Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Mini Review: Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

 The Guardian recently ran a long-read,

Sixty years of climate change warnings: the signs that were missed (and ignored)

The effects of ‘weird weather’ were already being felt in the 1960s, but scientists linking fossil fuels with climate change were dismissed as prophets of doom

Here is a blurb of the book from which that was extracted:

 ‘Our Biggest Experiment recounts how the world became addicted to fossil fuels, how we discovered that electricity could be a savior, and how renewable energy is far from a twentieth-century discovery. Bell cuts through complicated jargon and jumbles of numbers to show how we're getting to grips with what is now the defining issue of our time. The message she relays is ultimately hopeful; harnessing the ingenuity and intelligence that has driven the history of climate change research can result in a more sustainable and bearable future for humanity.’

Here is our friend Jim's view:
That message of hope is surely a hope in vain, given our current politics. But climate books with a message of despair don’t sell very well, although they do seem to drive up consumption of ethanol and other forms of self-medication.
Here is my prediction: we will do little to avoid climate crises until a heat wave kills a few million, as in the opening scenario in Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Ministry of the Future”. After that one nation or two will act to protect itself by adding SO2 to the stratosphere. This initially covert act will be sanctioned by the UN, reluctantly at first, and eventually enthusiastically encouraged by the corporations still invested in fossil fuels in 2040.
By 2060, two decades of this kind of climate modification will have killed most fish in the oceans and reduced crop yields, so the clamor will grow to end climate modification and focus on direct atmospheric capture of greenhouse gases.
That is as far on a limb as I care to go, but I do think that is a very likely outcome of our current lack of policy. Does that sound like a message of hope? Not to me.

We are of the same mind. However, the long-read and presumably the book are more factual, and sufficiently detailed for a retrospective assessment sixty years later. I am looking forward to the publication in the fall.

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