Friday, October 06, 2006

George Monbiot - Heat, How To Stop The Planet Burning

The greenhouse gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution will lead to an almost certain temperature rise of 1 to 2 degrees Celsius. Already the temperature changes that we have seen are having catastrophic effects around the world – melting polar ice, shrinking glaciers and an increase in hurricanes being amongst some of the most obvious of these.

The human consequences (never mind those to fragile eco-systems around the world) have already been catastrophic. The suffering in New Orlean’s Superbowl may have been just the most visible of these, but no less is the suffering of those facing crop failures and flooding elsewhere. Even a small increase beyond the 2 degrees mentioned previously will have even more dramatic consequences. George Monbiot points out that one piece of research shows that rice yields drop by 15% for every degree temperature increase, and a 2.3 degree temperature rise will expose around 200 million new people to the threat of malaria.

In this context, Monbiot sets himself the task of showing how Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to minimise a temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius. He argues that the UK (and by extension) the US and other industrial nations need to implement strategies to reduce our Carbon Dioxide emissions by 90%. This startling, and frightening figure offers perhaps humanity’s greatest challenge over the next few years.

Monbiot starts controversially – he points out the hypocrisy and double standards of some who claim to lead green lifestyles, yet still regularly fly around the globe. But he will also upset other Green apple carts – some of his research has led him to believe that previously accepted practices – such as arguing for localised wind turbines on home roofs will have limited effect.

What Monbiot does offer are concrete strategies in a variety of areas – power generation, transport, housing and retail for example. He proves, though sometimes it is hard, that we could achieve a 90% cut. In some cases (like transport) this is easy – a rapid switch towards public transport in the UK would lead to an almost immediate 90% cut in emissions. Proper insulation of homes and offices would do similar.

What he doesn’t prove is how we get it done. In my mind, such dramatic changes to energy, transport and housing policies will require government and state intervention - investment to make the technology a reality and legislation to force companies to make the changes.

This is unlikely to happen if left to the politicians who have vacillated long enough, rather we need a political movement to force them to do it. Monbiot explicitly doesn’t attempt to describe his vision of that movement and this I think is the books real weakness – the reader is left with a desire to save the planet, but with limited options (other than the campaign groups listed in the books appendixes) about how to do it.

I do believe we can build the political movements required, and Monbiot’s book is a manifesto for the sort of strategies we need – to this end, every activist should read the book and take its themes and arguments into their Trade Union branch, their community group and their environmental organisation. This is a call to arms, and comes very highly recommended.

Related Reviews

Helen Caldicott - Nuclear Power is not the Answer
Tim Flannery - The Weathermakers

Fred Pearce - The Last Generation


Anonymous said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




Anonymous said...

you do not demonstrate that man made co2 emissions are the CAUSE of global warming.

at the risk of being called a denier, (e. by not swallowing your thesis) any real evidence i have seen simply shows that the world is going through a hotter cycle, just like it has done before, and when there were no man made co2 emissions.

it is a little arrogant of the climate change co2 club to assume they can alter the effect of the sun. it's a bit like the greeks / romans and gods. a pyramid might do the trick?

i note you go from half baked assumption to ludicrous "strategy" without feeling the need to prove your central assumption - not that the climate is getting warmer - but that man is the cause.

climate change is no doubt a good career move and it is loved by politicians who now have a cause that is at once unarguable (or be branded heretical), gives endless more opportunities to tell us what to do, and endless unexplained tax increases, and oh joy, the results of all this specious activity will never be measured.


Unknown said...


97% of climate scientists believe that human emissions are the cause of climate change, less than 1% deny this.


We ALL need to change. Rather than waiting for politicians to do something, we need to:

- ALL stop consuming
- educate others
- lobby politicians (less important, but still worth doing)

Stop waiting for others to act, join us and stop polluting.

I have reduced my emissions by 90% - when are you going to?