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Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning [Hardcover]

George Monbiot
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Sep 2006
"" We are the most fortunate generation that has ever lived. And we are the most fortunate generation that ever will." "
-- George Monbiot"
"
What George Monbiot means by this is that our civilization has leveraged the awesome power of fossil energy to create a world that only a short time ago would have been nearly unimaginable. Our health, our wealth, our leisure, our freedom from tyranny and struggle, are all benefits bestowed upon us by harnessed energy of oil and coal.
But the price of these gifts has been a growing environmental crisis. Our atmosphere is filling up with carbon dioxide, which is released by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide traps the sun' s heat, causing the temperature of our planet to rise. The reason why future generations are unlikely to be as fortunate as us is that fossil energy is just too good to be true. We cannot go on enjoying the benefits of this dirty energy. We must either address the problem, which will be a tough challenge involving many sacrifices, or ignore it, with unthinkable consequences.
George Monbiot' s Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning"" marks an important moment in our civilization' s thinking about global warming. The question is no longer whether climate change is actually happening. The question is what to do about it. Monbiot offers an ambitious and far-reaching program to cut our carbon dioxide emissions to the point where the environmental scales start tipping away from catastrophe. (But not before he devotes a chapter to unmasking the vested interests that have spent fortunes funding the specious science of the climate change deniers.)
He does not pretend itwill be easy. The threshold for disaster, he argues, is a rise of two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Past two degrees, science tells us, the ability to control climate change passes out of our hands. At that point, the world' s forests will fall into decline, changing cloud formation patterns and releasing the billions of tons of carbon the trees store. Past two degrees, the permafrost begins to thaw, releasing billions of tons of methane, a greenhouse gas far more destructive than CO2. At the same point, the polar ice begins to melt, affecting ocean currents and water levels. This is called a " positive feedback loop, " and it means that once we' ve passed two degrees, nothing can be done to stop it rising to three. And once we hit three, four will follow.
Two degrees is also the point at which the globe slides towards increasing water scarcity and, eventually, food deficit.
And the fact is, we' re already seeing the consequences of climate change around the globe: collapsing ice shelves, the failure of the cyclical rains in Eastern Africa, drought in Australia, the spread of tropical diseases into new territory as temperatures rise, pollution of aquifers with salt water in Bangladesh. Global temperatures have already risen 0.6 of a degree, causing huge damage to the natural environment and inflicting suffering on vast numbers of people.
The only way to avoid further devastation, and forestall the catastrophe of positive feedback, Monbiot argues, is a 90% cut in CO2 emissions in the rich nations of the world by 2030. In other words, our response will have to be immediate, and it will have to be decisive.
But where to start?
Monbiot starts at home, where we have most control. Though he draws his examples from the UK, and commends Canadians for our superior building standards, he makes a damning case that the buildings we live and work in squander energy. Since our heat and electricity produce CO2, nearly every bit of heat and power we waste (like nearly every bit of heat and power we use) commits us to greenhouse gas emissions. Monbiot finds ways for us to build, and live, so much better that we can cut emissions at home by the required 90%.
He then looks at the source of our electricity, and evaluates the arguments for both local micro-generation (for example, solar photovoltaic panels and small wind turbines), and renewable energy for the grid. His research leads him to some unexpected discoveries, but he finds a way to trim our emissions by the necessary margin.
Another obvious source of CO2 emissions is our transportation - the cars we drive and the flights we take. A little ingenuity, he argues, will allow us to deal with the former. But the latter, he acknowledges, is shaping up to be the Achilles heel of all efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
A couple of less obvious major sources of CO2 are the retail and construction industries. Big box stores, with their inefficient designs, their racks of heaters, air conditioners, and blazing lights (to say nothing of the sprawling parking lots full of cars that drive back and forth on shopping trips), are simply inconsistent with a low-carbon future. But Monbiot has a thoughtful and surprisingly simple solution. Similarly, the concrete industry, that backbone of all new construction, emits millions of tons each year as a consequenceof the immense heat and chemical processes involved in the manufacturing process. Though the solution here is not as ready to hand, it is still possible.
In short, the scale of the changes before us is staggering, as is the size of the problem. But Monbiot ends on a note of hope. We have shown ourselves to be capable of enormous ingenuity and great feats of cooperation and sacrifice when confronted with a serious threat. The Second World War provides countless examples of citizens and engineers doing the supposedly impossible in order to get the job done. Fighting climate change will not require young men to die in battle, but a failure to tackle the problem urgently and with all the determination we can muster will cost uncountable lives. There is no reason to think we will do less when faced with a threat to the sustainability of all life on the planet than we did when faced with a threat to our political and ethical values.
Monbiot argues there is no time to waste. As he has said himself, " we are the last generation that can make this happen, and this is the last possible moment at which we can make it happen."

"From the Hardcover edition."



Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (28 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713999233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713999235
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A dazzling command of science and a relentless faith in people ... I never miss reading him. -- Naomi Klein

An impressive piece of investigative journalism -- Rosie Boycott, The Mail on Sunday

At last the global movement has found a vision. -- Independent on Sunday

Monbiot's book has an infectious and practical 21st century spirit -- Sunday Herald

One of the best-informed people about climate change ...
comprehensive and compelling. -- The Scotsman

The combination of practical detail and creative thinking is
immensely impressive. -- The Guardian

Turns number crunching into inspiration for social change. -- Metro

`A book anyone who thinks they know what should be done about
global warming must read'
-- John Gray, New Statesman

About the Author

A few years ago, George Monbiot was persona non grata in seven countries and had a life sentence in absentia in Indonesia. He is now a best-selling author, columnist for the Guardian and Visiting Professor at the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University. In 1995 Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. He has been named by the Evening Standard as one of the 25 most influential people in Britain, and by the Independent on Sunday as one of the 40 international prophets of the 21st Century. His books include Captive State: the Corporate Takeover of Britain and, most recently, The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order. He has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), Bristol (philosophy), Keele (politics) and East London (environmental science). His weekly column for the Guardian is syndicated in the US, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, India, Pakistan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Russia, and he appears frequently on radio and television. His website, www.monbiot.com , is the world's seventh-ranked comment site and holds an archive of his articles.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Heat is a hard nosed, unsentimental analysis of the problem of climate change and what can be done about it. Monbiot sets himself a difficult challenge of a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and then tackles each source of carbon emissions in turn, from housing to transport. Some of it is familiar and easy to agree with, such as better insulation, or passive house architecture. Other sections are less comfortable reading - many popular solutions are stripped down and exposed as useless, from biofuels to small scale wind turbines. Ardent greens will find plenty to worry about as nuclear power gets a tacit nod, and the sacred cow of renewable energy gets cut down a size.

A great many ideas are discarded, but this is ultimately a book of solutions, and there are all manner of things that will work. Efficiency measures, tighter planning laws, improved coach travel, combined heat and power, hydrogen fuel cells, tele-working, internet shopping. There is no single answer, but dozens of helpful avenues that will trim carbon from our current lifestyles.

As well as the solutions, the book spends some time exploring why it has been so hard to get climate change onto the political agenda. The findings here are fascinating. A lot has been said about climate change denial and conspiracy theories. I don't have a whole lot of time for that, or for environmentalist martyrdom, but anyone tempted to dismiss those theories entirely should read Monbiot's chapter on `The denial industry.' Obviously not everyone who disagrees with climate science is in the pay of the oil companies, but a shocking number are, and there is plenty of evidence here to prove it.

As always, Heat is well researched, thorough and rational. As a guide to what can practically be done about climate change, as a society, this is second to none.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
By C. O'Brien VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
George Monbiot of The Guardian is in any ways a more upmarket version of Michael Moore - just as determined to slay the dragons of corporate self-interest and government hypocrisy, but going about it with a little more finesse.

In this uncompromising thesis on global warming, he takes the view that carbon emissions need to be reduced by a whopping 90% if we're to avoid hitting the "tipping point" which will accelerate us towards global disaster. Having laid that on the line and debunked the oil industry- funded naysayers, he goes on to point the finger at the ones who are really responsible - us.

It's our inertia, he says, that keeps emissions so high, because once we're used to our gas-guzzlers, our long-haul flights and our out-of-season luxuries, we're far too loath to surrender them in the name of collective survival. And as long as industry keeps on burning the midnight oil, why should we bother with energy-saving lightbulbs?

Monbiot prescribes a diet of privation. If we want to avoid a forcible return to Neolithic hunter-gathering, we need to elect to ration ourselves: and cutting our energy consumption to the bone is the only way ensure a positive outcome. That means eating what's locally available, keeping our cars in the garage and evolving a workable system of public transport and food deliveries. And most of all, it means an end to globetrotting - because there's no fat and effective way to travel that's acceptably carbon-neutral.

As always, though, everyone is waiting for everyone else to act. "Everyone has to move, or no-one moves," says one supermarket boss. "If we do it and nobody else does, we're lost.
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46 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding wake-up call 4 Oct 2006
Format:Hardcover
This is an outstanding book - a call for action that must happen now if we are to avoid climate change spiralling out of control. Its strengths are that it describes the issues with great clarity and conjures up possible solutions for dealing with them. Not all of these seem politically or practically realistic, but in a way that's not the point: they demonstrate that action can be taken and climate change kept in check.

I would strongly recommend, as a companion volume, The Rough Guide to Climate Change, which in many ways is an easier book to get yourself up to scratch on the science and the issues. It is very clearly written, with excellent diagrams, ranges widely over issues and solutions, and demystifies in the way that Rough Guides are so good at.
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Format:Paperback
I have a strong interest in environmental issues and found a lot of good ideas in this book such as the ideas for reworking the UK coach service infrastructure and the fundamental restructuring of supermarkets. The supermarket idea could be further developed as an Argos style system so shoppers could still visit a supermarket, but would select their order from a screen. It is not feasible that the supermarket model could wholly shift to a delivery system, but his proposal has real potential if it was reworked somewhat. So I would recommend this book to anyone interested in ideas for emission reductions.

Additionally, I checked a lot of the references in the book and found that they generally checked out. It is in parts a well researched book but in other parts more emotion based than facts based. There is an excellent chapter on the climate change denial industry, which would be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the area of climate change and is confused by the fact that, seemingly "They can't make up their minds about climate change". Again, I checked these references out and they are solid.

I wanted to give it four stars, but it falls down in a few areas. For a start, he refers to an unpublished paper by a non-climate scientist to say we need to reduce emissions by 90% instead of 80%. So we have a non-scientist reviewing a paper on climate change by a non-climate scientist. He should only refer to peer reviewed papers by climate scientists and would never accept anything else from a climate change denier. I should add that Monbiot is not a scientist, but Matthew Prescott was the reviewer for this book. Writing or reviewing a paper outside your area of expertise is extremely dangerous as you often miss a critical nuance that only a trained eye could spot.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is essential reading
I am deeply impressed by both the quantity and quality of the research that has gone into this tightly-argued and well-thought-through book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Forager
5.0 out of 5 stars A Significant Contribution to the Field
George Monbiot, renowned for his capable and coherent work for The Guardian, managed to produce a text of exemplary quality. Read more
Published 22 months ago by L. S. Bozhinov
5.0 out of 5 stars book
Great book , found it hard to put down and will buy the others in the series also.
would recomend.
Published on 16 April 2012 by djgomaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Heat how we can stop the planet burning
It is a massive eye opener and a tremendous review of information on the subject of climate change. I would thoroughly recommend this text to anyone interested in this important... Read more
Published on 15 Nov 2010 by Rossanna06
5.0 out of 5 stars Monbiot's Manifesto
George Monbiot's Guardian columns are always well worth reading, as was his well received and best selling book on the links between big business and the state in Britain (Captive... Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2010 by S Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Another book on climate change!
Heat: How to stop the planet burning, by George Monbiot, Allen Lane (Penguin), 2006, 304 ff.

Another book on climate change! Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2010 by Dr. H. A. Jones
1.0 out of 5 stars Smug cobblers
Mr Monbiot is a smug, useless child of British privilege. His simple, arrogant view of life is that the brightest people - say, him - can solve everything on the planet. Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2009 by Robert W. Howlett
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but don't dismiss the Severn barrage
This is an excellent book, an essential volume for anyone who takes global warming seriously. I find it difficult to see how I can fly again now. Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2009 by M. R. Cytera
1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading and dangerous
Green publicist George Monbiot claims that climate change is `the greatest danger the world now faces'. How great is the danger? Read more
Published on 5 Jan 2009 by William Podmore
3.0 out of 5 stars Good on Energy Politics (ish)
I think that Heat is unnecessarily alarmist. Asking for a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 is simply silly. Read more
Published on 1 Dec 2008 by J. Hampton
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