Specialized and a touch rarified but useful for policy workers in helping shape dollars-and-cents arguments about the...

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CLIMATE SHOCK

THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF A HOTTER PLANET

“Most everything we know tells us climate change is bad. Most everything we don’t know tells us it’s probably much worse.” So observe Environmental Defense Fund economist Wagner (But Will the Planet Notice?: How Smart Economics Can Save the World, 2011, etc.) and Weitzman (Economics/Harvard Univ.; Income, Wealth, and the Maximum Principle, 2003, etc.) in this dismal-science look at a very dismal subject indeed.

Of course, the authors add, just because something is bad doesn’t mean it’s hopeless, and humans have adapted technologically to dangerous situations before. Wagner and Weitzman offer the case of New York City drowning in horse manure at the end of the 19th century, a problem whose fix came in the form of the internal combustion engine, which put draft horses out to pasture around the world. “No one predicted that particular invention at the time,” they write. “And it didn’t require much in terms of active policy intervention: invent car + find oil = Eureka!” Yet these are more fraught times, and we are in need of policy intervention, since the vaunted free market hasn’t done much to self-correct to avoid the end of the world. As the authors note, taxes generally don’t work as well as cap-and-trade incentives and disincentives in this Pigouvian world—if you don’t know who Pigou is, this book may not be to your tastes. Yet taxes and other social schemes do have their place in deterring bad economic behavior, considering the rapidly rising costs associated with, say, polluting: By a recent estimate, the social costs of putting a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are somewhere between $25 and $40, the real question being who will pay the tariff in a world full of free riders, another concept that may make noneconomists’ heads hurt.

Specialized and a touch rarified but useful for policy workers in helping shape dollars-and-cents arguments about the environment and global climate.

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-691-15947-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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