A highly optimistic, sincere account of those leading the charge to solve a grave problem that some still choose to ignore.



An enthusiastic guide to reversing global warming.

As award-winning science journalist Kostigen (National Geographic Extreme Weather Survival Guide, 2014, etc.) points out, humans add 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year, an amount that’s rising steadily despite current efforts to curb it. Since grassroots endeavors have not worked, the author proposes that “industry, the sector of society responsible for much of human-caused global warming…has to turn things around and lead the charge to help mend our climate.” Innovators—entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists—must “do what they do best: invent, pioneer, disrupt the same old ways of doing things.” Traveling the world, Kostigen turns up individuals and organizations that are doing just that. A proposed giant laser will zap clouds, producing rain where it’s disappearing. Warming oceans produce more hurricanes, but ingenious machines can mix the hot surface and cool depths. Millions of artificial trees (invented 10 years ago) would soak up carbon dioxide as fast as it is being produced. By the halfway point, the author has turned from preventing global warming to proposing how humans might live in the future, whether hot or not. Kostigen provides plenty of intriguing accounts of underground cities, vertical farms, artificial meat, genetically modified food, and the quest to effectively turn sewage into drinking water. We are a problem-solving species, so, as conditions worsen, we will go into action—though much more should have already been accomplished—but many of Kostigen's projects require spectacular technological advances, worldwide cooperation (to raise the trillions of dollars necessary), or the wisdom to avoid the disastrous side effects of tampering with nature that occurred followed previous tampering. Still, since self-denial has failed and national governments refuse to inconvenience carbon-producing industries—including the United States, even under Barack Obama)—many experts besides Kostigen are pinning their hopes on technology.

A highly optimistic, sincere account of those leading the charge to solve a grave problem that some still choose to ignore.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-18754-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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


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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