- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (30 April 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415931029
- ISBN-13: 978-0415931021
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,360,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era Paperback – 30 Apr 2001
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"A racy account of a key time for the environmental movement, when the battle between big-time, carbon-belching corporations and adamant greens was at its hottest . . . powerful and highly readable". -- New Scientist
From the Back Cover
Excessive burning of oil, gas, and coal is raising our planet's thermostat to unacceptable levels -- a problem which has already resulted in increased natural catastrophes: storms, floods, droughts, and fires. Yet big oil companies have repeatedly hijacked efforts to slow global carbon emissions. THE CARBON WAR is a major call-to-arms for the safety of our planet. Throughout the last decade, Jeremy Leggett, a distinguished scientist at Oxford University and former director for Greenpeace, has worked doggedly to alert human kind to the threat of ecological catastrophe. With the grace of a novelist and the precision of a scientist, Leggett recounts his maddening interactions with scientific councils, international governmental meetings, and business leaders. Still, despite the government's backpedaling on eco-promises, the media's laziness, and fossil fuel company rhetoric, the transition to solar energy is coming, he argues. THE CARBON WAR is a riveting read and a critical contribution to the fight for sustainable energy.
Top Customer Reviews
the Climate Change which is the number one threat to the human nature. It is an extraordinary experience. He traveled around the world to attend meeting related to climate change. A good reference for the new comers.
There are eleven chapters. The highlight of each chapter was from its title. However, sometimes it was difficult to find the highlight inside the chapters because of the diary approach.
In Prologue, the author gave a brief summary how he 'transformed' from an 'instructor of oilman' to an environmentalist, and then a solar-energy entrepreneur. He has worked in the Royal School of Mines at the Imperial College. He has trained hundreds petroleum geologists and petroleum engineers. His research area was so called 'blue skies' related to the geological history of oceans. If Dr. Leggett revises the book, I would like to know more his thoughts when he was
teaching and when he was doing his research. My point of view, these two areas are really opposite to each other.
In the first six chapters, the author described the atmosphere of the 1990 IPCC meeting to indicate the early warning signal. He pointed out that there should be no difference between the environmental security threat assessment and any threat assessment involving military security. During a geological community conference the author told an 'oil-man' speaker about the basic arithmetic to the carbon cycle and the price of oil. At the end, he found out that the 'oil-man' was his former student. I was impressed by the author's honest description.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
interesting and informative. Leggett, a renowned scientist at Oxford and a former
Greenpeace UK director, discusses the politics of global warming. He focuses on oil
dependence, while working in explanations of resulting climate change and the possible
impacts. It?s engaging because it goes behind the scenes in recounting important
conferences with scientific, intergovernmental, and business representatives, not all of
which would be covered by the media. He traveled all over the world for nearly a decade
while he directed Greenpeace's Climate Campaign, and wrote this account of it in a kind
of journal style with entries spanning from October 1989 to December 1997. I appreciated
his vivid writing style in illustrating scenes and people, which helped relieve the
density of scientific detail. While I had expected a dry, rather dull scientific text, it
proved appealing as well as instructive.
The first portion of the book concerns the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
which is a panel set up in 1988 by the UN General Assembly to advise governments on the
issue. The IPCC gathered worldwide input from scientists and experts over a year and a
half to formulate "consensus reports on the science of global warming, the probable
impacts, and the potential policy responses" (2), which is collectively called its
Scientific Assessment Report. At the time it was being prepared for the World Climate Conference where governments come together to decide what action to take. Leggett describes a series of
conferences with various governments, groups, scientists, and business leaders concerning
the final draft of this report. The first meeting mentioned deals with the summary of the
document. Strikingly, the draft states that 60-80% cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are
necessary to stabilize its atmospheric concentrations, a daunting goal. Leggett doesn?t
directly mention it but at least in the US such an extreme cut would be devastating to
the economy, with our dependence on oil leading to the colossal success of several major
oil companies. Thus throughout conferences in the book the US government, as well as oil
giants Saudi Arabia and Iran, refuses to set targets and timetables or make any kind of
commitment, arguing that the uncertainties over impacts make such action too drastic.
Legget emphasizes how scientists are certain that the current rates of greenhouse-gas
emissions will lead to climate change, but there is uncertainty over the degree of the
impacts because of the complexity of the climate system. Feedbacks in the climate system
are difficult to predict and almost impossible to calculate, making resulting climate
changes similar to a roll of dice. Toward the beginning of the semester we learned about
positive and negative feedback- positive leads to increase in a response while negative
contains the response, controlling it. In a warming world positive feedbacks would
amplify the warming by triggering extra carbon emissions from repositories in nature, and
negative feedbacks would suppress it (5). The concern is that the positive will end up
outweighing the negative. And the draft read that an overall increase rather than
decrease appears likely. All of this was more understandable because of learning about
climate change in class and about the carbon cycle.
Leggett has to deal with the frustrating responses of many people. Representatives of the
coal and oil industries, and countries dependent on them, deny the issue so their
livelihood won't be jeopardized. Others think that global warming is just a theory and
not a certainty, or aren't aware of just how urgent the situation is. At one point
Leggett gives a speech where he delivers his research of what the runaway greenhouse
effect or worst-case scenario would be. It describes how many island nations would be
submerged and coastline lost, unbreathable air, increase of famine, in areas of extremely
hot temperatures there would be many deaths leading to much conflict over water and food,
ect. He gives a survey on the worst case to around 100 different scientists- about 13%
say that they think it is a possibility. But the survey results are released to the media
who misrepresent the information, saying that only 13% of scientists thought that global
warming was happening. An oil company representative also gives a presentation and warps
the information because he is trying to recruit employers.
With this context you can really understand his vexation, and it draws the reader into
the cause. But yet his writing is hardly ever centered on himself despite the journal
style, but rather externally oriented. Other major points were the increase in coral
bleaching, which I hadn't known are the second major ecosystem in the world. He discusses
oil drilling at length, actually going to Siberia for an interview where a Texan company
is drilling. It should how drilling is happening in increasingly uninhabitable land, and
the Texans said that their motives are selfish, they don?t care about the earth and just
want to make money. Oil spills are another major issue. Each spill releases millions of
tones of oil onto the surface or in the ocean, which, in cold areas, doesn't evaporate
and breaks down very slowly.
The insurance industry is also in danger of crashing from paying the coverage of so many
major storms, which are increasing in frequency and intensity. Finance in general will
suffer great losses from cuts in emissions. After talking about insurance Legget mentions
a high tax on carbon use as a way to lessen emissions.
In trying to combat climate change I think the first step is raising awareness of the
urgency of the issue. Al Gore has admirably tried to do this, but the media has taken
hold of the topic and sensationalized it, which makes people less inclined to take it
seriously. Reliable information is key with this because of possible misrepresentation by
the media, as Leggett shows. This makes the public even less informed, and can be used to
downplay climate change to the public. Release of the runaway greenhouse effect
description could be very effective if delivered in a way that wouldn't cause a panic.
I think a carbon tax would help to an extent in decreasing emissions, but of course
carbon would still be burned. As the title of the work imparts, we are approaching the
end of the oil era. We cannot continue burning oil at our current rates for another
century without serious, even disastrous, consequences. This means we should focus on
research and development of alternative energy and fuel sources. Especially in such a
developed, industrialized, and technologically dependent country like the US, we are much
too used to moving around very quickly, making retrogression to earlier forms of
transportation out of the question. As alternative fuels are more accessible they will be
invested in, bringing back the economy. A huge issue is trying to convince the colossal
China, as well as India, to attempt to make cuts as well.
This book would be interesting to read in about 100 years. If things do not go well with mitigating climate change, the book could serve as an indictment of the guilty parties. If things do go well, people could say "I'm so glad governments didn't listen to those energy companies".
Easily five stars. Also, unfortunately in some ways, a very eye-opening look at the way international environmental politics is conducted. It probably goes without saying that many large energy companies really do not care about what is right for the average human, they only care about what is right for their shareholders. If you are still undecided on whether or not global warming is real, or is an issue you should be concerned about, and you receive conflicting information, keep in mind as you decide who is most likely to more truthful - the side trying to keep the planet livable, or the side with the most money to lose?
(Second Review one week later, same Reviewer): Title of Second Review: Casualties High in the Carbon War.
Jeremy Leggett has written a fascinating first-person account of an environmental organization representative's front row seat to the battle waged during the development of the Kyoto Protocol. As others have stated, politics is really a type of blood sport, with the winners left standing and everybody else dying or wounded. As Mr. Leggett points out, the real casualties are the truth and the average person. Huge amounts of money are at stake in any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and most plans will create new winners in the changing market, and also will create new losers. No existing company wants to be one of the losers, and they will do everything in their power to maintain the status quo. If you aren't already suspicious of the petrochemical energy business, you probably will be after reading this book. (Note: Large energy companies do not necessarily have your best interests in mind.)
This book is mainly about the politics of the world climate change policies and does not have very much content regarding the science of climate change. I would have liked to see more of the science and perhaps a bit less of the details of meetings after more meetings. If you want to learn more about the science I would recommend Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming and John Houghton's Global Warming: The Complete Briefing. If you want to read about the war between Exxon,big Coal,corporate media, and environmentalists, scientists, and the countries that are first in line to suffer from the consequences of global warming this is your book.
Jeremy Leggett's "Carbon War" is an outstanding contribution from the front lines. A journal from a key player in the carbon war, with insights on other key players on all sides.
Leggett puts you at the international summits, to witness the best and worst elements at work. There are many books that will inform you on global climate change issues (and some that will intentionally disinform you). But few, if any, let you peer into the international efforts (and counterefforts) to deal with climate change like the "Carbon War."
But I got the book, and I got the right book. If I had known it would have taken that long to get here I would have ordered elsewhere. Make sure you read exactly when they mandate the shipping!
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