CLIMATE OF HOPE BOOK REVIEWS

Compiled by Bob Gould, Democrats Abroad in London

Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet

by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope—Published April 18, 2017

1. “Climate of Hope? Bloomberg and Pope Miss the Boat”, by Rogier van Vlissingen

Summary: (1) The economics of energy will trump Trump. (2) The book hits all the important issues but lacks in-depth analysis. (3) The book lacks self-criticism of the environmental movement.  The main theme of the new book by Mike Bloomberg and Carl Pope is that the economics of energy will trump Trump, which is important. Several decades of development have set the course for new directions in energy technology and while the Trump administration can attempt to turn back the clock, they cannot retroactively undo the developments that have already permanently altered the economics of energy going forward. In other words, the main hope in Climate of Hope is that in the post-fact world of the Trump administration, there may be some setbacks for climate efforts, but they will at most be limited and temporary. The US is likely to meet or exceed the Paris goals by way of city and state policies if the federal government becomes totally dysfunctional as it is presently rapidly doing. What the book altogether lacks is any self-critical analysis into the failures in environmental policies of the past and why Trump is even possible although it occasionally alludes to some of the issues. Clearly, shutting down coal-fired generation cannot be done without a serious effort towards economic development for the coal-mining population. Bloomberg at least understands that and his initiatives are likely to be more useful than the Trump administration’s empty promises to bring coal-mining jobs back from the dead. Those will at most make things worse temporarily. Even if there is a short-term revival in coal, as is already somewhat evident, in the longer term automation more than anything is likely to limit the impact on employment for coal miners, so that re-educating miners and other related initiatives at creating new economic opportunities for them are more important than promising them something that cannot be delivered. Moreover, subsequent administrations are likely to completely abandon any efforts in support of coal all over again, as it remains uneconomical (when is Trump Tower switching back to coal?) – and very few investors will be swayed in making decisions that take decades to pay off by a short-term blip in energy policy.

2. From Amazon: Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former head of the Sierra Club Carl Pope comes a manifesto on how the benefits of taking action on climate change are concrete, immediate, and immense. They explore climate change solutions that will make the world healthier and more prosperous, aiming to begin a new type of conversation on the issue that will spur bolder action by cities, businesses, and citizens—and even, someday, by Washington. “Climate of Hopeis an inspiring must read.” —Former Vice President Al Gore, Chairman of The Climate Reality Project. “Climate change threatens to reshape the future of our world’s population centers. Bloomberg and Pope have been leaders on fortifying our cities against this threat, and their book proves that victory is possible—and imperative.” —Leonardo DiCaprio. “If Trump is looking for a blueprint, he could not do better than to read a smart new book, Climate of Hope.” —Thomas Friedman in The New York Times.

The 2016 election left many people who are concerned about the environment fearful that progress on climate change would come screeching to a halt. But not Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope. Bloomberg, an entrepreneur and former mayor of New York City, and Pope, a lifelong environmental leader, approach climate change from different perspectives, yet they arrive at similar conclusions. Without agreeing on every point, they share a belief that cities, businesses, and citizens can lead—and win—the battle against climate change, no matter which way the political winds in Washington may shift. In Climate of Hope, Bloomberg and Pope offer an optimistic look at the challenge of climate change, the solutions they believe hold the greatest promise, and the practical steps that are necessary to achieve them. Writing from their own experiences, and sharing their own stories from government, business, and advocacy, Bloomberg and Pope provide a road map for tackling the most complicated challenge the world has ever faced. Along the way, they turn the usual way of thinking about climate change on its head: from top down to bottom up, from partisan to pragmatic, from costs to benefits, from tomorrow to today, and from fear to hope. “Meeting our world’s growing energy demands will require contributions from science, business and government. As Climate of Hope shows, Michael Bloomberg has a unique understanding of the importance of this collaborative approach. Michael’s leadership and optimism remind us that by working together, we can develop breakthrough innovations to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of clean energy technology.”

3. “There’s Still Hope for the Planet”, by David Leonhardt NY Times. (Note: this was written in 2012. I decided to include it here to show that there are plenty of signs today of political and technological hope and progress.)   You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside. The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record, and the 13 warmest years for the entire planet have all occurred since 1998, according to data that stretches back to 1880.  No one day’s weather can be tied to global warming, of course, but more than a decade’s worth of changing weather surely can be, scientists say. Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate. Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing. The price of solar and wind power have both fallen sharply in the last few years. This country’s largest wind farm, sprawling across eastern Oregon, is scheduled to open next month. Already, the world uses vastly more alternative energy than experts predicted only a decade ago. Even natural gas, a hotly debated topic among climate experts, helps make the point. Thanks in part to earlier government investments, energy companies have been able to extract much more natural gas than once seemed possible. The use of natural gas to generate electricity — far from perfectly clean but less carbon-intensive than coal use — has jumped 25 percent since 2008, while prices have fallen more than 80 percent. Natural gas now generates as much electricity as coal in the United States, which would have been unthinkable not long ago. The successes make it possible at least to fathom a transition to clean energy that does not involve putting a price on carbon — either through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program that requires licenses for emissions. It was exactly such a program, supported by both Barack Obama and John McCain in the 2008 campaign, that died in Congress in 2010 and is now opposed by almost all Congressional Republicans and some coal-state and oil-state Democrats. To describe the two approaches is to underline their political differences. A cap-and-trade program sets out to make the energy we use more expensive. An investment program aims to make alternative energy less expensive. Most scientists and economists, to be sure, think the best chance for success involves both strategies: if dirty energy remains as cheap as it is today, clean energy will have a much longer road to travel. And even an investment-only strategy is not guaranteed to continue. The clean-energy spending in Mr. Obama’s 2009 stimulus package has largely expired, while several older programs are scheduled to lapse as early as Dec. 31. In the current political and fiscal atmosphere, their renewal is far from assured. Still, the clean-energy push has been successful enough to leave many climate advocates believing it is the single best hope for preventing even hotter summers, more droughts and bigger brush fires. “Carbon pricing is going to have an uphill climb in the U.S. for the foreseeable future,” says Robert N. Stavins, a Harvard economist who is a leading advocate for such pricing, “so it does make sense to think about other things.” Those other things, in the simplest terms, are policies intended to help find a breakthrough technology that can power the economy without heating the planet. “Our best hope,” says Benjamin H. Strauss, a scientist who is the chief operating officer of Climate Central, a research group, “is some kind of disruptive technology that takes off on its own, the way the Internet and the fax took off.” Governments have played a crucial role in financing many of the most important technological inventions of the past century. That’s no coincidence: Basic research is often unprofitable. It involves too much failure, and an inventor typically captures only a tiny slice of the profits that flow from a discovery. Although government officials make mistakes when choosing among nascent technologies, one success can outweigh many failures. Washington-financed research has made possible semiconductors, radar, the Internet, the radio, the jet engine and many medical advances, including penicillin. The two countries that have made the most progress in reducing carbon emissions, France and Sweden, have done so largely by supporting nuclear and hydropower, notes Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif. The story of shale gas, a form of natural gas, is typical, in that it depends on both private-sector ingenuity and public-sector support. Halliburton first figured out how to recover natural gas from limestone deposits at a field in Kansas in 1947. But its technique proved ineffective in extracting gas from shale rock. For decades, geologists remained skeptical that the enormous amounts of gas in shale formation could ever be extracted. “You’re using our retirement money on something that’s no good,” Dan Steward, a geologist at Mitchell Energy, the company that eventually succeeded, recalled hearing from colleagues. Mitchell Energy, however, kept attacking the problem, with help from both government funds and computer mapping that came from a federal laboratory. Solar and wind power today fall into a category that natural gas once did: for all their promise, they cannot compete on a mass scale with existing energy sources. Wind electricity costs between 15 percent and 25 percent more than standard electricity. Solar power often costs more than twice as much. Federal subsidies can help close the gap. More important, they can finance research that may lead to a technological leap that brings down their costs. In relative terms, the sums for clean-energy research that many scientists and economists support are not huge. A politically diverse group of experts recently set a target of $25 billion a year in federal spending on research and development (some of which could come from phasing out ineffective programs). That amount is slightly below the budget of the National Institutes of Health and only 3 percent as large as the Social Security budget. Other experts put the ideal figure closer to $50 billion. At the recent peak, in 2009, all federal spending on clean energy — including money for research and subsidies for households and businesses — amounted to $44 billion.  This year, Washington will spend about $16 billion. The scheduled expiration of a tax credit for wind, originally signed by the first President George Bush in 1992, would help reduce the total to $14 billion next year, and current law has it continuing to fall in 2014. The combination of these expirations, which Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution calls a major, little-appreciated policy shift, and the latest temperature readings have not exactly left climate scientists brimming with cheer. This summer’s drought has affected as much of the country as the Dust Bowl drought. Large patches of Colorado have burned. Atlanta has recorded its hottest day in history this year. Dallas endured 40 straight days above 100 degrees last July and August — and this year so far has been even hotter than last year. On the other hand, the weather has made the climate harder to ignore. And when you look closer, there are some reasons for hope — tentative, but full of potential — hiding beneath the surface. (Remember, this was written in 2012! There are plenty of signs of political and technological hope and progress.)

4. Review by Goodreads:  In 2006, the documentary An Inconvenient Truth set off a heated political debate when it threatened that inaction on climate change would lead to a dark and frightening future by 2016.Well, that ten-year window has closed—and we have neither resolved the threats to our climate, nor gone past the point of no return. To Mayor Bloomberg and Carl Pope, it’s clear that to treat climate change as either a lost cause or a non-issue is the wrong approach. Global leaders are stymied by the enormity of the doom-and-gloom scenarios. So what happens when you tell leaders that they can definitely—right now, this year—reduce the number of children who have asthma attacks, save thousands of Americans from dying of respiratory disease, cut energy bills, increase the security of our energy supply, make it easier for everyone to get around town, increase the number of jobs in their community—all while increasing the long-term stability of the global climate? That is actionable. That future is within our grasp. The changing climate should be seen as a series of discreet, manageable problems that should be attacked from all angles, each with a solution that can make our society healthier and our economy stronger. In these times, when it’s less and less clear if the federal government will be willing to tackle climate change, Bloomberg and Pope lay out a powerfully persuasive argument about how cities can play an outsize role in fighting and reversing the dangerous effects of a warming planet. Together they lay out the economic and personal health reasons for businesses and individual citizens to support climate change action plans.

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