Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (10 Jul 2008)
We live at a pivotal time in human history. While most of us go about our daily business oblivious to the unprecedented environmental changes taking place around us, our world is poised at a critical tipping point beyond which we will bequeath to our children and our children’s children a world of environmental degradation, economic breakdown and social chaos. A ruined planet, sweltering beneath a carbon-soaked atmosphere, plundered of its resources, and shorn of many of its iconic (and not so iconic) species will be our legacy. Unless, that is, we take drastic and immediate action to diminish our emissions of the greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, that are inexorably transforming a generally benign climate into a volatile and overheated maelstrom. The timeframe to take action is desperately short if my four-year old son, along with all of his generation, is not to face the prospect of an increasingly uncomfortable and insecure life on a planet growing ever more inhospitable.
For those of us fortunate to have had our time on this planet in the cosy, cosseted, developed world, the ‘never had it so good’ generations, the choices we make now will avert or precipitate catastrophe. Have we the means and the will to change course? The picture does not look good. Already we are experiencing some of the milder consequences of a changing climate. Increased bouts of torrential rain, more heat waves, and larger numbers of Atlantic hurricanes are symptomatic. To prevent the full-blown effects of ‘dangerous climate change’*governments, business and individuals need to rethink radically their policies, their values and how they live their lives.
Most climate scientists agree that a rise in global average temperature of just 2 degrees C above pre-industrial values, would almost certainly be sufficient to have dangerous, pervasive and long-lasting repercussions for both our planet and our civilisation. Just how close we are to committing ourselves to such a rise is reflected in the title of this book. Temperatures have already climbed more than 0.7°C and because warming lags somewhat behind the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, another 0.6 degree C or so rise is already ‘in the system’, leaving us less than one degree C away from crossing the critical threshold. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, also known as AR4, which draws on the work, knowledge and experience of 2,500 climate scientists from around the world, recognises that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut back by between 50 and 80 percent by 2050 for there to be any possibility of avoiding dangerous climate change. Even this, however, may not be enough, A new study warns that even a 90 percent cut in emissions by the middle of the century will not prevent crossing of the 2 degree C threshold. Achieving little short of a zero-carbon world by 2050 is a huge task, and one that may simply be impossible to achieve.
Nothing short of swingeing cuts in emissions, starting now, will stand any chance of staving off climate chaos, and nothing less than a global war-footing will make this happen. Emissions will only be brought under control in time if every government, business and individual accepts responsibility for doing so, and takes up the challenge to build a low-carbon world. Reducing emissions must take precedence over economic growth, with everything we do tailored towards tackling climate change. Failure to do so will ensure that 30, 50 or a 100 years down the line the world economy may no longer exist in any coherent and recognisable form, with all the social disorder that will surely foilow.
The IPCC Highlights the desperate urgency of the problem noting that in order to have any chance of preventing dangerous climate change, and all that this entails, worldwide emissions will have to peak by 2015 and reduce thereafter. We have just seven years to save the planet, at least as we have come to know it; a tiny and rapidly closing window of opportunity within which to counteract the polluting activities of more than 200 years of industrialisation. Seven Years to Save the Planet opens with an examination of where exactly we are now with respect to climate change; what it is, how human activities are causing it, and how it is already changing our planet. Part two looks ahead to the planet our children and their children will inhabit, and to the predicted impacts of unfettered climate change on their lives and their world. Part three focuses on what all of us can do as individuals to help bring emissions to heel, and stresses that, by acting in concert, we really can make a difference. In part four, I look at what others are doing, and should be doing, to tackle climate change, including national governments, big business and the scientific community. The finale addresses the 64,000 dollar question – is it already too late? Is our world doomed, whatever we do, to a sweltering future of climate mayhem, of economic collapse and social breakdown, or is there still time to build a successful and sustainable future for our race?
'After the first half's really masterful exposition of current climate science, McGuire turns to plans of action'.
'This is partly a handbook on how to prevent the worst, but McGuire's pithy prose is best deployed telling tales of forthcoming disaster'
'Professor McGuire's new book, Seven Years to Sve the Planet, warns that we have only until 2015 - or 2, 555 days - to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions'
'There is no doubting McGuire's passion, and the format he adopts - a series of pressing questions and succcinct answers (How hot will it get? What is happening in the Arctic? Can the USA really be as bad as it is painted?) - makes for an easily digestible introductin to this most pressing of subjects'. GEOGRAPHICAL
'Bill McGuire succinctly tackles a series of green queries... the book is an excellent first stop for getting clued up about climate change.
" ..author Bill McGuire points out that to salvage a civilisation capable of maintaining a semblance of organisation approximate to what we have now, we must achieve a near-zero carbon economy by 2050".
'McGuire makes telling points about the size of the challenge we face if we are to escape some of the nastier effects of climate change. And his sense of urgency is well-placed.'
Quite frankly, I am astonished that I am the first person to review this brilliant and important book. "Seven Years to Save the Planet" is a superbly organised and eminently readable run through all the important questions about climate change. It is suitable for beginners but it also "joins the dots" for those of us who think we know a thing or two about green issues. It can be read from cover to cover or used as a reference book. This is a book that all our leaders should read before the crucial climate conference in Copenhagen in late 2009. In fact everyone should read it. And if you're worried about keeping your carbon footprint as low as possible, buy it and re-gift it.