Penguin, 2007

 ISBN 978-0-14-102662-6

Reviewed by Ian Mowll


Out of the handful of books I have read about climate change, this is the best! George Monbiot researches the subject in depth, he cuts through preconceptions and gets to the root of the problem. A breath of oxygen rich fresh air. He shows how we can reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 – this is the level he suggests we need to reach to avoid runaway global warming and the collapse of large eco-systems.

Monbiot acknowledges that the whole area is very complicated and that new discoveries are being made all of the time; on weather prediction, new technology and ways of addressing the problem. So we need to keep listening to the scientists and not, as he points out, the popular press which often provides distorted reports. And one of the most telling sentences in the book is this: “one of the discoveries I have made in writing this book is that my instincts are almost always wrong.”  Therefore, climate change is an area where we need a careful understanding of the issues and responses.

Real, practical solutions are put forward such as coaches (no cars) running up and down the motorways – which would reduce carbon emissions by a surprising amount. Other examples include carbon rationing and encouraging internet shopping.

One of the key conclusions I came away with is that changes need to be made on the macro level. We need to do our bit and to reduce our own emissions where possible. But to tackle the problem at its roots, we need society-wide solutions such as big wind farms (hopefully offshore), carbon rationing and legislation. This highlights for me, the need to continue to be involved in campaigns – to raise awareness and lobby where possible.

The big challenge comes from the time-lag of applying solutions to seeing the outcomes. If solutions applied today which are very restrictive on our way of life, will affect the planet in 10 years time or more, this is not an easy vote winner at a general election where people perceive other more immediate issues such as the economy, crime, schools and hospitals as more important. There is no easy answer to this dilemma, other than continuing to raise awareness and showing that action now will be far more effective than waiting till later. But the good news is that we have the technology and the means to radically reduce our carbon emissions. The challenge is purely one of politics and public will.

This book is a great read for those who want to be more informed about climate change and to know what we can do about it. Five stars, definitely.