Gore’s hopeful new climate book

When Al Gore released his movie and book *An Inconvenient Truth* in 2006, he was praised for raising awareness about global warming. For those who wished he had included more information about solutions, the former vice president has responded forcefully with a new book, *Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis*.

Published just weeks before UN climate talks get underway in Copenhagen, Gore’s book is a valuable summary of the ready-to-go policy options that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gore lays out the choices in a practical, accessible format and shows how the solutions to global warming can also help address other problems such as poverty, hunger, and natural resource-driven wars.

Gore developed the content for the book during more than 30 “Solution Summits” he held in recent years. He convened leading experts in specific fields such as forests, soil, wind, solar and geothermal and compiled the most authoritative scientific references. In direct and dispassionate language, Gore distills this intelligence to present solutions in each major area.

What I liked most about the book is that it helps one distinguish between carbon-reducing ideas that are viable and ready for implementation and those that are pie-in-the-sky and won’t happen for decades, if ever. For instance, Gore points out the huge potential for combined heat and power to make better use of the fuels we’re already burning. He also describes the leading technologies for generating power from the sun and wind and the improved efficiencies that will come from a smarter transmission grid. In addition, he describes the limitations of carbon capture and sequestration (no large-scale project in the near future), while highlighting the shortcomings of the new generation of nuclear plants (exceedingly expensive when all costs are considered). In every case, Gore gives readers a context for evaluating the ideas and specific examples of projects underway around the world. The book is also very current: many citations are from 2009, something that the publishing lag doesn’t usually allow.

To the extent it’s possible with a subject like climate change, Gore’s book is pleasing to look at. Stunning photos like ones you might see in National Geographic jump out from the pages. The book has pictures and sidebars about climate change effects as well as solutions in action. My favorite is an image of 1,000 photovoltaic panels in operation at the Vatican.

Gore does not shy away from controversy in this book. He includes an entire chapter about population and observes how critical stabilizing the number of people on the planet is to dealing with the climate crisis. He also has a compelling account of the systematic effort by the fossil fuel industry to obfuscate the truth about climate change, confuse the public, and delay meaningful responses to the problem.

By the end of the book (414 pages), I felt more hopeful than when I started. While there are enormous political and economic challenges to putting the solutions into practice, at least Gore has compiled a full package that could get the job done. His timely work should influence the deliberations in Copenhagen and the climate talks that will surely follow.

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