The bad news about climate change is worse than I thought but a solution is possible. George Monbiot is a British journalist and professor who knows a lot about climate change. He wrote a book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian; they are collected here. This week, Monbiot has written “Stop doing the CBI’s bidding, and we could be fossil fuel free in 20 years.” The article says, in short:

  • The IPCC report suggests oceans rising by 59 centimeters this century; a report by James Hansen and NASA says it could be 25 meters. Whoops.
  • The governments of the industrial countries, pressured by corporations, don’t want to do all that much about carbon. They’ll agree to a goal of cutting emissions in half in 40 years–but won’t get started.
  • The problem could be solved with renewables (and without nukes). We should create larger electric power grids, because the wind is usually blowing somewhere–if it isn’t, we need to be able to tap hydro or geothermal. We should sometimes store electricity by pumping water up into resevoirs. We should have electric cars that are connected to the grid when parked, and enable the grid to tap into the car batteries to meet fluctuations.
  • . . . The new paper suggests that the temperature could therefore be twice as sensitive to rising greenhouse gases than the IPCC assumes. “Civilisation developed,” Hansen writes, “during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end.”

    I looked up from the paper, almost expecting to see crowds stampeding through the streets. I saw people chatting outside a riverside pub. The other passengers on the train snoozed over their newspapers or played on their mobile phones. Unaware of the causes of our good fortune, blissfully detached from their likely termination, we drift into catastrophe.