Ethical Performance
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Heat: how to stop the planet burning

February 2007

George Monbiot. Allen Lane. 278 pages. Hardback. £17.99

How do you like your gurus? I like mine well informed, brilliantly visionary and humble. Veteran environmental campaigner George Monbiot, or simply 'George' as he now styles himself, has the first two attributes, but the modesty gene has passed him by. A-list gurus Al Gore, Amory Lovins, and even Jonathon Porritt, understand that to influence people you need charm and humility. Just being right won't convince anyone.

Heat's pages are marinated in George's ego, which is a pity because it's an important book. In fact, it's a more comprehensive strategy for beating climate change than I have seen from any government. Has one man and his researcher really given more thought to the world's most pressing crisis than governments? George, who has a voracious appetite for technical papers and insists on peer-reviewed sources only, calls for a 90 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. While this seems alarming, we must take it seriously.

Heat begins by rehearsing the known facts on climate change. Much the same information is presented by Al Gore in An inconvenient truth. But George digs in where the film trails off by probing the potential solutions. Along the way a number of green sacred cows - micro-wind generators, bio-fuels and carbon offset - are rejected as unworkable. Heat argues for electricity from a 50/50 mix of natural gas (with carbon capture) and wind power. Homes and transport must shift to hydrogen fuel. We will be rationed to an annual personal allowance of 0.8 tonnes of carbon. Air travel will be virtually eliminated and supermarkets replaced by internet shopping.

If this sounds draconian, run the numbers and come up with a better plan. But whether Heat's cure can be sold to a reticent public and spineless politicians depends on George's ability to learn some charm and diplomacy before it gets too hot.

Simon Propper, Context,


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