna d….wait a sec. It’s 2016. Guess what that means?
    Whoops, didn’t happen.
    It really doesn’t take a PhD to see what is going on here. The wilder the claims, the more pressure that is brought to bear to do something quickly before cooler heads prevail under threat of imminent extinction, and always to the tune of large amounts of money being funneled into the experts hands to do another study and ‘save us’… But much like the lawn gnomes business strategy, it has been pretty much the following:
    .
    Step 1: Raise global awareness and make people feel bad,
    Raise energy costs, Remind people of their guilt
    again, regulate everything, remind
    everyone how horrible they are for using energy.
    Give money to your political friends as ‘green
    investment’ funds, convince people to buy
    $80,000.00 battery powered cars to ‘feel’ good
    about themselves and the environment.
    Step 2:
    Step 3: Save the world.
    Well, after all the doom and false prophecies I can honestly say the economic climate has actually changed for the better. In a bid to save wasted energy and resources, Elon Musk et al are about to get their power cut off. Who knew a Bad Karma company could lead to such hilarious irony.

  7. @CFT #3
    Although it may shock everyone here, I’m going on the record saying that Global Warming is real and it is caused by humans.
    Here is the problem with your argument CFT: it doesn’t deny Global Warming is real.
    The GISTEMP data set shows warming
    The HadCRUT4 data set shows warming
    The MLOST data set shows warming
    The BEST data set shows warming
    The RSS data set shows warming
    The UAH data set shows warming
    There aren’t any data sets that don’t show warming. 100% of the data sets show warming. The burning of fossil fuel is increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere which causes warming. There is no arguing with any of this. You look silly when you do.
    Have scientists made mistakes? Of course. Trial and error is how science works. Of course egos are involved and friends give each other breaks, but to suggest that all of these scientists are colluding to fool you is ridiculous. They aren’t.
    Yes there are those overselling the certainty of their predictions. Most scientists know they can’t predict the exact trend of the climate and they put in ‘error bars’ as an admission. Sometimes even the error bars aren’t long enough. It just means they still have to figure the system out. It absolutely does not mean Global Warming isn’t real.
    If you want to crusade against academia and their proclamations on climate, here are the two areas where you’re on solid ground:
    1 – Scientists do not fully understand the feedback mechanisms in Earth’s atmosphere. That is why their predictions are not accurate. Virtually every other part of their climate models is knows to great precision.
    2 – The Earth is warming, so what? Historically the warmer times such as the Medieval Warm Period are times of prosperity. It is the cold eras such as the Little Ice Age and Maunder Minimum that are the problem. A warmer Earth is a good thing. Rev up that SUV and bring me a margarita.

  8. @Ethan
    If you would like to debate the climatic impact of humans versus the climatic impact of cyanobacteria, I’m game.
    Also deliberate geoengineering is a terrible idea. We rarely get anything right the first time and the risk of botching that endeavor here isn’t worth any minuscule gain we could get from it. Let’s do it to other planets first.
    Lastly, congratulations on your RealClearScience recognition. You deserve every bit of it.

  9. ” In the 1930s the experts thought the polar ice caps would be completely gone in a couple of years.”
    Why do I believe you to be lying again? got evidence for that assertion.
    For the 1970s: no, scientists were no running around proclaiming an ice age was coming. You are either definitely lying about that, or simply have no real memory of the times.
    Not that denier’s points are any better than yours, but he at least tries.

  10. dean,
    you have a computer. You go to this big white page with the word ‘google’ on it and type in search words.
    I’m not going to hold your hand, but you can see for yourself that all sorts of observations about rising temperatures is nothing new. Here’s something from 1922 about the Arctic warming up.
    https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/changing-artic_monthly_wx_review.png
    Oh no! but that’s a site that probably doesn’t meet with your approval? They must have made it up! …or you could go to noaa.gov archives and find the same article, wow, this research stuff is tough!!! whew! But here it is again:
    http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/050/mwr-050-11-0589a.pdf
    As per computer models saying this or that about the climate, that’s nice, you’ve discovered you can make computer models do …whatever you would like them to. It demonstrates nothing You want carbon dioxide to cause forcing not physically possible Change how the program weights it? Ok. But if you want carbon dioxide to predict climate change in reality? Not so fast, ice core samples show Carbon dioxide levels follow temperature trends it does not lead them (Al Gore omits this inconvenient little truth in his movie, this is one reason An Inconvenient Truth has been struck down as shoddy propaganda in the UK), meaning carbon dioxide rates follow climate change, they are an effect of heat not a cause of heat. This is why computer modeling is not doing science. Reality works the way it does and it it’s up to you to try to figure out how and make a prediction. Computer models just work the way you program them to, which only demonstrates what you want it to do, not what the climate does. Forecast some actual climate, and we can talk about it. Continue to make up more scary stories that do nothing but rustle up funding and make peoples lives worse, I’ll continue to be critical.
    This is a good place to go to see healthy scientific debate ( not consensus) about climate change.https://wattsupwiththat.com/
    I’m not alone in this opinion that AGW is not even wrong, and quite a few share it, as these extremist scare tactics on the general public are about as old as the hills and have been bouncing around as long as newspapers have been printed. Back reading about Climategate at the East Anglia University, and the corruption of the Peer Reivew process is highly recommended.
    For some late night viewing on some of the AGW backstory you might not be aware of:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52Mx0_8YEtg
    Just remember, to understand someone else’s view for consideration, you actually have to listen to it, not just stick up your nose and act offended. I am well informed in the science of the AGW(anthropogenic global warming) theory and it’s adherent claims, and arguments, I’ve studied it for years. My conclusions are based on the observation that a.)none of the AGW climatic predictions have actually occurred, despite their emphatic insistence that their claims are indisputable, and b.) The claim that everyone in the scientific community agrees with them, despite the fact that both claims are demonstrably false. In addition, the frequent appeal to hysteria appears to have been used almost regularly to quickly secure funding and political control over industry, energy, economics and growth , and yet has not been able to predict any climatic event that poses even minimal danger. Actuarial charts of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, you name it, have not been on any observable rising trend, quite the opposite in fact. I provided several examples above of claims of imminent climate disaster by the ‘experts’, none of which has yet to materialize except even years after their predicted occurrence. If the people leading the charge of AGW are overstating their claims over and over again, why? Why should I believe them now without even more convincing evidence (computer models are not evidence) considering their utterly dismal prediction record? It’s still snowing in the UK in the winter despite AGW claims to the opposite, even more so, and no, our coastal cities are not underwater despite AGW predictions that they would be, the Maldives are expanding their tourist industry and airport at near sea level and don’t appear to be alarmed. Mr. Gore even bought beach front property…and likes to fly around in private jets (so much for his carbon footprint) so I don’t think he’s really too worried. Even Australia is catching on to how temperature records are being tampered with to create artificial temperature trends that don’t hold up to careful scrutiny.http://joannenova.com.au/
    Climatologist generally agree the oceans drive the climate, and yet the are not warming as AGW theory predicts (from below), missing heat theories rival only missing dark matter theories in their level of convoluted complexity and their inability to find their presumed subject, so yeah, I’m a tad skeptical on historical, political, and scientific grounds.

  11. CFT – You say we want to make people feel bad…why? We want to make everyone pay more for energy…why? Do you view mainstream scientists as comic book villains, rubbing our hands and cackling wildly at the thought that we made CFT pay $0.25 extra cents per gallon at the pump? “Ooooh, I made him sad, my evil plan is accomplished!” Really?
    AFAIK, most environmentalists want to make energy cheaper and more efficient. The difference between them and their opposition is that they think we should include the full waste stream when assessing cost or cheapness. I honestly don’t know anyone who is a luddite scheming to make wattage more expensive just because they want it more expensive so that people will be less happy. That whole notion sounds more like some sort of feverish paranoid fantasy than an actual understanding of the goals and objectives of the people who want to reduce global warming.

  12. @eric #10
    AFAIK, most environmentalists want to make energy cheaper and more efficient … I honestly don’t know anyone who is a luddite scheming to make wattage more expensive
    Unfortunately that is not true. There are those who push the idea of a carbon tax precisely to make energy more expensive just because they want it more expensive with the idea that increased expense will curtail usage.

  13. “CFT – You say we want to make people feel bad…why? ”
    Because CFT doesn’t want to listen, and wants to make that YOUR fault, so he can feel better about his stupidity and obstinacy.

  14. “Here is the problem with your argument CFT: it doesn’t deny Global Warming is real. ”
    It’s never stopped deniers before.
    “Yes there are those overselling the certainty of their predictions.”
    Though all of those are scientists who are trying to prove AGW either wrong, fraudulent, or overblown. Not to mention that uncertainty can mean worse as easily as better, which deniers don’t concede is possible.
    “It just means they still have to figure the system out. It absolutely does not mean Global Warming isn’t real.”
    It also doesn’t mean it’s safe to continue as we are. We don’t know WHEN alcohol will cause your liver to fail, but we don’t tell you that it’s OK to keep drinking until we know exactly when you can stop.
    “1 – Scientists do not fully understand the feedback mechanisms in Earth’s atmosphere. ”
    They are enough to make it a problem before 2100 at current rates if we don’t make serious changes before 2020.
    “2 – The Earth is warming, so what?”
    I shot you in the head? So what? We still call it murder. Your #2 is nothing, exactly what you complained CFT was doing.
    So what? So we should stop making it worse as soon as possible.
    “A warmer Earth is a good thing.”
    Based on what? Hope and assertion? With that and 50p you can buy a pint of milk. For all your acceptance of the science, you don’t seem to require any when you draw YOUR conclusions, just saying them is fine.
    In the Cambrian period, all those huge areas where you find coal and oil were under water in shallow seas. Care to live in a shallow sea? Ploughing the ocean waves doesn’t let you plant carrots.

  15. “you have a computer. You go to this big white page with the word ‘google’ on it and type in search words.”
    We did. Nothing found other than idiots CLAIMING this happened.

  16. “Unfortunately that is not true. ”
    How do you know what eric knows better than him????
    Pushing a carbon tax doesn’t make energy more expensive, it only makes it cost what it costs. You can use LESS EXPENSIVE WIND and not pay any carbon tax.
    But with the huge subsidy coal gets, there’s no short term profit in supplying wind power, so the private companies will run the more expensive to run, but already paid for, coal power stations until they fall apart, and not invest money into other power options that will take more than the next quarter figures to pay back.
    Penny wise, pound foolish.

  17. “you have a computer. You go to this big white page with the word ‘google’ on it and type in search words.”
    What an ignorant statement: if you don’t have the means to back up what you say don’t say it. The fact that you lied about what happened in the 70s, coupled with the fact that nothing could be found to support your claim about the 30s, tells me you are a bald faced liar.
    And no, watts’ site is not a place people with an IQ above single digits, or who have a sense of decency and so dislike others who lie, go for science. I’m not surprised at all you reference it.

  18. “I’m not alone in this opinion that AGW is not even wrong, and quite a few share it,”
    A good many people are of the opinion that evolution is false. A good many people are of the opinion that relativity is wrong. A good number of people are of the opinion that vaccinations lead to autism.
    Those people are all wrong. As are you.

  19. There are even PhD’s in biology who “don’t believe in evolution”.
    Doesn’t mean that evolution is false.

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