James's Reviews > Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth

Hot by Mark Hertsgaard
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An excellent, thorough, and balanced piece of investigative journalism. The author traveled worldwide and talked with citizens, scientists, and government officials in several countries which an overwhelming majority of climate scientists say are facing increasingly serious problems related to climate change. He explains the problems of climate inertia (the fact that even if humanity stopped putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere today, the amounts already added would keep driving more climate farther for decades to come) and the inadequacy of the alternatives we've identified such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and hydroelectric, simply because of the sheer amount of energy we extract from fossil fuels every day. He also explores the distinction between mitigation, i.e. reducing our impact on climate and weather patterns, and adaptation, i.e. improving our ability to cope with higher sea levels, stronger and more frequent storms, droughts, heat waves, etc.

I said this is a balanced presentation. The thing that makes it balanced is not giving equal time to the arguments against climate change; those are sponsored by the fossil fuel industry and are much like the arguments subsidized by the tobacco companies for so long that tried to persuade the public that tobacco was not carcinogenic or addictive, or that the matter was at least undetermined. Actually, some of the same people that the tobacco industry paid so well to make those arguments are now collecting the same kind of funding from the fossil fuel industry to cause doubt and confusion on this issue.

The balance here, rather, is in his detailed descriptions of strategies that some communities and/or countries are taking that are forward-looking and offer their people a much more liveable future than those of some other places he visited. This is not all doom-and-gloom; Hertsgaard offers hope as well as warning, and practical steps we can take as individuals, families, and communities, and press our elected representatives in the government to get going on a larger scale.

This author was motivated to write this book when he became a father and was wondering what kind of world his child will have to live in. It's an appeal to all of us to try to make things better for all the people who are children now and for their children to come. I have children who are adults and grandchildren in elementary school, and this really resonates for me.
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