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Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions…

Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis

by Tim Flannery

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Climate change must be the biggest challenge facing us now, and will continue to be for at least one hundred more years. I do not know nearly enough about this problem, but I do know we need to take action, and that the best place any of us can start is to learn more. “Atmosphere of Hope” by Tim Flannery is an excellent introduction to many climate issues, and has enough coverage for those already in the know who may want a fuller picture.

Australia’s Tim Flannery is a great scientist and science communicator. Many examples come from his home continent, but his knowledge is global. In this book, he gives fair explanations of all relevant climate topics. (I’ll just say it here: to deny climate change at this point is worse than foolish – it is irresponsible and shameful. That’s all I will say to that effect at this time.) The problem is not only global warming, but increased greenhouse gases, carbon emissions in particular. There is not, however, one simple solution, even if we could halt such emissions immediately – and how many reading this think that will happen?

Think of the title of this book, though – there is reason for optimism. So many ideas have been proposed to reduce the earth’s rising temperature. There are good ideas and bad ideas. Injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere is a bad idea; painting buildings or other structures a lighter color to cool down is a better idea. Seaweed farming and the use of biochar are other good solutions, and there are many more creative technology proposals. However, we need to be cautious: unforeseen consequences could make things much worse. A good term to know, and an idea to understand, is the earth’s “albedo,” its reflectiveness that determines two-way temperatures. By overdoing temperature reduction, we could have even more extreme events. Such events, by the way, are the bigger threat to biodiversity than the overall average temperature rise. I keep thinking, Naomi Klein is right: "this changes everything " (another book I need to read).

To turn the focus back to this book review, this one is composed of concise chapters that focus on topics worthy of discussion. This is not a pleasant subject, but one that won’t go away by not thinking about. At times, yes, this is dry, but easy enough to read through, rather than getting caught up on every detail. For example, the costs or amounts of money sound like a lot of numbers; on the other hand, I didn’t know about disinvestment, but I could already see that the whole economy will change. For the most part the tone is as readable as something like this can be, and adds a valuable synthesis to the international discussion.

With the climate summit in Paris, of all places, coming up, this is an especially timely read. The goals Flannery refers to throughout are keeping the earth’s temperature from rising 20C and the removal of one gigatonne of carbon from the atmosphere per year for the next fifty years. This is not impossible, and there are many things we can do in combination to get there. It’s up to us!

Note: this e-book was provided through Net Galley. For more reviews, follow my blog at http://matt-stats.blogspot.com/ ( )
  MattCembrola | Nov 27, 2015 |
Climate Change is a frustrating issue: not because of any doubt about its veracity, but because "sensible politicians" (if that is a possible combination of words) pay lip service but, with a knowing smile, tell us that the economy must come first... second, third and fourth. We have known about the dangers of our love of fossil fuels for decades and yet, the financial situation always makes now the wrong time to deal with the problem.

The frustration comes from the fact that, whatever progress is made, it is never enough. The great danger with this is that people are then easily persuaded that loony greens will never be satiated: it isn't worth doing anything because we're still going to die. This book is a useful antidote to that attitude.

DON'T think that Tim Flannery lets us off lightly, he makes it clear that we must do more but, he is generous with his praise for what we have done. He also has a saintly faith in human beings. He is convinced, and convincing, in his belief that humans always come to the right decision in the end, and often, just in time.

The best part of the book is the final chapter which talks of the people taking action and dragging their governments with them. There is a useful list of contact organisations for the newly activated climate fighter and one is left with a real sense of hope for our continued habitation of this beautiful planet... but ONLY if we all fight for it! ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Nov 24, 2015 |
In a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging

Tim Flannery is the auditor of our filth. Atmosphere of Hope is 75% revolting statistics detailing how we have and continue to mess up the ecosphere. The numbers are so huge that any attempt at remediation would take a planetwide initiative of such massive proportions, duration and expense as to be impossible. Sequestering carbon dioxide by the gigagtonne is required, but not doable. Two key governments, in Canada and Australia, are led by climate change deniers of the Don’t Worry Be Happy dysfunction. And now that the UN is inviting corporates to the table, no effective global solutions are possible.

Flannery is a judge on the Virgin Earth Challenge panel, so he sees a constant flow of ideas and proposals. They all seem to require a complete change of modus operandi, like all the cement produced worldwide seeded with biochar to make it carbon negative. At 80% of global production, we could sequester one gigagtonne. Negative carbon plastics could sequester another gigatonne, but only if we made all plastics this way and quintupled production. Now consider we need to sequester 18 gigatonnes per year just reduce atmospheric CO2 by one part per million. We’re currently pushing the rate up from 400ppm.

And this is just CO2 in the atmosphere.

Atmosphere of Hope is a quick read, a compendium of bite-sized facts and figures, detailing the situation in mid 2015. The sections on remediation are interesting and the concepts innovative, but there is always the uncomfortable feeling that two wrongs don’t make a right. Pumping metallic microparticles into the stratosphere is almost certainly the wrong way to fix the mess.

In They Might Be Giants, Holmes explains we weren’t booted from the Garden of Eden; we never left. But we are guests here, and extremely rude ones. First thing we have to do is stop insulting the hostess and wrecking the house. Until we do that, all the convoluted remediation schemes will just continue to be hope.

David Wineberg ( )
  DavidWineberg | Jun 20, 2015 |
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Published extract, Guardian, 2015-08-25, at http://www.theguardian.com/environmen...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802124062, Hardcover)

A decade ago, Tim Flannery’s #1 international bestseller, The Weather Makers, was one of the first books to break the topic of climate change out into the general conversation. Today, Earth’s climate system is fast approaching a crisis. Political leadership has not kept up, and public engagement with the issue of climate change has declined. Opinion is divided between technological optimists and pessimists who feel that catastrophe is inevitable. The publication of this new book is timed for the lead-up to the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, which aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations in the world. This book anticipates and will influence the debates.

Time is running out, but catastrophe is not inevitable. Around the world people are now living with the consequences of an altered climate—with intensified and more frequent storms, wildfires, droughts and floods. For some it’s already a question of survival. Drawing on the latest science, Flannery gives a snapshot of the trouble we are in and more crucially, proposes a new way forward, including rapidly progressing clean technologies and a “third way” of soft geo-engineering. Tim Flannery, with his inimitable style, makes this urgent issue compelling and accessible. This is a must-read for anyone interested in our global future.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 12 Jul 2015 08:45:20 -0400)

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