Friday, December 08, 2006

How to stop the planet from burning

Just coincidental days after belatedly viewing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" DVD (which I must confess I found a bit glib, and I have since found it to contain various half-truths and misleading statistics), a copy of the book "Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning" by George Monbiot finally arrived in my local libary.
Monbiot, a respected British scientist and climatologist, covers the whole of "An Inconvenient Truth" in Chapter 1 (after a withering "Foreword to the Canadian Edition" in which he lambastes Canadian policy-makers for fluffing the paltry CO2 reductions required by our ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, pulling no punches).
Having demonstrated that what we actually need is a worldwide reduction of 90% in CO2 gases by 2030, (94% in profligate Canada's case) as opposed to Kyoto's proposed cuts of 5.2% by 2012, he then goes on to show that, however unlikely it may sound, it is possible - something which "An Inconvenient Truth" made no attempt to cover.
It makes pretty grim reading, however, and the message is that, although all is not quite lost, the party is most definitely over.
Some of the solutions he suggests (well-researched throughout, deftly questioning all assumptions and the competing claims of both environmentalists and their opponents) are common sense and quite eye-opening in their simplicity and practicality. Some are much more drastic though; some are based more on reasonable but unknowable assumptions; and in some cases (notably air travel) he admits, after evaluating all the possibilities, that there just IS no solution, other than that we will have to do without some or all of those business trips, family reunions and exotic vacations.
By turns depressing and uplifting, this should be required reading for all politicians, teachers, SUV drivers and anyone else who has any influence at all on the future of our planet. I am more and more convinced that, in matters of climate and the environment, the the carrot approach has had its day and it is time for the big regulatory stick, and the sooner the better

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