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"THE BURNING QUESTION"

WE CAN'T BURN HALF THE WORLD'S OIL, COAL AND GAS. SO HOW DO WE QUIT?

By Mike Berners-Lee & Duncan Clark

Book Review from Sustainable Keswick - SusKes

This book is a milestone. It explores and explains the climate change we and our children fce now and in the future. It discuses the evidence of the risks involved, the options the human race has worldwide, as nations and as individuals, and the evidence for changes that may reduce or prevent disaster.

Sadly the history of climate change is largely a story of influence by vested interests, especially the oil and coal industries, that have prevented honest debate and sapped political will. In spite of this, scientific assessment of climate change and individual commitment are increasingly winning.

The main points that I took from this book were:

  • Contrary to recent belief, the world has large reserves of convention oil and gas, far more than can be burnt safely. Burning more than half of these reserves will produce enough warming from CO2 to give just a 50% chance of keeping the world temperature rise at or below 20C (the maximum agreed by every nation on the planet - bar North Korea - at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009). Any additional CO2 produced from other sources (the worst being cola and shale gas) will push the temperature higher.
  • Carbon dioxide, once it is in the atmosphere, stays there for decades if not centuries. So once we have burnt half the oil and gas reserves, unless we stop buring fossil fuels completely, there will be a greater than 50% chance of exceeding a 20C increase in temperature and a much higher risk of greater harm.
  • The only long term solution has to involve a world-wide capping (i.e. rationing) of carbon dioxide production (burning of oil, gas, coal, all fossil fuels).
  • If we wait until the change in climate is great enough to force us into emergency mode, it will almost certainly be very costly and might be too late. Further warming will continue for decades after we begin to take seriou action.
  • It is important that more people hear the simple fatcs loud and clear: that climate change presents huge risks; that our efforts to so far haven;t worked; and that there is a moral imperative to greatly reduce fossil fuel use on behalf of current and future generations.

The authors of this book point out that “Rapid change in society has always required large numbers of people demanding it and taking to the streets if necessary.”

Clyde Mitchell, Chairman, SusKes

July 2013

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