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The Carbon Crunch: How We're Getting Climate Change Wrong - and How to Fix it [Hardcover]

Dieter Helm
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 Sep 2012
Despite commitments to renewable energy and two decades of international negotiations, global emissions continue to rise. Coal, the most damaging of all fossil fuels, has actually risen from 25 per cent to almost 30 per cent of world energy use. And while European countries have congratulated themselves on reducing emissions, they have increased their carbon imports from China and other developing nations, who continue to expand their coal use. As standards of living increase in developing countries, coal use can only increase as well - and global temperatures along with it. In this hard-hitting book, Dieter Helm looks at how and why we have failed to tackle the issue of global warming and argues for a new, pragmatic rethinking of energy policy - from transitioning from coal to gas and eventually to electrification of transport, to carbon pricing and a focus on new technologies. Lucid, compelling and rigorously researched, this book will have a lasting impact on how we think about climate change.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (21 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300186592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300186598
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Mr Helm has done a service to everyone else by describing what a global climate-change mitigation regime would look like if one took economics seriously.' --The Economist

'[The Carbon Crunch] is a provocative analysis and well worth the discomfort it will likely engender.' --Steve Yearley, Times Higher Education

'[Dieter Helm] has turned his agile mind to one of the great problems of our age: why the world's efforts to curb the carbon dioxide emissions behind global warming have gone so wrong, and how it can do better. He is far from being the first to tackle the issue, but he is among the more influential and, as he demonstrated in his new book, The Carbon Crunch, one of the more readable.' --Pilita Clark, Financial Times

'The Carbon Crunch is a powerful and heartfelt plea for hard-nosed realism. And it also suggests a worrying truth - that the environmental movement is often more interested in pursuing a soft-focus vision of a greener world than in actually fixing climate change.' --Fred Pearce, New Scientist

'[Dieter Helm] has turned his agile mind to one of the great problems of our age: why the world's efforts to curb the carbon dioxide emissions behind global warming have gone so wrong, and how it can do better. He is far from being the first to tackle the issue, but he is among the more influential and, as he demonstrated in his new book, The Carbon Crunch, one of the more readable.' --Pilita Clark, Financial Times

About the Author

Dieter Helm CBE is professor of energy policy, University of Oxford and Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford. He is a member of the Economic Advisory Committee to the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and Chair of the Natural Capital Committee.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, but a few gaps 31 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an extremely interesting book and should be read by all with an interest in combating anthropogenic climate change - particularly policy makers. It lays out the history of climate change talks from Rio, through to Kyoto and on to recent talks in Copenhagen and Durban, explaining why they are hailed as successes, even though they have produced little in the way of visible results. Helm also dispels many prevalent myths such as the potential contribution current renewable technologies and energy efficiency measures can make - typically vastly overstated by environmental groups. He comments on the damage which results from picking energy generation winners, such as spending enormous amounts of money on wind power programmes which can only ever provide energy intermittently and are therefore normally backed up by fossil fuel plants. This approach means that money is not being put into other technologies where we would get more bang for our buck. After clarifying why past policies have failed and current policies will have little positive effect, he sets out his own short, medium and long term plans to address climate change.

He rightly states that the first objective of every country is to stop using coal for energy generation. From a carbon dioxide perspective, coal produces roughly double the emissions per unit of energy production when compared to gas. Gas (e.g. CCGT) power plants are a well developed technology which can be built quickly and relatively cheaply. Increasing gas energy production would lead to a reduction in emissions, especially in countries like China and India. He correctly identifies why carbon taxes in the developed world are explicitly flawed, since manufacturing is increasingly being exported to the developing world along with the associated emissions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is so much written about energy, sustainability, green, eco etc. This book simply describes how badly we are doing in attempting to solve the needs of society and the realities of our environment by pursuing the wrong policies at high cost for little gain, whilst at the same time devising an energy/carbon accounting system that is misleading at best and morally bankrupt in general.

If you are in energy, carbon, green, eco or sustainability you simply must read this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outsourcing carbon emissions 27 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The history of international attempts to address global warming can be traced back to the Rio conference of the early 1990s, which led to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the twenty years since Rio, agreements have been signed, targets set, laws passed and speeches made. Whole industries have grown up to tackle the problem. But for all the time and money that has been expended, the result so far has been utter failure. The unspinnable fact is that carbon emissions relentlessly continue to rise; the rate of increase is if anything getting faster.

Why? Who's to blame? What should be done? These are the three questions which lie at the heart of Dieter Helm's provocative and entertaining monograph.

The main reason for the relentless increase in emissions is, of course, the build out of coal burning power stations, particularly in China.

It is common therefore to hear China being blamed for the lack of progress on climate change. European leaders often point to the fact that emissions are falling in most European countries and argue that they are 'leading' on climate change, while implying that sadly nothing can be done about Chinese emissions.

Helm doesn't buy this smug European line. Take the example of Britain. Our production of carbon in the last twenty years has fallen; our consumption of carbon has not. Essentially we are outsourcing our emissions to China and other less developed economies. We let China pollute on our behalf, and then pretend it is nothing to do with us.

One of the key problems with the targets that have been set in Britain and Europe is that they focus on the wrong variable: carbon production rather than carbon consumption.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Helm has recently become something of a poster boy for the anti-wind farm lobby which prompted me to read this book. He's not however a climate change skeptic. Although Helm is convinced that we are heading towards potentially disastrous global warming if we don't do something to reduce emissions he's far from persuaded that our current carbon reduction strategies will be effective.The first part of the book gives an excellent overview of the problem we face dealing with carbon emissions around the world, particularly those from developing economies like China and India. Helm then goes on to critique current policy and lays out his own solutions to the problem.

While I don't agree with all his criticisms of current renewable energy systems you can't argue with Helm's passion. For anyone involved in renewable energy this book is essential reading, if only to understand the where the opposition is coming from. Nice and short too!
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By David
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you have any interest in energy, read this book. It's well written and accessible - you don't need to know anything about the technicality side of energy, the science of climate change, or economics. You'll get lots of insights and new understanding. The down-side is that you might be worried you were getting a one-sided view and might need to read more. So don't make this your one and only venture into understanding this mightily important subject.

Dieter Helm is, deservedly a well known energy expert, a great communicator, and enjoys being a controversialist. It doesn't mean, he's wrong. Indeed it is quite hard to fault many of his arguments. His prescriptions are weaker - but definitely worthy of the attention of policy makers.

Briefly the thrust of the argument is: - in targeting reducing our carbon-footprint by increasing renewable generation in the UK, particularly wind, we are focussing on the wrong things. Because of de-industrialisation in the West (i.e. industry is shifting to places like China and we are buying their manufactured good) we should be tackling where carbon generation is driving carbon consumption. We have simply exported the problem and the small amount we are doing to shift to low carbon electricity generation is so tiny as not to have any overall impact. The solution to that is a carbon tax.

Accepting, however that we should do something about shifting to low (er) carbon electricity generation in the UK, picking wind was a bad idea. Lots of people dislike wind-farms for many reasons - Helm's has a very specific and powerful argument.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Carbon Crunch - please read this to find out the facts that are...
A very thought provoking book that anyone who has anything to say about climate change should read. You may be surprised to learn that the USA is the only country in what is known... Read more
Published 1 month ago by travelling girl 2007
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for politicians, policy-makers and NGOs
A tour de force that cuts through the convenient political hype and NGO posturing. This book presents a rarely heard voice of reason, from someone who has studied the topic of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Simon
5.0 out of 5 stars very good view
This is a very we'll thought out view of where we have let the politicians lead us, the conclusions at the end of the book sums up my thinking on what we must all do to put right... Read more
Published 2 months ago by M. smith
4.0 out of 5 stars If you want to buy a book on dealing with climate change, buy this...
Superb critique of the green movement and how obstructive they've been to quicker fixes. How governments have bowed to 'public' pressure, otherwise known as the green fanatics. Read more
Published 3 months ago by paulyb
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important book
A helpful summary of current policy and the problems with it. Surprisingly for a book about economics, it is gripping and really easy to read. Read more
Published 7 months ago by bob
5.0 out of 5 stars best carbon book i have read
This is the best carbon book i have read - very clear thinking, it explains what is going on (green lobby that hate nuclear rather than wanting to reduce emissions) - also tells... Read more
Published 9 months ago by karl jeffery
1.0 out of 5 stars same lies
same lies repeated that we are causing global warming even though the world has COOLED down in the last 15 years!!! Google the truth and ignore this rubbish.
Published 9 months ago by the-truth
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor analysis from a professor of energy policy
I expected better than apologism masquerading as analysis, especially from a professor of energy policy at Oxford, and one who has the ear of government. Read more
Published 11 months ago by SimonT
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, Compelling and a Great Read
This should be read by anyone interested in climate change. Lucid and very readable, Helm convincingly shows Europe's current approach to climate change - that it can be tackled... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Magellan
5.0 out of 5 stars A very inspiring book
'The Carbon Crunch' is very inspiring book for everyone with an interest in climate and energy policy. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Johan Albrecht
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