Only a Climate Revolution Can Cool the World
An academic book on fossil fuel consumption reaches a startling conclusion: only a climate revolution can force governments to act to stop the planet overheating.
Governments have completely failed to make progress in tackling the planetary emergency, and a climate revolution is the sole hope that they will do so.
This sounds like a sound bite from Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who is inspiring schoolchildren worldwide to go on strike, or a slogan from Extinction Rebellion, which has been disrupting city life in the UK and elsewhere to secure an urgent government response to the climate emergency.
Both campaigns might agree with the statement, but it is in fact from a scholarly book, Burning Up, A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, a detailed study into the burning of fossil fuels since 1950. It looks at fuel contion in individual countries but also at the political forces that have driven and still drive the ever-growing inferno of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and gas, across the world.
The book illustrates the reasons behind the rather frightening fact that since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, despite many promises and warnings, governments have failed to take decisive action on climate change and in fact have made it decidedly worse by continuing to subsidize fossil fuels more than renewables.
Simon Pirani, a senior research fellow at the UK’s Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, takes the reader through an exhaustive examination of fossil fuel consumption and the driving forces behind it. One point he makes is that governments, particularly in the US, have contrived to kill off the use of buses and trains and instead promoted private cars.
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