Really Short Book Reviews: Monbiot’s Heat

You can skip George Monbiot’s book “Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning.”

Slightly longer book review:

Because there are far too many climate books to read, I confess I apply a litmus test. I look up “hydrogen” in the index. If the writer thinks they are a climate solution, the book can be skipped.

I thought I would like this book since I like many of the columns of the British author, including an early excerpt on the connection of the global warming deniers to big tobacco. But on page 162, he writes, “hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to look like a feasible technology for motor transport, if not on the time scale the producers predict.”


No. Not even close. They are looking less feasible these days. They are a post-2050 climate solution at best. And Monbiot is a man in a hurry — he believes the only hope for mankind is “for rich nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent by 2030.”

Heck, it would require three major breakthroughs — in fuel cells, storage, and renewable hydrogen — just for hydrogen cars to be even 1% of the cars on the road in 2030 — and they would still be a lousy way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But perhaps I’m being unfair focusing on hydrogen. So I start reading the foreword. Monbiot explains how President Bush’s climate policies have damaged international negotiations — a good start — but then comes this outrageous line:

But the inconvenient truth we seek to forget is that the Clinton-Gore administration did even greater damage.

No. This is the Ralph Nader line — and it just doesn’t fly. Maybe Clinton-Gore didn’t try hard enough, but they did try to do the right thing, rather than the very, very wrong thing.

But maybe I’m too close to this as a former Clinton-Gore appointee. Let’s give him one more chance.

He likes hydrogen for transport, but what is his solution in electricity sector? He writes on page 99:

“… with sufficient political will, gas-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture equipment could provide roughly 50% of our grid-based electricity by 2030.”

Well, that tells me all I need to know. First, if that statement is even true for the U.K., which I doubt, it certainly has no relevance whatsover to this country — or countries like Japan and China and India. Second, very little work is being done on carbon capture for gas fired plants, since they already have one third the emissions of coal-fired plants.

Three strikes. Skip this book. There are too many better ones out there.