Cancel
Advanced Search
KEYWORDS
CATEGORY
AUTHOR
MONTH

Please click here to take a brief survey

George Monbiot's Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning
Alex Steffen, 4 Oct 06

These are hard days, but thrilling. They're difficult, and scary, because for the first time we're coming to understand that things are worse than we thought, and the time we have to act on climate change should perhaps be measured in years, not decades. They're exciting because we're beginning to see paths forward that could lead us out of this catastrophe and into a better future: they're still faint, and we're far from home and night is not far off, but they do exist.

George Monbiot's new book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning,is, at its core, a personal quest to find such a path. Indeed, Monbiot fairly declares that he was prompted to write the book in part because of a member of the audience at one of his talks in which he had declared the need for an 80% reduction in carbon asked him "When you get your 80% cut, what will this country look like?"

In actuality, he discovers, many scientists are now arguing that the developed world probably needs to cut its climate-changing emissions by 90% by 2030, if we are to avoid runaway catastrophic climate change. "This is the task whose feasibility Heat attempts to demonstrate."

It's a good book, and worth reading. Monbiot has some extremely annoying tics -- a tendency to call ideas which are already well-debated his, a certain parochial view of the nature of modern life which probably describes well life in the UK but completely misses the mark for various reasons in other places, a certain scolding leftier-than-thou vibe, a disdain for technology -- but he also does a fine job of pulling together some good thinking about how we might go about radical carbon-cutting.

His book begins with explanations of the climate crisis and the denialist lobby, both of which are frankly covered better elsewhere (go see An Inconvenient Truth if you're looking to catch up). It's the practical solutions he offers -- or, more accurately, the practical solutions he compiles -- that make the book worth reading.

He then takes on housing, arguing, as do many (including us) that changing the way we build homes is vital ("Houses which meet the building codes in Norway and Sweden use around one quarter of the energy of houses meeting the standards in England..."); describes the basics of BedZED; notes that Germany's conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a program to retrofit five percent of the houses in the country to the currently accepted energy standards every year for the next twenty years (at which point Germany's entire housing stock will be energy-efficient); and points out that in Japan the government routinely demands that all available appliances reach the currently best standard of efficiency within a certain time frame.

From housing, he moves to power generation, where he argues that we can by 2030 reduce by half the amount of carbon we spew in order to generate the power we need (or at least that this is true in the UK). He is somewhat too pessimistic about the potential of renewable energy (and more or less completely ignores the possibility of breakthrough technologies, like nanosolar) and a little too obsessed with intermittancy, which many researchers believe can be overcome with the right portfolio of investments, and he is entirely too sanguine about the potential of CO2 sequestration, in my opinion. But, none the less, his explorations of wind, solar, biomass, solar thermal and ground source heat pumps are worth the time spent.

Where Monbiot goes off the rail is when he describes his plan for the "energy internet" -- otherwise known as smart grids, a model being already explored and developed by many people. He's bully on the technologies, but many of his assessments of the potential for distributed energy, combined heat and power systems, smart metering and the like differ radically from those of people actually working in the field whose opinions I trust.

His transport chapter, too, is a bit of a let down, proclaiming as new many proposals worldchanging folks around the world are already deploying, from bus rapid transit to technology-empowered hitchhiking. More (and more oddly), he seems to not understand the very well-proven tenets of transit-oriented development or access-by-proximity: indeed, he seems to be against compact development.

We've already shared his views on airplanes.

His chapter on retailing, on the other hand, while nothing new, is engaging and smartly-argued. He explains, in great detail and with much insight, how the average contemporary retail store is an ecological nightmare (even before you consider the supply chain that keeps it in business), noting that the average UK retail store uses 275 kilowatt hours per square meter, whereas local government offices use only 39. Most of this energy use goes to stage-quality lighting, open refrigerators, and the like. Monbiot fails to see these as perhaps solvable design challenges, but he does recognize that much retail shopping is amenable to redefinition as a product-service system: communication technologies and intelligent delivery systems could help substantially reduce the footprint of the retail industry (though I suspect that certain forms of shopping are unlikely ever to be amenable to dematerialization: we will probably always want to squeeze our veggies and try on our new shoes...).

Perhaps the most controversial part of Heat is its utter dismissal of offsetting as part of the solution ("Buying and selling carbon offsets is like pushing the food around on your plate to create the impression you have eaten it."). I've been a critic of the idea that casual offsetting can solve climate problems, myself, but I think Monbiot is merely rattling an ideological saber here.. Given that money raised by carbon offsets, rightly employed, can fund all sorts of climate-calancing activities -- from the raising of windpower turbines to the preservation of ancient forest -- that would otherwise not be pursued, this seems like short-sightedness to me.

All in all, Monbiot's made a real contribution here. Heat isn't the book to get your skeptical uncle, but it does have some good ideas and clear thinking in it.

Perhaps more importantly, it is part of a new generation of climate change books, ones which are more interested with debating what we should do about global warming than whether or not it exists, and that shift is a cool breeze on a hot day.

Bookmark and Share


Comments

His shrillness about aviation completely turns me off to anything he has to say. And since I am sympathetic with respect to climate change and dealing with, and thus very tolerant of different approaches to the problem, I can only imagine the impact his attitude in turning people OFF on these issues - not just aviation and its impact on climate change.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 4 Oct 06

Any specifics about why you consider Monbiot shrill on aviation, Joseph? I have not heard any pro-aviation arguments which hold water. To the contrary, our society seems to be blind to the contradiction between widespread air travel and concern for the environment.

On the other hand, I have picked up on the sadness and disappointment of those who love to fly, as they slowly come to terms with aviation's affect on the environment.

Actually, I don't think that Monbiot is particularly shrill on the subject. His chapter on air travel is called "Love Miles" in recognition of its double-sided nature: air travel can bind us together with our loved ones, even as it wreaks havoc on the environment.


Posted by: Bart Anderson on 4 Oct 06

Any specifics about why you consider Monbiot shrill on aviation, Joseph?

Start with his article entitled "A Weapon with Wings".

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/12/16/a-weapon-with-wings/

Air transport is 1.5% of global GHG emissions, and if you buy into radiative forcing theories, around 3.8% of total forcing. To call for a complete ban on something with such a small impact is ridiculous. Plus, he makes all kinds of absurd arguments about high-speed rail, saying its climate impact is just as bad as airplanes (even though you can obviously run trains on climate-neutral electricity).

To the contrary, our society seems to be blind to the contradiction between widespread air travel and concern for the environment.

Electricity and personal transport account for over half of anthropogenic GHG emissions, but do people speak about some "contradiction" between using computers, turning on lights, taking the bus, etc, and concern for the environment?

On the other hand, I have picked up on the sadness and disappointment of those who love to fly, as they slowly come to terms with aviation's affect on the environment.

Its effect is minor, to say the least. For example, enteric fermentation of farm animals produces 3x the emissions of air transport. Land use changes DWARF air transport in terms of climate impact. Plenty of things do. Eliminating all air transport (which won't ever happen) is almost a rounding error in terms of the effort to keep the planet from getting too hot.

Actually, I don't think that Monbiot is particularly shrill on the subject. His chapter on air travel is called "Love Miles" in recognition of its double-sided nature: air travel can bind us together with our loved ones, even as it wreaks havoc on the environment.

It doesn't "wreak havoc" on the environment. That's what I'm talking about -- that's unbelievably shrill to say that. Yeah, there's an impact on the environment - anyone can grasp that. But he completely blows its impact out of proportion to things which are far more damaging (eg, coal and driving around in our cars and trucks).


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 4 Oct 06

His shrillness about aviation completely turns me off to anything he has to say.

Wow, Joseph! You refuse to listen to what Monbiot has to say because you disagree with him on one subject? Do you apply the same standards to your friends and loved ones? If so, your relationships must be short and end badly. (Come on, you set yourself up a bit for this!)

Seriously, Joseph, if you're sympathetic as you obviously are (else why would you be here?) you certainly owe it to yourself to take a look or listen to the few people in the 'movement' who are actually SCREAMING that we need massive, radical change and we need it NOW. Monbiot, like Lester Brown and others, recognizes that the pop-culture infatuation with sustainability and the masses of Prius drivers (bravo to them) are not going to change anything about the future of our planet. We need much more forceful and brave leaders in business, religion and politics/law who will LEAD instead of react (only reactionary legislation thus far in the United States). Skip the chapter on aviation, if you must, but don't dismiss the entire message because one point irks you. . . that would be high foolishness.


Posted by: Tod Brilliant on 4 Oct 06

Oh, forgot to mention - this is the best breakdown/review of Monbiot's book I've seen to date. Thanks a bunch!


Posted by: Tod Brilliant on 4 Oct 06

You refuse to listen to what Monbiot has to say because you disagree with him on one subject?

People who lie to fit some thinly-veiled alternate agenda lose any credibility with me on the subject they're discussing - yes. I'm sure if I held my nose and read his opinions on other subjects, I would find many more things I find odious. The man says things like "every time we fly, we help to kill someone" and that aviation is "the greatest future cause of global warming". This is not a person who wishes to be taken seriously.

Do you apply the same standards to your friends and loved ones? If so, your relationships must be short and end badly. (Come on, you set yourself up a bit for this!)

Since you're making a strawman (and being personal) about what I said, there's no reasonable response to that question.

Seriously, Joseph, if you're sympathetic as you obviously are (else why would you be here?) you certainly owe it to yourself to take a look or listen to the few people in the 'movement' who are actually SCREAMING that we need massive, radical change and we need it NOW.

Since I've been working in this realm for the past 15-odd years, I'm well aware of what's at stake and who to take seriously. When people scream, I tend to take them less seriously. I've read enough of what he's said at this point to consider what he has to say not worthy of attention. Life is too short to give credence to dishonest zealots.

Monbiot, like Lester Brown and others, recognizes that the pop-culture infatuation with sustainability and the masses of Prius drivers (bravo to them) are not going to change anything about the future of our planet.

On the margin, no. But stopping all flying won't do a darn thing, either, but he sure makes it seem like it will.

We need much more forceful and brave leaders in business, religion and politics/law who will LEAD instead of react (only reactionary legislation thus far in the United States).

Great. So by making a big scene about an inconsequential contributor to climate change, and guilt-tripping lots of people with false characterizations -- this will bring that change about? Making a big, loud scene is "brave"? Monbiot strikes me as someone who fancies himself a great gadfly, first and foremost. Getting attention for one's viewpoint is fine, but if you have to resort to shock value and lies, then he pretty much falls into the same category as the Ann Coulers of the world.

Skip the chapter on aviation, if you must, but don't dismiss the entire message because one point irks you. . . that would be high foolishness.

It would be "high foolishness" not to read a particular book? He's not going to inform me about anything I don't already know, and he's already proven to be illogical, inaccurate, and addicted to bombastic, self-aggrandizing rhetoric. I couldn't think of a worse way to spend my time than plowing through an entire book written by him.

We need a lot less of his kind of showboating. If someone has something powerful to say, they don't need to make a big scene to communicate it. Amory Lovins is a prime example of that.

These things are not easy to understand, and it takes lots of work to come up with workable solutions to them. Perhaps Monbiot should invest some more time on both fronts.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 4 Oct 06

Here's an example of a basic falsehood put forth by Monbiot:

"aviation represents the world’s fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions"

source:
http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/02/28/we-are-all-killers/

In reality, from 1990-2002, CO2 from Electricity and Heat grew 66%. By comparison, CO2 from Aviation increased 38%. In fact, aviation's CO2 emission growth lagged the transport sector as a whole, which grew by 40%.

sources:
http://pdf.wri.org/navigating_numbers_chapter11.pdf
http://pdf.wri.org/navigating_numbers_chapter12.pdf


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 4 Oct 06

I'm afraid your arguments are unconvincing, Joseph.

At several percent of CO2 production, air travel is not inconsequential. EVERY industry claims that it is only represents a few percent of the problem and therefore is not to blame.

Several factors make air travel especially worthy of scrutiny.
- It's growing.
- It receives subsidies.
- It has erected a shield against taxes and regulation that other industries are not able to.
- Much, probably most, air travel is optional.
- Unlike other CO2-producing industries, it is not amenable to substitutions for fossil fuels.
- The percentage of the population that benefits from air travel is relatively small.

It is ironic that you accuse Monbiot of being shrill. Here are some of the adjectives I've found in your posts: "lying," "dishonest zealots," "bombastic, self-aggrandizing." I'm more convinced by reasoned argument.


Posted by: Bart Anderson on 4 Oct 06

Joseph -

Wasn't trying to get personal - hence the material in the parentheses - apologies if you didn't catch the levity.

In short, I think you're focusing too much on Monbiot's take on aviation. That is all.


Posted by: Tod Brilliant on 4 Oct 06

I'm afraid your arguments are unconvincing, Joseph.

Your opinion.

At several percent of CO2 production, air travel is not inconsequential.

Sure it is. There's many, many things that make way more of an impact, yet Monbiot repeatedly and forcefully acts as if aviation is the worst of the worst.

EVERY industry claims that it is only represents a few percent of the problem and therefore is not to blame.

We're not talking about an industry, we're talking about an activity -- an activity for which Monbiot says things like "we are all killers". He's specifically guilt-tripping fliers -- you know, like Grandma Kettle flying off to Vegas is killing innocent children in developing countries. That's absurd.

- It's growing.

Many things are growing, and much faster, and they're factors bigger than aviation to begin with -- heating and electricity, for one, as I pointed out.

- It receives subsidies.

Name one thing that doesn't receive subsidies.

- It has erected a shield against taxes and regulation that other industries are not able to.

What "shield" would that be? Aviation is probably one of the more heavily regulated industries there is.

- Much, probably most, air travel is optional.

Really? Who determines that? What's the criteria? When you start playing the "need/want" game, you're going to go nowhere with individuals.

- Unlike other CO2-producing industries, it is not amenable to substitutions for fossil fuels.

Of course it is. As I said, high-speed rail runs on electricity, and many forms of carbon-neutral electricity are available. Plus it's no different than any other sector that is heavily run on liquid fossil fuels -- the transition to carbon-neutral (or near-carbon-neutral) fuels has only begun.

- The percentage of the population that benefits from air travel is relatively small.

No, everyone benefits from air travel. But as you are aware, we are talking about air transport, which includes cargo (shipping) as well. How should letters be sent from Korea to the United States? By boat? Should we just throw out all air shipments? Maybe we should ground helicopters and stop saving people's lives with Medivacs. It's ridiculous to consider that somehow we're going to jettison flight throughout the world -- throw away the whole technology -- for the sake of shaving off 1.5% of global GHG emissions.

It is ironic that you accuse Monbiot of being shrill. Here are some of the adjectives I've found in your posts: "lying," "dishonest zealots," "bombastic, self-aggrandizing."

He lies. So I say he's lying. He's dishonest. So I use the word dishonest. He's a zealot. So I call him a zealot. He's bombastic. So I call him bombastic. He's self-aggrandizing. So I call him self-aggrandizing. If I were shrill, I'd say that Monbiot represents the single greatest threat to the legitimacy of campaigns to deal with global warming, and every word that comes from his fingers is a thousand arrows through a thousand hearts of innocent children throughout the world. That's how Monbiot expresses himself, and that is shrill.

Don't make this about me. If he's going to be dishonest and say extremist things, then he should stand ready to be called on it.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 5 Oct 06

In short, I think you're focusing too much on Monbiot's take on aviation. That is all.

I beg to differ. Monbiot is the one who has put aviation front and center. Take a look at the web page for his book.

http://www.turnuptheheat.org/

In the top two graphics, he features airplanes. Why not a lump of coal? Why not a Ford Taurus? Coal and personal vehicles are over half the emissions -- yet he focuses squarely on something which is 1.5% of emissions. His opinion pieces in the Guardian have the same sort of emphasis.

He's resorting to sensationalism, for one, and he's also waging some sort of class war and a war with capitalism and techonology in general (which seems to be longstanding obsessions of his). That's fine - he's entitled to his opinion - but he's being irresponsible by trying to convince people that aviation is somehow the worst evil in the world. Then to act as if there aren't solutions to deal with aviation besides putting an end to it -- that's just insane. He's just giving fuel to the "scratch a Green find a Red" notion that environmentalism has been fighting to get beyond for a very long time. It doesn't take any creativity or optimism to try and solve problems with the meat cleaver of force -- one which will never be applied no matter how much noise the Monbiots of the world make.

Like it or not, aviation is here to stay, and we'd be far better served to find creative ways to move forward with this reality than to indulge in backwards-facing fantasies about grounding the world's airplanes.

And again, if this were just some minor consideration in his book, I'd probably give it a pass. But Monbiot has only come onto my radar because of his great efforts to focus on aviation.

My original point is that normal people (ie, people who don't really care about environmental issues, who Monbiot is, etc) will only hear "some nutty Brit wants to go back to the 19th Century and abandon airplanes". Then they'll maybe hear he's an "environmentalist" who has just written some "master plan" on how to save the world from global warming. And when Monbiot moves onto his next cause, he leaves behind people who are actually dedicated to these things full-time to clean up his mess.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 5 Oct 06

As long as you're at the website for "Heat", take a look at the bottom right corner. There's a link to buy his book from Amazon.

Care to guess how many of his books get shipped to readers via the "evil" airplane?


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 5 Oct 06

I heard George Monbiot speak at the Campaign Against Climate Change public meeting in London, last night (4th October) and found him eloquent and engaging. The difficulty of getting over the need for a proven 90% cut in carbon emissions in the developed world by 2030 is that of being believable, and I think Johann Hari - who also spoke - put over a very important point to complement GM's work : We must say "we are upset that this is happening, and wish it were not so".

George Monbiot is genuine, despite being self-promoting. It is just that his prognosis is something we really do wish were not so. Someone has to rip off the blinkers!


Posted by: Keith Farnish on 5 Oct 06

Joseph has made some excellent points, with data to back them up. Those points support his contention that Mr. Monbiot has undermined his own credibility with hyperbole, however noble his intentions. But I hope we won't conclude that it's unimportant to focus on viable alternatives to air transport - tackling 3.8% of radiative forcing is a worthwhile task. And let's not forget that air transport is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades - the U.S. Energy Information Agency expects air travel to grow by 1.8% per year for the next several decades, implying a doubling in under 40 years. We must learn to think not only of a technology or phenomenon, but also its behavior through time. The planet can tolerate many human insults, but it can't tolerate their exponential growth.


Posted by: David Foley on 5 Oct 06

Joseph's argumentation is of the blustering, bullying style popularized by the Fox Channel, climate change deniers, etc. He simply repeats the same points louder and louder, and those who are unwary think that there must be something behind it.

Clue number 1: Distrust anyone who engages in bullying, name-calling and other propaganda techniques. (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Propaganda_techniques).

Example: "He's a zealot, so I call him a zealot." This is reasoned argument?

Another logical fallacy is that of: "Others are doing it, why are you picking on me?" For example: Industries other than air transport get subsidies, so it's not an issue. Other GHG-producing activities are increasing, so why single out air?

Another logical fallacy is relativism. "That's just your opinion." "Who determines what is optional?"

Another logical fallacy is assuming to be true, what is yet to be proven (circular reasoning). "If he's going to be dishonest and say extremist things, then he should stand ready to be called on it."

Clue number 2: Distrust posters without a reputation who heap abuse on a writer published by one of the world's leading newspapers (The Guardian). A writer, moreover, who is widely respected in environmental circles. Even those who disagree with Monbiot take him seriously.

Clue number 3: Distrust people who seek to minimize the impact of climate change. If climate change does not mean "environmental havoc," what does?

Clue number 4: Pay close attention to the numbers.

JW: Air transport is 1.5% of global GHG emissions, and if you buy into radiative forcing theories, around 3.8% of total forcing. To call for a complete ban on something with such a small impact is ridiculous.
First, I don't believe Monbiot has called for a total ban. Second, this "small" percentage is indeed significant. The point of Monbiot's book is that in order to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the rich countries must reduce carbon emissions by 90%.

Assume that this goal is (miraculously) achieved and emissions are reduced to 10% of their current levels, but with air transport untouched. At that point, air transport would represent 15% of emissions generated by all human activities; and the overall impact would be 38% of the total. Yes, these are rough figures, but you get the idea - in light of the cuts that need to be made, the emissions from the air industry are substantial.


Posted by: Bart Anderson on 5 Oct 06

Joseph's argumentation is of the blustering, bullying style popularized by the Fox Channel, climate change deniers, etc. He simply repeats the same points louder and louder, and those who are unwary think that there must be something behind it.

Well, so much for civility with you. Bye, Bart.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 5 Oct 06

"I don't believe Monbiot has called for a total ban."

cf.

"We are all killers until we stop flying."

"...if we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop travelling at the kind of speeds that planes permit."

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/02/28/we-are-all-killers/


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 5 Oct 06

I've seen this sort of behavior many times before, Joseph. A person starts out with name-calling, and kneejerk responses, and ends up with bullying. It's a bad cycle. It's emotion and outrage talking, instead of sweet reason.

I see in other posts that you have technical background in transportation. That side of your personality would be much more fun to have as a sparring partner.

To have an intelligent discussion, one has to follow the arguments of the other person - recognize strong points, and examine weak points and illogical connections. To me this is the sort of interchange worth having.

In his book, Monbiot looks at several sectors of the economy, as Alex describes in his review, and describes how their carbon emissions might be drastically reduced. Air is NOT the only sector covered by any means. He shows how he comes to his conclusions and gives references. The form is such that it would be very easy to point out specific areas of disagreement. To have any credibility, detractors of Monbiot need to understand the argument and come up with specific objections.

Some of your points are specific enough to be argued - this is where discussion can be fruitful. You argue that technical innovation can significantly reduce the impact of air travel. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

According to this description of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, this brilliantly designed aircraft operates with 20% less fuel than comparable airplanes - but this reduction is far from what is needed.

In terms of whether renewables can subsitute for jet fuel, the outlook is grim.

Thus, good old kerosene and its derivatives remain as the world’s aviation fuel, not just of choice, but of necessity, for the indefinite future. And no less an authority on aviation than Boeing asserts that new planes being built today will have a service life of up to 60 years. So Peak Oil or no, if mankind is going to fly, whether for civil, military, or scientific applications, it appears that the world is locked into fossil-fuel based technology for the long term.
(When fuel is the price of champagne)

The author of these articles, Byron King, is a conservative with a background in the military and in petroleum geology.

Monbiot is not alone in his criticism of the air industry. As consciousness of global warming increases, we can expect the discussion to expland.



Posted by: Bart Anderson on 5 Oct 06

Let's all bring a more respectful tone to the discussion please, gentlemen.


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 6 Oct 06

Agreed. Sorry. -B


Posted by: Bart Anderson on 6 Oct 06

If it is possible to talk about the issues at a lower emotional temperature, I would like to do that. The issues are extremely important, our personal clashes are not.

Perhaps a rule of thumb is to focus on the arguments rather than on the people.


Posted by: Bart Anderson on 8 Oct 06

Air travel may be only 3.8% now but it is increasing sharply while other emissions are due to decrease sharply. In a short time it will become a major source of carbon emissions.

Aviation fuel is protected from taxation by a treaty dating from just after WW2 instigated by the US government (who else?). Don't have time to look it up, sorry.

There is one thing that will cause air travel to become unaffordable soon and that is Peak Oil. Data is now becoming available to show that we have reached the plateau at the top of Hubbert's bell curve of oil production. Oil will soon become a more scarce and therefore expensive comodity.

This scarcity and price increase will impact on the growth of the economy and send the world into recession because none of our politicians have the guts to speak up about it and plan for a no growth future.

One of the first things to be hit in a recession is holidays to exotic locations and those are taken by air, usually. So don't worry too much about future air travel, unless, of course, you are an addict or have a second home in France or Spain. Withdrawal syptoms are on the way!

Enforced reduction of oil use will be on the way, our big worry is that oil use will be replaced with coal use.


Posted by: Ken Neal on 9 Oct 06

Air travel may be only 3.8% now but it is increasing sharply while other emissions are due to decrease sharply.

That is simply incorrect. See my above comments that link to data from the World Resources Institute (who are using IEA source data). Aviation CO2 emissions growth even lags within Transport, and severely lags Electricity and Heat - and will continue to do so.

This is precisely the problem with giving credence to people like Monbiot who are unable to get their facts straight -- the "telephone game" commences and things just balloon. In fact, it's share of GHG emissions in the US has declined since 1990, and declined in absolute terms since 2000. Worldwide the numbers are different, as you can see in WRI's report, but this sense that not only is aviation some major contributor but also outpacing the growth of other sectors simply isn't true.

It's also a bit skewed to be relying on the Brits for this topic. They sit at the eastern edge of the Atlantic and live in a country the size of Louisiana. Of course they're going to get hit hard by the growth in international aviation. But they also have ready (and relatively quick) ground-based access to all kinds of places which the people of the world like to go to (and which have a lot of economic activity). It's not readily applicable to other places in the world.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 9 Oct 06

Lovely arguement to walk into in my first visit!

Really, I am enjoying it. What seems to be the crux of disagreement here are incompatible styles of recognizing and portraying relative risks and risk management. This is not a small thing.

In the early anti-nuke movement, Helen Caldicott became a world-recognized spokesperson by reason of her eloquence and passion. But because not only her facts and figures, but her emphases on particular kinds of dangers to the exclusion of others eventually become more and more out of kilter with the changing technical understanding of the uses and relative dangers of nuclear energy and weaponry, her reputation as an honest broker of the "current" situation was progressively diminished.

Her refusal to recognize local problems/solutions and her tendency to inflate figures and dangers in her favorite targets led to her being unwelcome as a speaker in many communities, including the Pacific Northwest, and the Hanford area in particular. A commonly heard criticism was that she was "shrill."

Nobody argues that nuke-tech is good for us, or that the weapons are anything but a gun we hold to our own heads. But a skewed presentation of relative dangers, a tendency to not re-evaluate (or to over-identify with) one's own best-known risk assessments, and a very local perspective, all make one not just an easy target for the opposition, but eventually a major disappointment to one's natural friends.

Like Caldicott, Monbiot has much to offer, but like her he must continually re-think his positions and recognize and own up to his misjudgements if he wants to remain respected by the community he addresses, and especially by the people he wants to awaken.

=Eric


Posted by: Eric Bagai on 11 Oct 06

First of all, I would like to give a positive opinion of the book overall. Read with a sceptical eye, and check the facts by all means. It you don't agree with all of his conclusions (and I do agree with nearly all of them, but not all), then please draw your own - work out your arguments fully, and then email them to Monbiot (he has - afterall - taken on a very big task with this book - and before you ask, yes, I have already done this myself).

It is quite possible that Monbiot has overstated the impact of aviation - I don't know - however:

The book sets out to focus on the UK - and the UK does fly a lot - growth in air travel in the UK, has been extremely rapid in the past few years, as a variety of low cost airlines have displaced the status-quo (as they are going on to do in other parts of the world).

Note this list -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_busiest_airports_by_passenger_traffic#2005_final_statistics

- two of London's airports are in the top 30 (and London has an additional 2 airports, totalling approx another 30,000,000 passengers).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_busiest_airports_by_international_passenger_traffic

2. Check out the annual growth in international travel for 2005, and compare this with above figures - as I said, low cost airlines are booming in europe (BTW, Heathrow is pretty near full capacity at the moment, but don't worry, it will probably return to rapid growth as soon as Terminal 5 is complete).

Anyway, enough of the air travel arugment - do check out the rest of the book, and I do very much agree with the original review.

Tim.


Posted by: Tim Small on 17 Oct 06

could the purveyer of the following quote,,,please take note that monbiot is one person,,,the manifold issues need to be tackled by perhaps a cloning of the monbiot platform,,,with focus on facets of specialist debate...monbiot's fledgling advocacy of evil aviation,,, is as grounded as those who undoubtedly will be encouraged to come forward,,, exposing infrastructures with greater emissions,,,sensationally or otherwise...angled exposure rocks!
"He's resorting to sensationalism, for one, and he's also waging some sort of class war and a war with capitalism and techonology in general (which seems to be longstanding obsessions of his). That's fine - he's entitled to his opinion - but he's being irresponsible by trying to convince people that aviation is somehow the worst evil in the world. Then to act as if there aren't solutions to deal with aviation besides putting an end to it -- that's just insane. He's just giving fuel to the "scratch a Green find a Red" notion that environmentalism has been fighting to get beyond for a very long time. It doesn't take any creativity or optimism to try and solve problems with the meat cleaver of force -- one which will never be applied no matter how much noise the Monbiots of the world make."


Posted by: ki on 22 Oct 06



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO:

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS:


MESSAGE (optional):


Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Worldchanging2.0


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/ worldchanging.com
©2012
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg