1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Anthony Giddens' book is refreshing change from the usual climate change works - either heavily for the debate, or strongly anti (the sceptics), in that he treats climate change as a political problem, rather than a technological problem. His clear and insightful book brings a political view to the debate.
The book starts with a short account of the science of global warming and includes a fair assessment of the sceptics who challenge it. The author outlines the objections of the sceptics and explores areas of uncertainty about the forecasts, but in general assumes that the evidence linking human activity with climate change is overwhelming.
The book's main objective is to ask "If we now understand what we have done to the planet, and that we continue to do it, why is is so difficult to change our behaviour?
The answer is (according to the author) the "Giddens' paradox". The potential disasters that may occur due to climate change are (a) not immediate and (b) not visible, so the human race ignores the issues. However, just sitting around, waiting for the disaster to become obvious before reacting will be too late. The problem is therefore political and not technological, and technological solutions have little or no chance of success unless our politicians manage to persuade their constituents and (more importantly) the technocrats in industries such as energy to take this potential armageddon seriously.
Giddens is quite critical of the Green proposals, and the means used to achieve them, because they ignore politics. Decentralisation will prevent the necessary co-ordinated action and the concepts behind sustainable development are simply not practical. Solutions to the global warming problem have to involve politics and government and centralised planning.
The author discusses the role of markets, and is critical of the Green policies that reject market solutions - but he discusses the shortcomings of markets in the face of problems such as global warming, and demonstrates that markets need to be encouraged by governments.
There is much emphasis put on national decision-making, as oppose to multilateral negotiations through the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation or even the European Union, and he suggests that progress will be made by individual nations, with international co-operation following from groups of similarily minded nations. Global agreements such as Kyoto are doomed to fail because of divergent national interests, with deadlocks the norm. It is suggested that the best course is for a few of the developed nations to start taking individual action now, and demonstrate to the rest of the world what can be achieved.
A refreshing view of a complex and often misunderstood topic
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Other reviews have placed author Anthony Giddens as left/centre and it is worth considering how this may or may not influence views expressed in `The Politics of Climate Change'. He sits in the House of Lords for Labour and as a political adviser to Tony Blair is considered an architect of the `Third Way'. As an academic he is acknowledged as one of the most prominent and frequently cited social theorists of his generation, and throughout his impressive career he has had many honours bestowed and has had dozens of books published. After sociology Anthony Giddens focuses on globalization and the nature of modernity, and it is in the light of this that his credibility is questioned. He has attracted criticism for being something of a fan of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, and was Director of the London School of Economics when Gaddafi's son Saif was a student, and in a Guardian article in 2007 he wrote: "Libya is not especially repressive ... Gaddafi seems genuinely popular". Does this display a degree of naivety and show him susceptible to influence, and therefore perhaps not impartial when evaluating political versus scientific issues?
In `The Politics of Climate Change' Anthony Giddens affirms: "I am not a scientist", yet he accepts totally the scientific evidence that global warming is proceeding apace and that it is caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Whatever disapproval or disparagement may stem from the potency of his judgement or his personal political views, for the important issues he attempts a fair balance between science or technology conclusions and opposing views of sceptics. For himself he states: "I believe that the over-riding principle is that we should stay close to the science". Even so he presents his book as a political inducement for scientists to assess the risks posed by climate change, embracing scepticism as a spur to scrutinizing evidence, validating claims, and presenting findings transparently. He appears to reconcile opposing positions, and with credit to both scientists and sceptics he starkly identifies political problems.
In addition to commenting objectively on past actions Anthony Giddens presents linking arguments in clear manner for climate change and fossil fuel dependency with energy consumption. `The Politics of Climate Change' is very up to date with references to issues as the Arab Spring, Wikileaks etc. and events as BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Fukushima nuclear disaster etc. Concerns are expressed over how threats are ignored, by politicians not looking beyond short term issues, and the public resisting any significant alteration to their lifestyles. However the future is crucial and Anthony Giddens harbours fears that our industrialised civilisation could self-destruct, yet at the same time he recognizes how human actions leading to disastrous consequences also provide the means for resolving problems. Besides maintaining such actions are rooted in science and technology, it is politics that he places at the centre - hence `The Politics of Climate Change' - it forces readers to think. Anthony Giddens may not be a scientist but he even-handedly sets out the problems and hopefully his attempts to motivate politicians will generate meaningful responses.
This is the second edition of a book that has been described as a classic, though not by me; my own view is that a book has to be a lot more than three years old before it can be accorded classic status. Anyway, it has been thoroughly updated to take into account such recent developments as the most recent rounds of UN sponsored climate change talks, the new UK coalition government, the University of East Anglia debacle, the 'Arab spring' and much more. I never read the first edition, but I would guess that there is so much new stuff in this book that, even if you have read the first edition, it would be worth reading this one too. The book seems to have been written from a slightly left of centre perspective, though Giddens strives to be balanced. As the title suggests, it is a book about politics rather than science; Giddens begins from the standpoint that global warming exists, that it is caused by human activity, and that its effect on the planet will be overwhelmingly negative. Climate change deniers are not likely to rate his book highly, and should perhaps look elsewhere to read about the science of climate change first. The book deals with two kinds of response to climate change; mitigation (how we prevent or at least slow down the process of global warming) and adaptation (how we protect ourselves against its effects such as coastal erosion, drought and severe weather). It also, since global warming demands a global response, deals with the topic on a global scale, looking at each of the major countries and supranational economic blocs, and the changes in geopolitics brought about by the need for energy security. The book is very readable, though at 232 pages of text plus notes and index, can only be considered as an introduction to what is a huge subject. On reading it, one is also conscious of its ephemeral nature in such a fast changing world; anyone wishing to stay on top of developments in this field will have to work hard to do so. Is it, or will it be, a classic? Ask me again in twenty years if we're all still here.
Climate science has always been my interest and I've seen how over the past years climate scientists have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that human caused global warming is real and dangerous. In response Germany builds wind and solar farms, but shuts down its nuclear reactors. Nations spend 20 years negotiating and announce they will limit global warming to 2 C, then postpone action to 2016 and make the target almost impossible to reach. Why have we failed in such a spectacular fashion?
Partly this is due to campaigns of science denial by a network of the media, bloggers, industry funded think tanks and criminals. But politics should have been able to overcome this: why hasn't it and what can it do?
Anthony Gibbens presents a centre-left commentary and suggestions. He does a pretty good job on the science, his minor errors don't affect his conclusions. He then highlight the all-important link between climate and energy security and the rest of the book can be split into two themes: the past and the future.
The past features good, clear explanations of not just actions (e.g. how countries are doing so far) but also the philosophical, ethical and political decisions. How to judge risk, what the 'precautionary principle' means and why many believe that the rich nations have a duty to act first. Merging both 'past' and 'future' there is a discussion of technologies and policy instruments that are available and throughout the wider political context is made clear. Whilst the 'future' section includes discussions of the shift of power from west to east, the likely future race for resources, what this political background means for climate policy and a suggested route to get good climate policy despite this.
It's an interesting and pretty comprehensive tour through a centre-left perspective on climate policy. It does descend into what I see as a typical politics problem of hand-wavy reasoning in some parts. Figures are thrown around - 30% cut in water use in Queensland through efficiency measures, which makes it sound critical. But rarely is the extra step - putting it in context - made. Furthermore, good suggestions are made: like trying to build cross-party consensus to provide stable policy in a multi-party democracy, but it's rare that a clear solution is presented.
I understand that this is a very difficult policy area, a book only provides a whistlestop tour, and the author is approaching policy through the lenses of his political leanings. It's interesting, largely well written and clearly explains a lot of the debate that has gone on so far, and gives a good idea of future policy changes. But it lacks that little extra bit of analysis and quantified evidence to support some of the assertions: since I work in science that always leaves me feeling a bit cold.
A second, fully revised edition of The Politics of Climate Change after just two and a half years is good going. But then, Anthony Giddens is a co-founder of Polity Press, the book's publisher, and the first edition appears to have done well for them. And the book does indeed seem to have been revised throughout, referring not just superficially to 2010 data and to current events of the early months of 2011 such as the Wikileaks revelation of American diplomatic e-mail communications and the acquisition by China of Canadian shale-gas interests.
Before turning to politics, the book provides an overview of the Climate Change situation, relating it closely to world energy sources and supplies. Giddens' view is that it would be a fundamental mistake to consider the politics of the two areas of interest separately. Energy supplies are integrally related to geopolitics. Peak oil, the point at which the flow of oil begins to decline, cannot be far off. If nations revert to burning coal, that will be seriously detrimental for the greenhouse gas, global warming and Climate Change situation. Worse yet if we seek to augment oil supplies from tar sands. Policy decisions on future energy supplies must be made in tandem with, must be part and parcel of, policy decisions relating to Climate Change.
Giddens is wary of terms incorporating the words 'green' or 'sustainable development', and is downright scornful of 'saving the planet'. There is the possibility that in the longer term the earth may experience a runaway greenhouse situation (as per Venus), where water vapour from the oceans is permanently lost to space; and according to James Hansen, of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a prominent Climate Change activist, that scenario will become a "dead certainty" if we burn the tar sands. Nevertheless, Giddens insists, the earth itself will survive; our need is to preserve, and if possible enhance, a decent way of life for human beings. He is keen to move and keep that objective within the sphere of mainstream politics, and not allow it to become or remain the preserve of readily ignored special interest groups.
Whilst promoting and further developing renewable forms of energy derived from sunlight, wind and water, and biomass energy that does not compete with food supplies, he sees no alternative in the short to medium term to reversing the present downward trend in energy derived from nuclear fission. And of course there is still much to be done in terms of reduction of consumption and wastage of energy.
Certain countries have been particularly tardy in addressing Climate Change problems; the United States being one of them, Russia a perhaps even more recalcitrant case, and China essentially non-cooperative until quite recently, but now showing signs of change. The politics of the issue are especially relevant both to why these and other countries have been slow in their responses, and to the global movement - particularly through the United Nations' annual Climate Summits - to galvanise all into concerted and effective action. As the outcome of Summit after Summit is initially hailed as a serious disappointment (the latest being Durban, December 2011), it is heartening to note Giddens' summary of a progression of real achievement (even in Copenhagen in 2009), often apparent only after some months of quiet diplomatic follow-up.
But, whilst progress is being made, for Giddens we are still doing too little, and in some respects already too late. He has coined this 'Paradox': "Since the dangers posed by global warming aren't tangible, immediate or visible in the course of day to day life, many will sit on their hands and do nothing of a concrete nature about them. Yet waiting until such dangers become visible and acute - in the shape of catastrophes that are irrefutably the result of climate change - before being stirred to serious action will be too late. For we know of no way of getting the greenhouse gases out again once they are there and most will be in the atmosphere for centuries."
Interesting book that covers the main geo-political aspects of climate change in 2012.
The book has been comprehensively rewritten and updated since its first printing and covers all areas previously missed or under-researched.
It comes with an incredibly strong list of people who have shaped the early 21'st Century recommending it, and thus is, in my mind very well balanced and presents all the geo-political issues in a very fair and unbiased way.
It examines the consequences for the world of climate change in a way that doesn't focus on polar bears and sea ice, rather on the aspects of climate change that are perhaps more serious; nations disintegrating from mass civilian movement due to food shortages, desertification, and water shortages etc.
It's very nature is that the book will need rewriting in perhaps a year or two, as issues covered in it happen, and things that have been forecast occur... or perhaps don't. Fascinating stuff.
If you want to learn the subject to help in reasoned debate then I can't recommend this book highly enough.
This is the third copy I have owned - previous copies have been loaned then passed on then on again until lost. Folks who cannot seriously grasp the science and maths behind climate change can take to the amazingly devious politics of the deniers and the energy company's professional liars. Hopefully when folks see how much effort has gone into attempting to hide climate change they will look more closely at the truth.
The essence of this book is a "must read" in this day and age - climate change is something that we certainly can't escape. Whilst fluently written, this is a little high-brown in places for a casual read. I would still, however, recommend that you try as the message and general gist within this is something everyone should read and understand, even if in only the most basic way.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
In this book, Giddens firstly urges us to accept the overwhelming consensus of opinion amongst scientists that climate change is real and caused by the actions of humanity, and then goes on to consider what actions will be required if we are to overcome this global threat.
Over the first few chapters, Giddens looks at where we are now. He starts by giving an overview of the scientific evidence and discusses the counter-arguments of sceptics and radicals, concluding that the science strongly supports the position that climate change is happening, is caused by human activity and is likely to have catastrophic consequences if action is not taken quickly. He looks at the availability of oil, gas and coal and how their production and use have shaped and changed international relationships and policy since the Second World War. He goes on to discuss the rise of 'green' politics and whether they offer any real solutions to the problems facing us.
In the next few sections, Giddens lays out his stall for the approaches he thinks are required. He argues strongly for a lead to be taken by governments of nation states individually (rather than waiting for the outcome of lengthy international negotiations) to develop policies that will encourage reductions in emissions - particularly through the use of the tax system and the encouragement of technological innovation. He highlights that climate change questions have, to some degree, become seen to be a 'left-wing' concern and points out that it is essential to success that all-party support is given to measures if they are to be accepted by those who will be affected. He urges strongly the principle of 'polluter pays' and suggests this should be extended to look at the developed world's responsibility to ensure support for developing and undeveloped countries in combatting climate change and in adapting to its effects.
Finally, Giddens looks at how international co-operation has developed to date and how he sees it progressing. He suggests that, as well as the various groupings of countries that are coming into being to tackle the issues regionally, the UN still has a vital role to play in monitoring and holding states to internationally agreed targets.
The book is well written and aimed at a general audience. It is a succinct account of where we are now and provides food for thought on how we might progress. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the on-going climate change debate (and, as this book makes clear, it affects us all). I found it a clear and accessible summary of the main arguments.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The ex-Director of the LSE engages one of the most important issues of our time. He takes a socio-political perspective and doesn't get bogged down with the stupid debate about the `myth' of climate change - he accepts the scientific reality on page 1 - but concentrates on the management and adaptation. He looks at the role of Green Movement hitherto and rejects a `back to nature' approach and then goes on to look at technology and taxes, planning and geopolitics and their contributions to the debate. This is a lucid, learned and incisive analysis and is one of the most important non-fiction texts of the last decade. He concludes - Stern Review-like, that GCC will have a disproportionate effect (initially) on the world's poor but stresses the importance of consensus and the role of the UN in tacking the issue. Required reading for any liberal (or non-liberal) mind.