“Earth: The Sequel”

In facing down the unprecedented dangers of climate change, “time is the one thing we don’t have”, write Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn in Earth: The Sequel. The “silver bullet” – a cap on carbon emissions by the United States -- needs to be fired now.

The authors, both from the Environmental Defense Fund, argue persuasively that “business as usual will open the door to catastrophe” around the world. What’s needed to secure the planet against calamity, say Krupp and Horn, is “the wholesale reinvention of the way we make and use energy”.

That will require a “second industrial revolution”, one in which energy is harnessed from the sun, waves and other natural sources, automobiles are reinvented, emissions from coal use are cleaned up and tropical deforestation is ended. Such a technological revolution in the pursuit of ambitious environmental goals can come about through the innovation and imagination of business and science, the book asserts, while rightly adding that “no single technology will stop global warming”.

However, Krupp and Horn argue, a carbon cap – their straightforward, silver-bullet solution – will launch other solutions into the mainstream. “A cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide will mean billions of dollars for the innovators who figure out how to save the planet, and provide the opportunity to mobilise virtually every realm of economic activity,” they write.

To that end, the United States — the country responsible for almost 30% of the manmade gases already in the earth’s atmosphere — needs to rise to the challenge. “Mobilisation on the necessary scale will occur only when US leaders pass the law that will allow alternative energy sources to compete fairly with oil and coal: a hard cap on global warming pollution,” say Krupp and Horn. Legislation must be rigorous and reductions must be mandatory, they add, and businesses need to know they must invest and develop new technology now. “We have the talent and a brief window of time to create the world of possibilities,” they conclude. “All we need is the resolve.”

If, as the philosopher Plato wrote in ancient Greece, necessity is the mother of invention, we should see some astonishing inventions in the decades ahead. For what could be more necessary than securing our little planet against the worst dangers of global warming?


Earth: The Sequel — The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming
Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn
W W Norton & Company Ltd, 2008

— By Maryann Bird