Jonathan Neale’s new book poses a strategy which is not to be found in the majority of literature on the subject as well as covering more familiar territory. On both counts Neale’s book is to be welcomed and recommended both to those who have read widely and those who are beginning to get to grips with the issue. His examination of the more recent grasping of the possibility of abrupt climate change gives a framework for understanding the problem. The urgency associated with trying to avoid a “tipping” point leading to abrupt climate change is not outlined in order to prompt fear. Instead it is used here to present solutions, which could be implemented now, to stabilise greenhouse gases and avoid runaway climate change on most predictions.
Neale limits these solutions to what he describes as “the technology we already have, rather than… solutions that may one day be possible with enough research and investment”. Nevertheless he is able to demonstrate with rigour how changes in energy generation from fossil fuels to renewable energy coupled with changes in energy use can cut emissions to the kind of levels required. The section on renewable energy is particularly welcome. Neale does us a real service in gathering together the arguments and evidence that demonstrate renewables are capable of providing the majority of our energy in a clean way.
Neale challenges the current orthodoxy of neoliberalism – that there is “no alternative” to the market – by describing the huge state intervention in the economy that took place during the Second World War to ensure military victory by all the imperialist powers. For many it will be the first time they have heard arguments in favour of government intervention and regulation based on historical experience. However, as Neale points out, governments are not motivated to fight climate change in the way they are motivated to fight wars. In a strong section he looks at how neoliberalism, and capitalism more generally, has acted in the last two decades to block policies that could have reduced emissions.
I do have some criticisms. I think the book tries to do too many things and I remain unconvinced that calling for a “global climate movement” on the model of the anti-war movement is the best way to articulate the kind of struggles required. However, what sets this book apart is the central proposition that we have the technology to solve the problem, and that at the heart of answers to climate change are ideas of social justice.
This book will educate, convince and provoke debate among those who are already involved, as well as those who have previously been put off by arguments that have sidelined social justice in favour of lifestyle or sacrifice.
When we opposed the National Front
An imagined revolt in Port Talbot