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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 December 2013
I used to be sceptical about climate change but the more I read, for and against, the more I started to believe that we face a devastating problem that could destroy the world as we know it.

This book starts really strong and pulls together the reasons why there is little talk and even less action to correct the carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

As the book says, it's hard to imagine a less convincing argument than the future of the world will be destroyed by something that we can't see, taste or hear but gradually, second by second, the problem builds.

Then there are the vested interests with the big wallets (the existing carbon industries) who are able to buy political and media power far in excess of the climate change campaigners.

Then add in the fact that we have a natural tendency to avoid talking about bad, scary stuff. It's more comforting to pretend that a problem doesn't exist than to recognise it and face up to making changes needed.

Those changes are mainly negative in the short term, sacrificing the way of life we know and want to carry on.

This makes it hard for any politicians with moral fibre to act in the right way. Until the groundswell public opinion builds to be strongly in favour of acting on the climate change problem, it's hard for our leaders to lead.

The book doesn't mention it but one fundamental issue is that the problem, on the surface sounds trivial. The idea that a temperature increase of just two degrees centigrade must be stopped doesn't sound serious.

As someone who feels the cold badly and is rarely warm enough in Britain, an increase of 2C sounds very modest and without the scary end of the world stuff, I'd vote for a 10C increase. Then we might have proper summers.

I realise it's not that simple but there needs to be a much better job of putting across the doomsday scenarios of what climate change means in the future. We need major blockbusting novels and films to make the general public understand how serious it is and how close we are to the tipping point where it becomes too late. After that, all we can do is try to minimise the problems.

The book is excellent on explaining the current inertia and it needs to be read. It's ideal for anybody who is aware of both sides of the argument and wants to understand the unequal battle being waged. It gently introduces various technologies that I was unaware of.

It's weaker on how to build critical mass amongst the disinterested, let alone the climate change deniers who are winning much of the popular debate at the moment.

It is very well written but it made me realise just how much the odds are stacked against effective action. I've come away feeling more depressed than hopeful that politicians will reach agreement to limit carbon emissions.

About my book reviews - I aim to be a tough reviewer because the main cost of a book is not the money to buy it but the time needed to read it and absorb the key messages. 4 stars means this is a good to very good book.
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on 4 March 2017
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on 29 April 2017
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on 11 June 2013
Global Warming: The Human Contribution
The Burning Question is a most thought provoking book and is extremely well written for the general reader and should be compulsory reading for the policy makers of this world. It is a most welcome addition to the literature of global warming which suffers greatly from many books written by extreme sceptics who merely demonstrate their ignorance of the underlying science. I read the very clear ebook version.
We are reminded that the IPCC recommends that a global mean temperature rise since the beginning of the Industrial Age should not be more than 2°C, i.e., an extra 1.2°C above the 0.8°C that has already occurred. The authors deal with the difficulties involved with efforts to restrict fossil fuel emissions to another 565 gigatonnes of CO2 before the `danger' level is achieved. They point out that there is more than enough fossil fuel in the ground to produce sufficient warming. The burning of the known reserves would be more than enough and that would present problems to the producers who would no longer need to do any further exploration.
In part 2 the counterintuitive ways in which the global economy absorbs efficiency improvements are described. This section is particularly important and needs to be spread far and wide. For example, if cars are made more efficient so that more distance can be covered for the same amount of fuel the outcome is not necessarily any saving of fuel and its essential emission of CO2. The tendency would be for people to live further away from their workplace, to live in the countryside in cheaper houses and cause more facilities and schools to be built... IT has not led to energy savings. We still use mounds of paper and the postal letter service still exists. IT allows the sharing of thousands of photographic images that would not occur otherwise. The invention of modern ways of lighting houses has meant that the tungsten filament version has become almost obsolete. This could save energy, but we now tend to leave lights on in rooms not being occupied, we light more corners of selected rooms. Any methods that reduce energy use by any means leads to financial savings. Having more money to spend allows the purchase of extra goods and the extra emissions that are involved in their manufacture.
The basic physics of the greenhouse effect is not included; rather it is accepted without comment. The book is not meant to cover such technicalities; these are well covered in several books including my own ebook: Global Warming: The Human Contribution. My book has a discussion of the asymmetry of global warming that the IPCC 2°C limit ignores. The warming over the last 33 years has occurred almost entirely in the Northern Hemisphere. That tendency, if it continues until the global 2°C has occurred indicates that the mean temperature of the Northern Hemisphere would increase by some 4°C and that does mean bad news for all concerned.
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on 29 July 2013
This is a very readable account of the challenges around fossil fuel use over the coming decades.

It begins by outlining the history and current state of carbon dioxide emissions from man's use of fossil fuels. It explains how, despite high certainty in climate science and increased awareness of this, we are still on a 'business as usual' trajectory for fossil fuel use over the coming years. The immense political challenge with changing this is realistically appraised, as are the current role of increased energy efficiency and growth in renewables. It concludes with some thoughts on the role that everyone can play in bringing about meaningful action.

The book succeeds in putting across both the fairly depressing gravity of the problem and of the solution. It also succeeds in inspiring the reader to think about their responsibilities and how action at all levels of society is needed. Throughout it is well referenced and seems a balanced representation of consensus views. I would highly recommended it.
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on 9 June 2013
The main problem identified in the book is that the vast majority of people simply don't want to believe that climate change is threatening life on this planet, and that it is a man made problem that mankind needs to react to now. The book gives very clear summaries of how the problem has arisen, the hurdles we need to cross to alleviate the problem (its already too far gone to stop), and the risks to our descendants if we don't act now. This book should be compulsory reading for every school in the world in the hope that a knowledgeable young generation will force an end to the horrific complacency that abounds today, fuelled by vested interests and climate deniers.
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on 30 August 2013
I highly recommend this book. It is the most considered and researched book on climate change I have ever read. No use of convoluted words or messages. Beautifully articulate and thought provoking! Buy, borrow or steal the book - just ensure you read it!
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on 23 March 2014
Excellent book. Good understanding and explanation of how the energy system, global energy demand growth, and politics are intertwined. A bit light on the solutions but at least the reader has a good grasp of the challenge ahead after reading the book.
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on 28 October 2013
Well written and structured for the lay person interested in this most important of topics. Makes an excellent job of cutting through the opinion, pseudo science and downright self interest to inform clearly about essentially a difficult problem we should all be expected to understand and start acting upon.
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on 25 November 2013
As a big fan of Mike Berners-Lee's previous book How Bad Are Bananas? I was looking forward to reading this one, and it didn't disappoint. The title and cover are a little misleading as the book covers far more ground than they suggest. From the basics of climate change through to the psychology of why people struggle to accept or do something about it, this is both a fantastic primer for anyone who's coming to the subject for the first time or a good "next level" read for those who want more detail than the basics. The book doesn't pull its punches and the enormity of the situation facing us all can frankly be a depressing read but the authors do their best to find a silver lining where it can realistically be found. Highly recommended.
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