Sunday, December 6, 2009

Copenhagen Reads

As leaders and experts assemble in Copenhagen to talk about the overarching issue all earthlings face, our changing climate, I want to share with you two BOOKLIST reviews of two books that provide deep background for this gathering. Hard-hitting books that decry the politics of the crisis, explain the science, and provide plans for a smarter future. Be informed. Ignorance is dangerous.

*Starred Review* Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.By Al Gore. 2009. 415p. illus. Rodale, $26.99 (9781594867347).
First published November 23, 2009 (Booklist Online).

Nobel laureate Gore is dedicated to the most important mission on the planet: educating humankind about the causes and consequences of global warming, and offering solutions to the looming crises implicit in the changes to Earth’s climate and habitability that are already well underway. No one is more qualified than Gore to lead the collective movement beyond fossil fuels, given his command of the science and politics involved, his invaluable global connections and resources, and his sensitivity to our reluctance to face “the magnitude and gravity of the climate crisis.” As he did in An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Gore matches clear and ringing explanations and commentary with superb supporting diagrams and illustrations and striking photographs from around the world, documenting the dramatic impacts of human industry and climate change. He begins by providing the straight facts about the sources of the pollutants causing global warming and the disastrous energy inefficiency of our buildings, vehicles, appliances, and industrialized agriculture. Here, too, is the searing truth about the campaign of climate change denial via disinformation and ridicule orchestrated and paid for by oil and coal corporations. But after spending three years convening “Solution Summits” and assessing the fruits of those productive discussions, Gore’s trajectory is away from blame and despair and towards answers and encouragement. The result is a veritable catalog for a better world. A practical guide to solar, wind, and geothermal power and smart “super grids,” endeavors China is already pursuing. Gore also eloquently explains how the harnessing of renewable energy sources will solve an entire matrix of global traumas. Our Choice is an inviting and momentous compendium of environmental discovery (with 100 percent of its earnings going to the Alliance for Climate Protection) that addresses the greatest threat our species has yet encountered with intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, and faith in human empowerment. This is a book that should be displayed and talked about everywhere. —Donna Seaman

*Starred Review* Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.By James Hansen. 2009. 320p. illus. Bloomsbury, $25 (9781608192007).
First published BOOKLIST, December 1, 2009.

Climatologist Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an internationally renowned global-warming expert, became even more famous when he was censored by the Bush administration. After decades of studying the role fossil fuels play in global warming and witnessing the federal government’s failure to take action to lower carbon emissions, he felt compelled to write his first book out of concern about the potentially catastrophic future facing his grandchildren. Hansen condemns governmental “greenwashing” and the undue influence of more than 2,300 energy lobbyists, and attempts to close the gap “between public perception and scientific reality” by lucidly explaining the dynamics of global warming, its acceleration, and how a slight rise in temperature can lead to disastrous consequences. He then boldly declares that the way to solve the climate crisis is to “rapidly phase out coal emissions.” How will we meet our energy needs without coal? Hansen tells the “secret story” of the jettisoned “fast” nuclear reactor, a safer and more efficient reactor than those currently in use, and advocates for its resurrection. Rich in invaluable insights into the geopolitics as well as the geophysics of climate change, Hansen’s guaranteed-to-be-controversial manifesto is the most comprehensible, realistic, and courageous call to prevent climate change yet. It belongs in every library. —Donna Seaman