Book Review: "Climate Code Red - the case for emergency action"
6 months ago on Green Blog I reviewed "Climate Code Red â€“ the case for a sustainability emergency" by David Spratt and Phillip Sutton (Friends of the Earth, Melbourne). This important, well-referenced, spiral bound book had helped launch the Australian Climate Emergency Network (CEN) by using the latest scientific evidence to make out a case for a Climate Emergency and a Sustainability Emergency.
Now a second, extensively edited and revised version of this book has been published in Melbourne: "Climate Code Red- the case for emergency action" by David Spratt and Phillip Sutton (Scribe, Melbourne, 2008). This revised version is very readable and accordingly ideal for getting this extremely serious message across to the general public.
I must confess that as a scientist I preferred the first version for scientific cultural reasons because of the detailed scientific literature documentation provided and in particular for a 2 page colour insert that summarized the core data in a series of Figures. Indeed, when I reviewed the first version it was very convenient to base the bulk of my review on this 2 page data review. However as a lover of poetry, plays and novels as well as of dispassionately presented scientific rigour, I readily concede the Two Cultures argument to the extremely well written second version of Climate Code Red. Further, a selection of key references are provided for each chapter and a key photograph, a key Figure and a key Table are provided to complement the argument.
The hard, scientific case for emergency action presented in â€œClimate Code Redâ€ is best summarized in the following quotation from a scientific article by top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen (Head, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and his American, British and French colleagues:
In the last analysis, while cognizant of the need for sensible open-mindedness, rational risk management means we must take very seriously the advice of top scientific experts at the cutting edge of climate change research â€“ just as we would take very seriously the advice of top specialist medical experts in relation to a life threatening medical condition. Top US and World expert on climate change, Dr Hansen, commented thus on â€œClimate Code Redâ€: â€œA compelling case â€¦ we face a climate emergencyâ€.
Eminent medical scientist and Governor of the State of Victoria, Australia, Professor David de Kretser launched â€œClimate Code Red â€“the case for emergency actionâ€ in the Victorian State Parliament House in Melbourne recently and used the following unambiguous words:
Outstanding Australian scientist and Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty has recently published a related book entitled â€œA Light History of Hot Airâ€ (Melbourne University Publishing, 2007) in which he states : â€œWe are consuming the future and itâ€™s up to us to develop and use renewable resourcesâ€. In an interview about this Professor Doherty summarized the dilemma thus: â€œEverything is about hot air. Political and in the atmosphere. We are in real danger. The recent CSIRO report suggests that temperatures could rise as much as five degrees by 2070. The ice is melting much more quickly than anyone expected. The Himalayas are melting very fast. We are now talking about the Arctic being ice-free by 2030â€.
David Spratt (climate policy analyst and founder of Carbon Equity) and Phillip Sutton (convenor of the environmental strategy-based Greenleap Strategic Institute) are economic analysts and not scientists, but were driven, in part, to write â€œClimate Code Redâ€ by the apparent silence (with notable exceptions ) of the scientific community. This problem of academic and institutional timidity has been perceived by no less than outstanding UK and World climate change scientist Dr James Lovelock FRS (2008): â€œI hate academia. Most of the scientists who work there are not free men any more and they can't speak out. That's no way to do scienceâ€.
â€œClimate Code Redâ€ is divided into 3 parts, specifically Part One, â€œThe Big Meltâ€ (the threat to the biosphere due to global warming and the ice melting in the polar regions), Part Two â€œTargetsâ€( where we are headed in terms of temperature increase of over 2 degrees Centigrade, massive sea level rise and huge loss of ecosystems and human sustainability - and where we have to aim for to avoid catastrophe), and Part Three â€œThe Climate Emergencyâ€ (how to achieve a safe climate economy and deal effectively with the Climate Emergency).
Part One â€œThe Big Meltâ€deals with the accelerating loss of Arctic sea ice (if you want to be shocked see the latest images and data on the official US National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC), the thawing of Greenland, the Himalayan glaciers, the tundra and the Antarctic and the threat from rising sea levels. Chapter 6 deals with the current mass species extinction phenomena and the threat to ecosystems across the world. Chapter 7 â€œThe Price of Reticenceâ€ deals with the institutional scientific conservatism (and cowardice) that has been dishonestly exploited by â€œdirty energyâ€ big business and the climate sceptics.
Part Two, â€œTargetsâ€, begins with the sentence â€œSomething is wrong and we must make it rightâ€. Successive chapters explore what is a safe climate zone (less than a 2 degree C rise above pre-industrial; we are already 0.8 degrees C and on track for a 3-6 degrees C increase above the 1750 value as indicated in the quote from Dr Hansen given above). How we can get to a safe zone will require mechanisms for a draw-down on atmospheric CO2 to less than 350 ppm (renewable energy use, cessation of carbon burning, re-afforestation, return of carbon as biochar to soils).
Part Three, â€œThe Climate Emergencyâ€, gets into the economic systems management area of professional expertise of the authors. Successive chapters deal with how we must deal with the Climate Emergency. Chapter 26 â€œIn the Endâ€ draws upon the experience of World War 2 and the dramatic increase in military outlays as a percentage of national income in the US, UK, Germany and Japan i.e. we have already an extraordinary precedent for extraordinary, short term societal effort.
The 2008 current market collapse has already provided an example of the rapid global action currently being taken at enormous expense to protect the vested interests of the very people (Top Capitalists) primarily responsible for the Climate Emergency. Earlier this year Nobel Laureate Al Gore urged dramatic requisite action to save the planet : â€œToday I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years â€¦ So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge - for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It's time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act nowâ€.
Dramatic changes in technology mean that Al Goreâ€™s vision is achievable NOW - the energy cost cross-over point has finally been reached and the best renewable and geothermal power options now cost essentially the same as the (heavily subsidized) â€œmarket costâ€ of coal power (see â€œOne Day PathÃ©tiqueâ€ Symphony Painting. HOPE â€“ Best Renewables Now Cost Same as Coal Powerâ€).
â€œClimate Code Redâ€ is a powerful statement of the case for emergency action to deal with the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency. Most importantly, â€œClimate Code Redâ€ is a very well written and eminently readable book directed at sensible citizens in general. Inevitably one can make criticisms such as those made above at the beginning of this review â€“ but more Tables, Figures and Scientific References would have been to the detriment of readability and hence of public education. In some ways â€œClimate Code Redâ€ did not go far enough. Thus matters that could have been raised include the â€œtrue costâ€ of coal burning-based power (4-5 times the heavily subsidizedâ€market price) and the avoidable death of 0.2 million people each year world-wide from the effects of coal burning pollutants (see Yarra Valley Climate Action Group). Also absent was the likely death of over 6 billion people this century due to unaddressed climate change (according to Dr James Lovelock FRS).
â€œClimate Code Redâ€ was condemnatory of both scientific reticence and climate sceptic ignorance, and indeed represents a major step towards reversing public ignorance about the Climate Emergency. However â€œClimate Code Redâ€ could have gone even further in exposing and condemning the core of the problem that lies in a culture of ignoring, of wishful thinking and of â€œlooking awayâ€ that is actively promoted by a dominant political and media culture committed to carbon-based economic growth.
Indeed Dr James Hansen recently advocated criminal prosecution of climate criminal corporate heads involved in self-interested misinforming of the public to the detriment of public safety (see James Hansen: Try Fossil Fuel CEOs for â€œHigh Crimes Against Humanityâ€) . In my own modest way I have acted by exposing the extraordinary Culture of Ignoring in Australiaâ€™s media, political and academic Establishment over the Climate Emergency and other very serious matters (see â€œClimate Emergency, Exceptionalism & Ignoring Downunder. Letter to Eminent Australians over Public Honestyâ€).
There is zero tolerance for lying in science and this now needs to be made a general rule in a world facing a Climate Emergency. â€œClimate Code Red â€“ the case for emergency actionâ€ sets an important baseline for climate reality and public responsibility. This important book should be in every school and institutional library. â€œClimate Code Red â€“ the case for emergency actionâ€ is a cogently argued blueprint for the survival of Humanity and the Biosphere.