One of the most frustrating aspects of the climate change problem is that we currently have all the tools and knowledge we need to solve the crisis and we’re simply choosing not to use them. This other “inconvenient truth” is the basis for a new book written by the person who alerted us to the first truth — Al Gore.
"Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis" (Rodale, $26.99) is in many ways a sequel to Gore’s groundbreaking PowerPoint presentation/documentary/book, "An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It", which garnered the former vice president a Nobel Peace prize for his efforts to alert the public about our role in causing climate change.
"Our Choice" is like most sequels: The threat is the same (global warming) and the villain is the same (mankind). Yet atypical to the traditional sequel story plot is the fact that the threat can be eliminated by the very people who created it, rather than by some superhuman character/technology (geo-engineering) that steps in at the last minute to save the day.
This concept that we can save ourselves from this self-imposed climate catastrophe is one of the most intriguing parts of the book, but it’s also the most frustrating. As Gore illustrates, we already possess a great deal of effective global warming solutions, many of which he was able to gather simply by picking the brains of distinguished international experts and sustainable entrepreneurs.
Remember that “low-hanging fruit” that Gore wouldn’t shut up about in the first book? Well, it’s all there in his second book, highlighted in fascinating detail and imagery. By the middle of "Our Choice", it’s painfully clear that we don’t need some futuristic technology to stop climate change; all we’re lacking is “collective will.”
And, the best thing about many of these solutions is that they’re already being used. Take for example the small German village of Jühnde, which generates all of its heating and electricity from biomass like woodchips and animal waste. Or, consider the truly awesome (and completely natural) ability for sustainably managed soil to store up to an estimated four-and-a-half times as much carbon as all of the Earth’s plant matter combined, all while creating more food in either the form of grass for cows or agricultural products for ourselves.
Gore also highlights a number of high-tech solutions in his book such as new steelmaking technologies like thin-slab casting, which will cut energy usage and carbon emissions while reducing costs by up to 20 percent. As it turns out, doing well by the Earth isn’t just great for the planet, it’s great for our pocketbooks as well.
Of course, no global warming solutions book would be complete without mentioning the stepchildren of so-called climate change solutions, like corn ethanol, carbon capture and storage (CCS), “clean” coal and nuclear energy, among others. But rather than dismiss these technologies outright, Gore examines each of them, carefully sketching out their strengths and weaknesses in the hope that we will either improve upon these technologies’ drawbacks or dismiss them outright as mere distractions of real climate solutions.
Of course, there is literally a world of difference between having climate solution technologies and actually using them. Though Gore strongly and effectively argues that these solutions can help us avert a global climate disaster, we won’t know until we try, and hopefully we try before it’s too late. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so let’s get eatin’.
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