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HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER

THE SOLUTIONS WE HAVE AND THE BREAKTHROUGHS WE NEED

A supremely authoritative and accessible plan for how we can avoid a climate catastrophe.

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A persuasive, optimistic strategy for reducing greenhouse emissions to zero by midcentury.

In his latest book, Gates makes a significant contribution to the rapidly growing shelf of books that not only acknowledge climate change, but also propose viable solutions; other examples include Eric Holthaus’ The Future Earth and David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. Gates moves several steps further in a comprehensible, at times amusingly wonky, text that provides detailed plans. The author relates a compelling vision of what the potential devastation will look like, assessing the scale and range of expected damage, but he is more interested in clearly communicating the multitiered facets of his plan. While drawing on his expertise and instincts as a successful tech innovator, investor, and philanthropist, Gates relies on teams of experts in science, engineering, and public policy to flesh out the details. The author focuses on five major emissions-generating activities—making things, plugging in, growing things, getting around, and keeping cool and warm—and he breaks down his global plan to address the level of a given country’s financial capabilities. Gates applies his 2050 goal to developed, relatively wealthy countries, with others following as soon as possible after that date. Though we already have some of the tools necessary to implement his plan, many of them are not used widely enough, and Gates presses for increased investment in well-guided research and development and innovation in the efficiency of our electricity use. “We need to accomplish something gigantic we have never done before,” writes the author, “much faster than we have ever done anything similar,” which will require building “a consensus that doesn’t exist” and policy that will “push a transition that would not happen otherwise.” Though Gates doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the daunting challenges ahead, his narrative contains enough confidence—and hard science and economics—to convince many readers that his blueprint is one of the most viable yet.

A supremely authoritative and accessible plan for how we can avoid a climate catastrophe.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54613-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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