Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Carbon Capture of Kevin Rudd

On some issues you can just read and hear too much. You get to an overload stage, where your brain feels like a dull fudge of half digested ideas, facts, statistics and opinions, and you yearn for some cut-through enlightenment and vision.

Then you read something that blazes with such clarity and light that it's as thrilling and cleansing a sensation as your first love. The two books pictured here gave me that in spades. If you read nothing else about climate change then read these two wonderful contributions to the debate.

I first read Nigel Lawson's An Appeal to Reason nearly 12 months ago when it first came out. Lawson was a cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher's conservative government in the UK in the 80's. He held two portfolios that gave him the credentials to write about climate change - Energy and Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury). He takes a conservative line of course, bordering on denialism, but he does it with such fierce intellectual clarity and logic that he exposes, persuasively in my view, much of the cant, overstatement and sheer bluster that dogs this debate on all sides. He takes particular aim at Sir Nicholas Stern's very influential report to the Blair government on the economic effects of unmitigated climate change. He virtually demolishes it. Sure, Lawson has been attacked by economists supportive of Stern, and I've read them, but they're lame and they don't have the power, the zing.

The just published, latest Quarterly Essay by Guy Pearse, Quarry Vision, is a similarly invigorating read, and of course focused on Australia. Pearse used to work in Canberra as a Liberal Party minion with a particular interest in the environment. In sheer frustration he left the party, but not before dumping all over the Howard government's denialism in his 2007 book High and Dry and on a subsequent Four Corners program.

Quarry Vision takes aim at the fossil fuel industry, especially coal, and Rudd's truly miserable Emissions Trading Scheme. I can't recommend this little book (120 pages) highly enough. It's powerful, provocative and exceptionally well written, and full of the sort of clarifying information that's revelatory, shocking and persuasive. It's not about the science. Like Lawson, it's about the politics and economics, and it's all you need to read to get a full picture of our pathetic political response to the greatest crisis of our time.

Buy these two and read them.


tess said...

Great, but unfortunately none of these books make a lick of difference unless a certain bunch of people in Canberra (and the world) read them, agree whole heartedly, grow some balls and make the drastic decisions we all need to have made FOR US if we wish to exist in a world that loosley resembles the one we've had for the last 30 years.

Otherwise it's just some guys cutting down a bunch of trees and pumping carbon into the air to make books that preach to the converted.

Peter Donoughue said...

Yes, but improving the dialogue is very important, and remember we all vote.

Very often, when people get angry enough (like currently on exhorbitant executive bonuses) they can send powerful messages to governments who WILL act.