Richard James Havis
by Al Gore
Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth set out the science behind global warming in a clear and readable manner. Follow-up Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis evaluates the ways power can be generated without releasing harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Later chapters of the book examine the psychology behind global-warming denial, the reasons for the political resistance to ecologically sound initiatives, and the lies big oil companies such as Exxon tell to dupe the public into believing that global warming has been fabricated by scientists.
It all adds up to another important book. Those with an interest in the future of the planet - perhaps most of us - should find it answers many pressing questions.
Despite media blow-ups such as the recent 'Climategate', nearly all scientists accept man-made global warming as a fact. So Gore wastes no time repeating the arguments of An Inconvenient Truth. This book is not about the problem but the possible solutions. Gore writes about alternative sources of power - wind, geothermal, solar and so on - in an informative manner, explaining how the technologies work and how they can be implemented on a scale big enough to make a difference.
Refreshingly, it's a work of scientific analysis rather than ecological cheerleading. Gore isn't afraid to point out the problems with each technology and sometimes admits that more work needs to be done before fossil fuels can be successfully replaced.
Each alternative energy source has a chapter to itself. Different types of solar energy are explained and their economic and ecological benefits assessed. Wind power works well, Gore thinks, while geothermal energy, which uses the heat that exists inside the planet to drive turbines, is impractical at the moment but should work in the future, when scientists have solved geological problems, he says.
Nuclear power is neither economically viable nor sustainable. Carbon sequestration, which buries carbon collected from coal power stations to render it harmless, may ultimately prove to be a chimera because no one has proved it will work on a large scale.
Towards the end, Gore revisits territory he examined in the book The Assault on Reason. Why do people deny that global warning is happening when a mass of scientific evidence proves it is, he wonders. This leads to an examination of the psychology of fear.
Gore also looks at how oil and coal companies fabricate 'scientific research' to contradict the work of independent scientists. They are like the tobacco companies who fought to deny that smoking caused cancer even when science was against them, he says.
Technological advances such as a supergrid, a form of electricity delivery that cuts waste, could do a lot to solve CO2 emissions, Gore thinks. But ultimately, global warming will be beaten only by a change in lifestyle.