An admirably evenhanded appraisal of the challenges posed by climate change and the political solutions available.
According to Paepke (The Seinfeld Election, 2016, etc.), the most recent U.S. presidential election was sadly distinguished by bipartisan silence on the most pressing issues. When it came to climate change, however, the candidates were voluble but offered only unserious, hyperventilated rhetoric. Donald Trump blithely denies global warming and will likely ignore the Paris Treaty the Obama administration embraced. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, cast climate change as a catastrophe that poses an imminent threat to the globe. Paepke, however, wishes to shift the debate: “Partisans on both sides of the global warming divide are wrong, dangerously and radically wrong.” With meticulous care, the author articulates the case that global warning is not only real, but largely the result of human behavior, specifically man-made greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The author contends that rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere could potentially cause serious problems in the distant future, but these remain largely manageable for the remainder of this century. The most frightening prospect is a possible “meta-threat” or monumental disaster caused by warming that produces irreversible damage, like the melting of methane hydrate. There currently exists technological avenues to the reduction of GHG, but its wholesale elimination would result in considerable economic pain. Ultimately, Paepke offers a moderate plan that is both aggressive and market friendly, which aims at making the renewable energy no more costly than the dependence upon oil and natural gas. Paepke is rigorous and persuasive in this short work—this is more a white paper than a full-length monograph. (In fact, it’s unclear why this sequel wasn’t simply combined with its predecessor to make for one volume.) The entire work is relentlessly bipartisan and unencumbered by ideology, and it deftly discusses complex scientific issues with accessible aplomb. This should appeal to anyone who wishes to understand the messy intersection of scientific fact, political grandstanding, and public policy.
A concise primer to the science and politics of climate change.