By Nick Lyth
Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change by Nathaniel Rich (Picador, 2019)
This book is both a thriller and a shocker. It tells the story in vivid terms of the debates surrounding Climate Change in the decade from 1980 to 1990. The shock is that, essentially, we knew then everything that we know now, at the highest level of World Government. While the lobby groups were campaigning to get attention, in fact, behind the scenes, the people who governed us then were studying and accepting the blunt and unarguable science. They deliberately decided to do nothing about it. The book takes us through the role of the White House, as it passed from Jimmy Carter (strongly supportive of measures to stop Climate Change) to Ronald Regan (strongly against), and then George Bush Senior (first one thing, then the other). It shows the stance taken by the Oil & Gas sector, especially Exxon (amazingly, strongly supportive, until the White House withdrew support under Bush). It details the steps taken in the journey through the 80’s, the conferences, the meetings, the policy discussions, and their eventual outcome at a seminal IPCC conference, held in November 1989 in a small town called Noordwijk in The Netherlands, where the first international climate treaty was torpedoed by a coalition of the US, the UK, and Japan, led by the US policy advisors. It is horrifying to read what happened then, and even more horrifying to read the final chapter – what has happened since. Or, more precisely, what has not happened since, and how the US, the world’s biggest emitter of the gases that have caused global warming, has spent time and money undermining any attempts to make change happen. The young Al Gore was already working to arrest and reverse global warming in the 80’s. How different would our world now be if he had won the Presidential election instead of George Bush Junior in 2000? This is a book to destroy any residual faith you might have had in the wisdom of our political leaders.
Climate Justice: A Man-made Problem with a Feminist Solution by Mary Robinson (Bloomsbury, 2018)
Another heavy-weight from the world of politics, this former Irish President and UN Special Envoy could not have produced anything more different. It is stark in its exposure of some telling truths about Climate Change. These days we are saying, as a thought that seems new to us, that we are now being affected by it in 2020. We are no longer working to protect our children’s future, as we have said ever since the Brundtland Report in 1988. We are working to protect our own present. But Mary Robinson exposes with considerable force how, in many parts of the world, the impacts of Climate Change have been a reality for at least two decades and often three. We have just ignored them. Her theme of injustice to women is poignant, and deserves the attention she claims, but the reality of the problem is also exposed in another way that applies to all of us. Our global economy has assumed a climate that is predictable in all regions within a certain range. It has depended on a consistent pattern of weather to provide the conditions we require, first and foremost for food production. Once this stops, we are lost. The story of the Lapland woman falling to her death through the ice, which all her life had been thick enough to hold her weight, is harrowing. Unlike all the other books, this is a rigorously practical and forward-looking vision. She is looking for solutions, and she knows where to find them. “We need a wholesale change in how business is done and money is invested…Radical changes to supply chains, energy use, procurement and even marketing will be needed if we are to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.”
If the first book left you speechless with impotent rage, this one should encourage you to keep trying.
Nick Lyth is Founder and Director of Green Angel Syndicate, the only angel investment syndicate in the UK specialising in the fight against Climate Change and Global Warming. For regular updates follow Green Angel Syndicate on LinkedIn and Twitter.